Car accidents are a scary and confusing experience. They can get complicated when insurance companies disagree about who is at fault, and even further complicated when passengers are injured. North Carolina car accident laws differ from a majority of states across the country and it may be difficult to navigate all the nuances of these complex laws.
However, by taking steps to prove fault and by consulting an experienced attorney early in the process, a passenger can ensure they are fully compensated for their injuries. This article helps explore some of the nuances of North Carolina law, and provides some steps you can take to help your case.
When involved in a car accident, one thing is certain: insurance companies will be involved. Because insurance companies are very reluctant to pay out in these situations, it’s important to ensure that the injured parties can accurately determine fault and take necessary steps to begin making your case to prove fault. This is especially true in a state such as North Carolina (see “Contributory Negligence” below).
As a passenger injured in a car accident, you’ll want to use visual evidence to help your case. Take photos of the cars, look to videos from nearby stores or restaurants, or look to see if any red light cameras are nearby. Also, witness testimony can be critical to your claim. An attorney can help you encourage people to speak on your behalf, and ensure that their story supports your case.
When you’re involved in a car accident in most states across the country, the driver that is at-fault will pay for the damage caused to both people and property. However, this is not the case in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State uses a system called “contributory negligence” to determine fault in a car accident.
Under contributory negligence, if a passenger is found to be partially at fault, such as grabbing the steering wheel or distracting the driver, they will not recover any compensation. For example, if the driver is speeding at 5 miles per hour over the speed limit and smashes into another car because you told the driver to look at your phone, you could potentially be barred from recovering from the driver. Although this is often viewed as unfair, situations like these occur frequently because of the strict car accident laws in North Carolina.
Statute of Limitations
In addition to contributory negligence laws in North Carolina, passengers injured in a car accident should also be aware of the statute of limitations laws in the state. Under the general statutes of North Carolina, a civil lawsuit for injuries or property damage must be filed within three years. This means when anyone is hurt in the accident—whether the driver, pedestrian or passenger—or their vehicle was damaged, their lawsuit must be filed against any potential defendant within three years. This Statute of limitations period is different for death of a passenger or for a person underage or under a disability. So it is important to consult a personal injury attorney immediately after a wreck.
Although this may seem like a long time, when dealing with insurance companies and looking at all evidence to prove your claim—not to mention any time spent in the hospital or recovering from injury—the time can go by quickly. It’s always a good idea to begin the process as soon as possible. Talk to an experienced lawyer right after the accident to ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines.
Being involved in any automotive accident can be a frightening experience. As a passenger, this experience can be even more cumbersome. However, by engaging a qualified and experienced car accident lawyer, you can guarantee that your rights will be extended and that you are fully compensated for your injuries.