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North Carolina Auto Accident Laws

North Carolina Auto Accident Laws

After a North Carolina auto accident, you may want to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation if you suffered injuries and damages. Several North Carolina auto accident laws can affect your claim, as well as the legal obligations you have for reporting the accident.

If you have legal questions about a North Carolina auto accident, you can find a skilled attorney in your state by using the Attorney Finder on our website.

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Reporting a North Carolina Car Accident

You need to know what to do after a car accident in North Carolina. Many communities in the state do not send the police to investigate minor auto accidents with no injuries. So it’s essential to know the accident reporting requirements in North Carolina.

The driver of a vehicle that was in a North Carolina accident must report it to the police if someone died, including a driver, passenger, or pedestrian. You also must report the accident if there was $500 or more in property damage.

If you do not report the accident to the police or state highway patrol, you can lose your license for up to a year.

Because law enforcement does not respond to minor accidents in some North Carolina cities, it is wise to exchange contact details with the other drivers at the accident scene. You should get their names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance policy information. Also note the makes, models, and license numbers of the vehicles involved.

If you hit a vacant vehicle, you must report the crash to the owner. You need to do it orally or in writing within 48 hours. In most cases, you can fulfill your legal obligations by leaving a note on the windshield with your contact information.

Filing a Car Accident Claim in North Carolina

This is an at-fault insurance state. Some state laws require you to have no-fault insurance. This means the injured driver files a claim on their own auto insurance policy for injuries and damages.

But in North Carolina, the injured party must file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. This means the at-fault driver’s policy pays for your damages.

You have three ways to obtain compensation after a North Carolina car accident:

  • File an auto insurance claim with your own insurance company: Call your auto insurance company after the crash. If you file the claim, your insurance company will file a claim with the liable driver’s insurance company.
  • File an auto insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company: You can file a claim on the other driver’s policy. You call the driver’s insurer and give them his or her policy number. Then, follow up with a letter that you are filing a claim.
  • File a lawsuit: This is the last resort if you are not getting anywhere with the insurance company. The insurance company may not want to settle if there are liability questions.

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Comparative Negligence in North Carolina Car Accidents

North Carolina is one of the few states that has a contributory negligence rule. This means that if you are at fault in any way for a car accident, you cannot file a claim for compensation. Many say this is an unfair and extreme law.

Understanding this law is critical because it binds juries and judges in car accident cases. It also places certain requirements on insurance adjusters as they evaluate your case. If you share blame for the accident, you will have difficulty negotiating a settlement with the insurance company.

Note that there is no empirical way to determine fault. Therefore, the assignment of blame comes down to how well you and your attorney negotiate with the adjuster or persuade a judge or jury.

Let’s look at an example. Say you are in a car crash where the other driver makes a left turn in front of you. But the police report states you were going 10 MPH over the limit. The jury finds you are 10% at fault for the crash. Under the contributory negligence law, you cannot recover anything for your injuries and property damage.

This seems to be a harsh and antiquated law, but you will not recover anything in North Carolina unless the other driver is 100% liable.

Last Clear Chance Doctrine

There are a few exceptions to North Carolina’s contributory negligence law. The last clear chance rule is a complex exception that you can try if you can show that the defendant had a clear chance to avoid the accident. Elements of this rule include:

  • The injured party was negligent, but could not escape the dangerous situation created by their negligence
  • The defendant knew or should have known about the injured party’s dangerous situation
  • The defendant had the means and time to avoid hurting the other person
  • The defendant was negligent in failing to avoid hurting the other person

Let’s consider an example of a person who was negligent by running a red light. If the car stalled in the middle of the intersection, the driver no longer can prevent an accident. If a driver entering the intersection should have seen the obstruction and braked before hitting it, the oncoming driver had the last clear chance to prevent the crash.

Car Insurance Requirements in North Carolina

North Carolina state law requires you to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury coverage per person
  • $60,000 for bodily injury coverage per accident
  • $25,000 for property damage coverage

North Carolina also requires you to carry uninsured motorist insurance. This coverage lets you file a claim on your own policy if hurt in a car accident and the other driver does not have insurance.

Drivers also may need to have underinsured coverage. This policy applies if you have a claim that is more than the at-fault driver’s insurance limit. For instance, if the other driver has a $25,000 policy limit and your medical bills are $40,000, you could file a $15,000 claim on your own policy.

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North Carolina Auto Accident Laws: Statute of Limitations

A ‘statute of limitations’ sets up a time limit for your right to file a lawsuit. But the statute of limitations does not apply to filing an auto insurance claim. You need to file an insurance claim within a few days or weeks after the accident.

For most personal injury cases in North Carolina, you must file your claim within three years of the date of the injury.

If someone died in the accident, you have two years from the date of the person’s death to file a claim. If you do not file within those limits, the court probably will not hear your case.

From a legal standpoint, you are always better off by filing a lawsuit as soon as you can, even if you think the case will settle. Keep all options open so you have more leverage during negotiations with the insurance company.

If you are close to the North Carolina filing deadline, you may want to talk to a North Carolina car accident attorney. You can find one by using our attorney finder at Lawsuit Info Center.

Can I Sue In North Carolina If The Other Driver Caused the Accident?

Yes. North Carolina allows you to file a personal injury lawsuit if the other driver caused the accident. But most car accident cases can settle between the insurance companies. Your auto accident attorney will need to contact the other driver’s insurance company. They may negotiate an accident settlement that pays for your:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost ability to earn a living
  • Pain and suffering

Remember that you must prove that the other driver is liable for the accident to recover compensation.

Should I File a Car Insurance Claim?

If you are hurt in a serious North Carolina car accident, you should always report the incident to your insurance company. Also, you must file a police report if you are in an accident with injuries and/or death. You also must file a report if the accident has damages above $500.

While you should always file a car accident claim for severe accidents, there are situations where you might not. For instance, if you are in a single-car crash and you have no injuries, you do not need to file a claim.

North Carolina Accident Resources

No matter how well prepared you are, getting in a car accident is always a stressful situation. The resources below can help you to get through this time so you know what to do to get compensation for your injuries.

  • What is your personal injury claim worth? Our tools at Lawsuit Info Center can help you to determine what you may get in terms of compensation in a claim or lawsuit.
  • If you were in a car accident in Raleigh, you can search for a copy of the accident report on their police department site.
  • If you are in an accident in the state and need a copy of the accident report, you may find it with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
  • You are required to report any car accident that causes death or serious injury, or property damage of at least $1000.

Get Legal Help For Your North Carolina Car Accident Claim

If you were in a North Carolina auto accident, you must report the accident right away and get medical attention. If another driver caused the accident, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit.

Lawsuit Info Center can help you find a skilled personal injury attorney in your region. You could be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages. Use our website to find an attorney in your area now.

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Frequently Asked Questions about car accident settlements

You are required to have at least $30,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $60,000 per accident. You also must have at least $25,000 coverage for property damage.

In North Carolina, the insurance follows the car. This means if someone borrows your car and injures someone, the injured party will pursue you for damages because you insure the vehicle.

No. North Carolina is a fault state. This means if you are injured in a car accident, you can file a claim against the driver that caused the accident.

You must file a personal injury claim from a car accident within three years of the accident date.

The insurance company is required to acknowledge the receipt of a claim within 10 days, and also must mail payment for a claim within the same timeframe.


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