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How Are Truck Accidents Different From Car Accidents?

How Are Truck Accidents Different From Car Accidents?

Devastating injuries, huge medical bills, permanent limitations—all this and even worse can happen when a large truck crashes into your vehicle. And if you were hit by a commercial truck, it likely won’t be a simple collision case. Instead, it could turn into something much more complex.

In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between truck crashes and car accidents, and we’ll also explain who can help after a wreck and how.

What to Expect During a North Carolina Truck Crash Case

Aerial view of a commercial truck on the road

Truck accident cases often seem like they should be straightforward, especially if you believe the truck driver was clearly at fault. You might even be tempted to settle quickly with the insurance company just to get the whole ordeal over with.

However, truck accident cases are rarely as simple as injured victims would hope. There are a few key differences between a truck crash case and the type of personal injury case you might experience with a passenger vehicle—differences that can make life very hard and stressful for victims.

Truck Crashes Often Cause More Damage Than Car Crashes

Big commercial trucks like 18-wheeers and tractor-trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. When one of these massive vehicles crashes into a 4,000-pound passenger vehicle, the car absorbs the worst of the impact—often resulting in severe injuries or death for the people inside.

Unfortunately, these deadly wrecks happen far too often. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,014 people died in truck crashes in 2020—an increase of more than 10% since 2014. Truck drivers accounted for 15% of those deaths, while 68% were occupants in passenger vehicles, and 16% were motorcyclists, pedestrians, or bicyclists.

Determining Liability in a Truck Crash Case Can Be Extremely Complicated

When a big truck causes a car accident, it can take a lot of investigation to figure out who’s responsible for your injuries and damaged property. While the fault in a typical car accident is usually assigned to one or both drivers, trucking accidents frequently have multiple contributing causes and at-fault parties.

Examples of factors that can contribute to truck crashes include:

  • Driver negligence, including driving while intoxicated or falling asleep at the wheel
  • Trucking company negligence (such as forcing drivers to cut corners or work long hours in violation of the law, or employing drivers who are unqualified or have committed multiple safety violations)
  • Improper loading that causes the truck to become unstable
  • Poor truck maintenance
  • Defective parts

Truck logbooks, black boxes, and maintenance records are meant to provide a detailed picture of the events and factors that led up to a crash. However, trucking companies do not have to maintain these records forever and will often destroy them to cover up negligence. To figure out who is responsible for your injuries and make sure all the evidence stays intact, you should contact an experienced truck crash attorney as soon as possible after a wreck.

The System of Laws and Regulations That Affect Truck Crash Cases Is Vast and Complicated

In a truck crash case, many different laws, regulations, and rules of legal procedure can affect your claim. Examples include federal trucking regulations, rules about when logs can be erased, and the process of filing claims with multiple parties. Navigating these complex requirements takes familiarity with truck crash cases and knowledge of the rules set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the government agency that regulates commercial trucking.

Because commercial truck accident claims are so complex, the insurance company in your case will usually deny your claim right away—even if liability seems clear. The insurance company assumes investigating the crash and building your claim will turn out to be so complicated that you’ll get discouraged and give up. This is especially true in North Carolina, where rules of liability unfairly favor insurance companies over victims.

These types of insurance company tactics make it essential to have a seasoned and skilled North Carolina personal injury lawyer who understands every aspect of these complex cases. With the right knowledge and an aggressive approach, your attorney can help you act strategically and maximize your chances of recovering fair compensation from your truck accident claim.

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What Factors Can Affect Compensation in a North Carolina Truck Accident Case?

A person walking with a leg injury and crutches

If you’ve been hurt in a trucking accident that wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t have to pay for your medical care or damaged property out of your own pocket—especially considering how these costs can quickly add up after a devastating crash.

With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, truck accident victims can seek compensation for:

  • Medical expenses, including medical bills and travel costs for treatment
  • Lost wages from not working
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical therapy and other rehabilitation
  • Home modifications to accommodate mobility devices
  • Medications
  • Property damage
  • And more, depending on your case

If you have questions about your personal injury case or what costs you’re eligible to receive compensation for, you should contact an experienced truck accident attorney. An experienced lawyer should be able to help you understand your case value and your legal options for recovering damages.

RELATED: Do I Have to Pay My Own Medical Bills After a Car Crash?

How Do You Determine the Amount of Compensation From a Semi Truck Accident?

A man talking on the phone and reviewing paperwork

Injured victims often want to know how much they should get in compensation after a truck accident. In this section, we’ll discuss some factors that can affect the amount you might receive in a settlement if you’ve been injured.

Truck Accident Settlement Amounts Depend on Damages

The amount of money you can receive from a personal injury claim depends on your damages, which are all the costs and losses you’ve suffered. These are different in every single case, which means that the settlement amount of every case is different.

When you look at everything that’s happened after a wreck, it might seem overwhelming or even impossible to figure out all the ways the accident has cost you or negatively affected your life—and then put a dollar figure to it all.

However, an experienced personal injury attorney should be able to accurately estimate your damages, even in a highly complex truck crash case. In doing so, they will break down your damages into three different categories.

  • Economic damages: These are the direct costs of an injury that can be proven through a paper trail. Economic damages include expenses like medical bills for emergency care and doctor visits, surgeries, medications, and physical therapy. Other types of economic damages can include lost wages, home and vehicle modifications to accommodate crash-related disabilities, and future lost wages (or earning potential you’ve lost due to the wreck).
  • Non-economic damages: Not all costs and losses from a truck wreck show up on a medical bill or receipt. Truck accident victims often experience significant pain and suffering damages, and they’re entitled to compensation for those damages. While economic damages are often more obvious and easier to calculate, non-economic damages are just as important and can lead to significant compensation. Examples of crash-related experiences that might lead to non-economic damages include:
    • Physical pain from your injuries
    • The inconvenience of having to deal with your injuries and going to medical visits
    • Panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder 
    • Anxiety or depression  
    • Loss of companionship, enjoyment, or happiness
  • Punitive Damages: When injuries occur due to a defendant’s malicious or extremely reckless actions, courts can impose additional punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter other people from engaging in this type of behavior. Punitive damages are rare in truck accident cases but might come into play if, for example, the driver was heavily intoxicated or the trucking company put a poorly maintained and dangerous truck on the road.

Truck Accident Settlement Amounts Tend to Be Higher Than in Car Crash Cases

The amount of compensation in an injury case is directly tied to the severity of the injuries. Compared to typical car accident cases, truck accidents often lead to higher compensation amounts for victims.

There are two main reasons for this. First, truck accident victims often suffer catastrophic injuries with lifelong consequences. And second, trucking companies are required to carry insurance policies with much higher coverage limits than most ordinary drivers would have. So, victims generally have more damages, and the insurance policies generally have higher limits to pay for those damages.

However, truck accident victims and their loved ones aren’t receiving financial windfalls—they’re severely injured and being compensated for the devastating costs of another person’s negligence. And often, victims and their attorneys have to fight hard for this compensation because the insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer.

RELATED: Compensation Explained: What Can I Receive From My Injury Case?

Myers Law Firm: Fighting for Truck Crash Victims

At Myers Law Firm, we understand how challenging it is to recover from a traumatic accident involving a semi-truck. We’re dedicated to making sure you get the compassionate, tenacious representation you need to obtain a fair settlement so you can focus on healing and recovery.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck accident, get in touch now and schedule your free consultation. During your consultation, one of our attorneys will listen to your story and then explain your rights and your legal options for compensation.

To schedule your consultation today, call us at 888-376-2889 or use our quick and easy online contact form.

Reference

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (2022, May). Large Trucks: 2020. (Fatality facts). Ruckersville, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Can I Pay or Receive a Lump Sum Alimony in North Carolina?

Alimony payments are a frequent source of stress, frustration, and friction for many separated couples. While monthly payments are supposed to provide a stable source of income for the dependent spouse, they also often breed resentment—and if the supporting spouse gets behind on payments, you may need to get the court involved.

But while monthly alimony payments are by far the most common arrangement, they aren’t the only spousal support option for separated couples in North Carolina. In some cases, a lump sum payment might be a better alternative for both spouses.

To be clear, lump sum alimony is very rarely awarded by a judge, and it may not even be realistically possible for you. Such an arrangement usually requires a specific combination of circumstances to achieve. It is more likely to occur as part of a settlement agreement between the spouses. However, if these circumstances do apply to your situation, a lump sum alimony payment may be worth considering.

What Is a Lump Sum Alimony Payment?

Hands opening a wallet containing money

In most spousal support arrangements, the court sets a monthly amount that the paying spouse must pay their ex-spouse.  In North Carolina, this is known as either rehabilitative alimony (if the payments are set to expire after a fixed term) or permanent periodic alimony (if monthly installments are set to continue until either spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries).

In a lump sum alimony arrangement—sometimes known as an alimony buyout—the supporting spouse’s entire alimony obligation is set at a total fixed amount to be paid, rather than a regularly recurring monthly payment.

In many cases, the entire obligation is paid out in one lump sum payment. However, lump sum alimony can also be paid in multiple installments, according to the timeline established in the agreement or court order. The key difference is that the total amount of the lump sum amount is fixed and cannot easily be changed or terminated, even if the spouse receiving alimony remarries or the spouse paying alimony dies.

Additionally, some or all the lump sum alimony obligation could be met by transferring real property owned by the paying spouse to the receiving spouse, in lieu of cash payments.

RELATED: How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony in North Carolina?

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What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Lump Sum Alimony for the Dependent Spouse?

A person writing a check

From the perspective of the spouse receiving spousal support, a lump sum payout is often the ideal option (in the rare circumstances in which it is realistically available). This is true for many reasons, including:

  • Time value of money. A dollar you receive today is almost always more valuable than a dollar you might receive in the future. That’s not only because of inflation, but also because money you have now can be invested (or used to pay off debts) and used to gain additional earnings or reduce interest payments on a loan.
  • Cannot be changed. A lump sum payout is fixed regardless of whether you get remarried, get a higher paying job, or if your ex-spouse unexpectedly dies or falls on hard times while you would still otherwise be receiving monthly payments.
  • Certainty, simplicity, and closure. With monthly alimony installments, there’s always a risk that the payments will be late (or your ex-spouse will simply stop paying), or that your ex-spouse will request to change the monthly amount. This could lead to money troubles, time-consuming court actions, and more. But with a single or a few lump sum payments, both parties can quickly end any formal relationship and move on.

Keep in mind, though, that there are some potential dangers and downsides to lump sum alimony. Receiving a large, one-time payment might disqualify you from certain government assistance programs you might otherwise be eligible for.

You also need to be honest with yourself about whether you have the financial skills and discipline to handle a large transfer of cash or property responsibly. Alimony payments—whether periodic or lump sum—are meant in part to enable the economically disadvantaged spouse to maintain their marital standard of living. You don’t want to spend lavishly and quickly burn through a one-time spousal support payment.

If you feel that you would be tempted to overspend your lump sum alimony payout, a monthly alimony payment may be the safer and wiser choice.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Lump Sum Alimony for the Supporting Spouse?

A woman getting out of a car while on the phone

From the perspective of the person paying alimony, the benefits of a lump sum buyout are perhaps less attractive. A lot depends, however, on the supporting spouse’s financial means, as well as what they personally value.

Many of the same reasons that lump sum alimony is advantageous for the receiving spouse are obvious downsides for the paying spouse. If you pay it all up front rather than gradually over time, you pay the higher “present value” for that money and can’t invest it. You also can’t get your lump sum “refunded” if your former spouse remarries, gets a high paying job, or their circumstances change in other ways that would likely lower or even eliminate a monthly alimony payment. So, in the end, it’s very likely that a lump sum payment will cost you more.

There’s also the obvious fact that paying the equivalent of multiple years of alimony in just one or a few payments is extremely expensive and only an option for very wealthy individuals.

The main advantage, however, is simply being able to quickly and permanently sever ties with your former spouse and not have to worry about regular communication, monthly payments, or the risk of having to go back to court or be ordered to make higher alimony payments in the future. Additionally, a lump sum payment can be used as part of negotiations to make a lower lump sum payment when compared to the total amount that might be paid out over a multi-year term of alimony.

Separation is stressful, even in the best of circumstances, and divorces that start amicably often get messy when hashing out the divorce settlement agreement. For many people, the chance to make a clean break and move on with no lasting obligations is worth the likely extra cost.

RELATED: Who Gets Alimony in North Carolina and Why?

Is Lump Sum Alimony Even an Option for Me?

A man and a woman shaking hands

Lump sum alimony is rare for many reasons. It’s not going to be an option in most situations.

The most straightforward way to get alimony as a lump sum is for both spouses to come to an agreement and memorialize the terms in a separation agreement. But this is much easier said than done. Even if the supporting spouse has the financial means to pay alimony in a lump sum, they may have no interest in doing so, or can’t agree on the amount.

A court might also order the supporting spouse to pay spousal support as lump sum if they have the means to do so, especially if the court feels that the spouse is likely to defy court orders or be unwilling (or even unable) to pay monthly installments in a timely fashion.

You can see why, for most separating couples, rehabilitative or permanent periodic alimony arrangements are often the only realistic solution. But if you feel lump sum alimony makes sense for your specific circumstances, it is worth discussing the matter further with a family law attorney, as well as a financial planner.

Myers Law Firm: Client-Focused Alimony Attorneys in Charlotte, NC

Alimony calculations are often extremely complex. Every separation is different, and under North Carolina law there are 16 separate factors that a judge must evaluate when determining the amount and duration of the payments.

If you have any questions about your alimony claim, or you believe that the current court order is unfair and should be changed, don’t wait any longer to speak to an experienced alimony attorney.

We understand how difficult and confusing the spousal support process can be, whether you’re the one making payments or the one receiving them. We are here to help you understand your options, be your strong ally and advocate as you navigate this challenging season of life, and help you arrive at a result that’s truly fair for all involved.

To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or fill out and submit our online contact form. We will follow up and get in touch with you as soon as possible.

References

N.C. General Statutes § 50-16.7 (2015)

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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3 Reasons Grandparents Can File for Custody of a Grandchild in North Carolina

A grandparent sitting on the floor with a grandchild while smiling and looking at papers

Every child deserves a relationship with loving, nurturing parents. But what happens in terms of child custody when a tragedy occurs, or when parents aren’t willing or able to live up to their responsibilities?

When one or both parents cannot provide adequate care for their child or are deceased, another person might step up and offer to take custody. Many times, this person is the child’s grandparent, although custody could also extend to other family members (such as aunts, uncles, an older sibling) or another person with a meaningful relationship with the child.

Deciding where a child should live and who should have day-to-day and legal custody can be a challenging, emotional process. While a grandparent might seem like the natural choice, the process for a grandparent (or any other non-parent third-party) to obtain custody is very different—and often more complicated and challenging—than it would be for a natural parent.

In North Carolina, there are three possible situations where parents can lose their protected status and a nonparent, third-party person (like a grandparent or stepparent) can get legal and physical custody.

Those three situations are: 

  1. The biological parents have taken actions which are inconsistent with their protected status of a parent (for example, voluntarily leaving the child to live with a non-parent for a long period of time).
  2. The biological parents can’t care for the child due to a serious issue such as mental illness. This is referred to as neglect.
  3. A court finds the biological parents unfit to have custody.

What You Need to Know About Grandparent Custody in North Carolina: The Basics

A grandparent and a grandchild spending time together

The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that a child’s parents have a constitutionally protected paramount right to the care and control of their children. North Carolina courts must follow the Supreme Court’s broad direction, so judges can only grant custody to third-parties in limited circumstances.

In North Carolina, grandparents’ rights are usually very limited if the child has at least one surviving parent. While grandparents might not always agree with the parenting choices made for their grandchildren, they usually have no legal say in the matter.

Even filing for visitation rights is restricted to situations where the grandchild’s parents are engaged in an active lawsuit against one another (such as separation, divorce, or filing to change a custody order). This was made harder by a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling that put additional requirements on what grandparents must show before they can receive visitation. The only time grandparents may seek custody is if the parents have acted inconsistently with their constitutionally protected rights, or they aren’t willing or able to care for the child.

But even when parents can’t provide adequate care and someone else must step in, the process of determining custody is not automatic or simple, and grandparents don’t necessarily get priority over other surviving relatives.

According to North Carolina law, any “parent, relative, or other person, agency, organization or institution claiming the right to custody of a minor child” may file for custody. (N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-13.1(a)).

So, an extended family member like an aunt, uncle, older sibling, or another person could seek custody. North Carolina caselaw requires that any such persons much show they have a substantial relationship with the child. Once the substantial relationship is established, the person must still show how the parents have lost their protected status. This is required to be shown by clear and convincing evidence, which is a higher legal standard than the normal civil standard of “preponderance of the evidence.”

If all of these requirements are met, it will be up to the court to determine which potential caregiver would be in the best interest of the child.

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Grandparents Can Obtain Custody, but They Must Take Extra Steps

A closeup of a hand signing paperwork

Getting child custody as a nonparent in North Carolina can be very challenging, especially if the child has a surviving parent whose parental rights are intact (meaning not terminated through adoption, emancipation, or another legal proceeding). Courts recognize the natural bond between a child and their biological parents, so judges will not separate children from their immediate family without powerful arguments and evidence.

Common Scenarios in Which Grandparent Custody May Be Awarded

Every family situation is unique, so every child custody case will play out differently. There are many potential reasons why a court might find a custodial parent unfit and allow a grandparent to pursue custody rights. Examples of such reasons include:

  • Child abuse. This would include actively causing serious physical or emotional damage to a child, including cruel or excessive discipline.
  • Neglect. This can include failure to provide proper care, supervision, support, or discipline.
  • Alcohol or drug addiction.
  • Criminal activity or imprisonment.
  • Child abandonment. Under North Carolina law, parental rights can potentially be terminated if a parent abandons their child for at least six consecutive months, during which time the parent has no contact with the child.
  • The child is already living with the grandparent. Living with a grandparent isn’t enough cause on its own for the court to give grandparents custody. However, when parents are declared unfit and courts look to other family members for custody, judges do tend to consider the stability of the child’s living situation. So, if the child is already living with their grandparents, the court might prefer the grandparents over other family members who separately file for custody.
  • Voluntary adoption. If the custodial parent or parents recognize that they are unfit or unable to care for the child and all parties consent to the process, the grandparents can file a petition to adopt.
  • Death of the parents. If both parents pass away (or one dies and the other parent’s whereabouts are unknown) without designating a legal guardian, courts will typically look to close family members when deciding who should gain legal and physical custody of the child.

Temporary grandparent custody might also be granted if Child Protective Services (CPS) determines that the grandchild should not remain at home while a legal process or CPS investigation is ongoing. If all surviving parents are deemed unfit, grandparents can then file for sole custody.

What Will the Court Consider When Evaluating My Custody Claim?

A happy child playing on a playground

North Carolina courts’ primary goal in custody cases is to protect the well-being of the child or children. When a judge evaluates a custody claim, deciding factors often include: 

  • The parent’s living situation 
  • The parent’s ability to take care of the child 
  • The state of the parent’s relationship with the child 
  • The child’s wishes, depending on their age 

How Are Cases of Grandparents Seeking Custody Different Than Custody Cases Between Parents?

In cases where a child’s parents are separated and a custody battle happens, the court starts from the assumption that both parents have equal rights to custody. But when a grandparent or any other nonparent attempts to seek custody, it’s an uphill battle from the beginning. The non-parent filing for custody must first prove that the parents are unfit or have acted in ways that are inconsistent with their protected status as parents.

In these cases, the court must reach a decision based on clear and convincing evidence. These decisions require a higher standard of proof than the normal standard in custody cases that involve parents only. 

Can Grandparents Seek Visitation Rights in North Carolina?

Just as with custody, North Carolina courts presume that a fit parent will act in the best interest of their child. So, when it comes to grandparent visitation, a surviving parent with intact parental rights has the first say in who has access to their children.

If a custody challenge is ongoing, a grandparent can seek visitation rights. The court can grant grandparent visitation based on any of the following three factors: 

  • The court decides that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest 
  • The grandparent can show that a parent’s decision against visitation is against the child’s best interest 
  • Visitation doesn’t get in the way of the parent’s relationships with their child 

RELATED: 5 Child Custody Myths, Debunked 

Contact Myers Law Firm if You Need Help With Child Custody in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we know how important family is. That’s why we fight to protect families just like yours.

If you’re fighting for custody of a child and you need help, contact us today. We can meet with you to answer your questions, help you understand your options, and create a plan for what comes next. 

To schedule your initial consultation today, call 1-888-376-2889 or use our quick online contact form

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

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I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident – What Are My Rights in North Carolina?

In 2021, North Carolina’s roads and highways saw more than a quarter of a million car accidents. Speeding, distracted driving, and drunk driving all contribute heavily to these high rates of crashes.

With those kinds of numbers, every time you climb into a car represents a potential risk of injury. If you’ve suffered an injury in a car crash, then you have the right to file a claim and potentially recover compensation for your medical expenses and other damages – and that’s true for vehicle passengers just as much as for drivers.

Who Is at Fault When I’m Injured in a Car Crash as a Passenger?

Different states handle car crash liability in different ways. North Carolina applies a rule called contributory negligence. This rule says that if an injured car crash victim played any role in causing the crash – even if they were only 1 percent at fault and the other person was 99 percent at fault – then in most situations, the victim can’t recover financial compensation from a personal injury claim.

If this rule sounds harsh, it is. North Carolina’s contributory negligence rule makes personal injury cases in our state more challenging to handle and win.

However, when you’re a passenger in a car and you suffer injuries in a crash, it’s much harder (but not impossible) for the insurance company to show that you were partially at fault for the collision.

Examples where a passenger might be partially at fault for a crash include:

  • They knowingly got into a vehicle with someone who was either impaired by alcohol or drugs or was otherwise not in a condition to drive safely
  • They impeded the drive’s ability to safely operate the vehicle (for example, by grabbing the wheel or distracting the driver)

Passengers who are not at fault in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of which driver is responsible — or even if both drivers were partially at fault — have the right in North Carolina to seek compensation for injuries suffered in a car accident.

RELATED: What Are the Worst Car Crash Injuries That Might Need Legal Help?

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Critical Steps to Take as a Passenger after a Car Accident

A woman standing by a desk and having back pain from being a passenger in a crash

In the immediate aftermath of a crash and the days that follow, you can strengthen your legal case by following a few tips.

  1. Call the police before leaving the scene if you are able. After a car accident, you need to make sure to call the police and have them investigate the wreck. You need documentation of what occurred and to get the insurance information for each of the cars involved. After the wreck, get a copy of the police report. This official document can serve as a valuable resource when determining who is at fault for your injuries. If you’re not sure how to get a police report, your attorney can help.
  2. Seek medical attention right away if you have any sign of injury. You should always get medical care after a car crash if you have any sign of injury—even if you think you’re not severely injured and don’t need to go to a hospital. Sometimes adrenaline after a crash can mask pain and serious injuries. Visit an emergency room, urgent care, or your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Keep track of how you feel and immediately communicate any pain or new symptoms you experience in the days following the accident. If a healthcare provider recommends follow-up treatment or refers you to a specialist, then follow all instructions, keep all appointments, and continue to communicate any changes in your health.
  3. Don’t talk to anyone from the insurance company without consulting an attorney. An adjuster or examiner from the insurance company is not your friend and isn’t there to help, no matter what they say. They will use anything you tell them to hurt your case in any way they can. Remember that the insurance company only has one goal: to pay you as little money as possible.
  4. Do not admit fault to anyone. Even if you think your actions somehow contributed to the crash, don’t ever say that you somehow played a role in causing the collision. Car crash cases are complex, and there may have been factors you could never know about that contributed to or even completely caused the accident. Maybe you think you somehow distracted the driver of your vehicle – but a forensic investigation could show that the other driver caused the crash, and your vehicle had no chance to avoid it. Let your attorney investigate the case and figure out who is at fault.
  5. Take notes about everything you see and hear. Sometimes it’s harder to recall details after the fact. As soon as you can, jot down all the specifics about who was involved in the collision, where and when it happened, who did what leading up to the crash, who else may have witnessed the accident, and who said what about the event. Details about the crash scene, weather conditions, and anything else you can remember may help as well. Any information you can recall is worth sharing with your lawyer (not with the insurance company!).

RELATED: Compensation Explained: What Can I Receive From My Injury Case?

How Does Insurance Coverage Work for Injured Passengers in North Carolina?

A person with an arm injury writing notes after being injured as a passenger in an accident

There are three types of primary insurance coverage that tend to come into play when you file a personal injury claim in North Carolina:

  • North Carolina law says that all drivers must carry bodily injury coverage with minimum policy limits of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per vehicle. Some drivers may carry coverage with higher policy limits.
  • In addition, all auto insurance policies in North Carolina must include uninsured motorist coverage (UM), which kicks in when you get injured by a driver who fails to carry car insurance.
  • Drivers can also buy additional insurance known as underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), which helps bridge the gap when the at-fault driver’s insurance isn’t sufficient to cover damages.

When a person is driving a car in North Carolina, that person’s UM/UIM insurance covers not only them but also their passengers as well. And in addition to the driver’s coverage, your own UM/UIM insurance coverage can also “stack” with the driver’s coverage and cover you as a passenger (but only after the driver’s UM/UIM coverage has already paid out for the crash up to the policy limits).

So, to sum up, when you’re injured as a passenger in a crash, you may be able to file insurance claims based on:

  • The at-fault driver’s liability coverage
  • UM or UIM coverage held by the driver of the vehicle you were riding in
  • Your own UM or UIM coverage

RELATED: Do I Have to Pay My Own Medical Bills After a Car Crash?

What if a Friend or Family Member Was Driving the Car? Do I Have to File a Lawsuit Against Them?

A woman making a phone call to a personal injury attorney after being injured in a car accident

Sometimes, injured passengers hesitate to file claims because a friend or family member was driving the car. If you’re worried about causing trouble for someone you care about by filing a claim, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • A personal injury claim is a civil claim for monetary compensation only. When you file a personal injury claim, there’s no risk of your friend or family member being charged with a crime, getting arrested or imprisoned, receiving a criminal record, being sentenced to community service or probation, or paying fines. Those are all potential outcomes in a criminal proceeding, which is completely separate from a personal injury claim.
  • Your family member or friend might not be at fault. As we mentioned earlier, car accidents are complex, and figuring out who is at fault takes experience and detailed investigation. Even if you think your friend or family member caused the crash in some way, it could turn out that the other driver was entirely responsible.
  • The insurance company, not the at-fault individual, generally pays damages from a personal injury claim. If the at-fault person had auto insurance, then the insurance company is responsible for paying any damages up to the policy limits. And as described in the previous section on insurance, relevant UM/UIM coverage can also kick in and provide compensation up to policy limits. All of this compensation will come from the insurance company’s funds, not the pockets (or assets) of your friend or family member.

RELATED: 8 Things You Should Never Do After an Auto Accident

Injured as a Passenger in a North Carolina Car Accident? Call Myers Law Firm for Help

If you’ve been in an accident and are trying to determine whether to file a lawsuit, contact Myers Law Firm. We’ll provide a free consultation where we can learn about your case and help you determine your next steps.

Our team of personal injury lawyers has over 60 years of combined experience serving the injured in North Carolina, and we’re here to support you. We know the process from beginning to end, and we fight tirelessly for victims.

Call us at 888-376-2889 or use our contact form to schedule your free consultation.

References

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. (2022). North Carolina 2021 Crash Facts. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/references/examples/report-government-agency-references

 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

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How Is Property Acquired After a Separation—but Before Division—Divided?

Marriage is the most complex relationship humans can enter. While it might be nice to think love is all that really matters, there are many factors at play when two lives intertwine. And when the time comes that a married couple decides to separate—and, eventually divorce—untangling all the various elements can be a challenge.

One area where that is especially true is for the marital estate, and determination of which property now goes to which spouse—including property acquired after separation but before the property is divided. Sometimes this period of time can cover many months or years.

In North Carolina, the determination of what constitutes marital property to be divided is based on the date of separation. However, a long period of time can pass between the date of separation and the date when the spouses agree to divide the property or a judge hears the case. The date when the property is actually distributed is called the date of distribution.

Between the date of separation and the date of distribution, property may change value, be sold, or be acquired. This property is called divisible property, and determining what happens with this property can be complicated.

Let’s review what happens to property acquired in that period between the date of separation and the date of distribution, starting with a quick overview of property division in North Carolina.

RELATED: 5 Common Questions About Property Division During a Divorce

How Does Property Division Work in North Carolina?

Close up of wedding rings and divorce contract with divorcing couple in background

As discussed in our Is Everything Split 50/50 in a Divorce in North Carolina? blog post, North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. While a community property state splits all marital assets and debts evenly, an equitable division state like ours divides marital property “equitably”, which may or may not be equal, as determined “in the eyes of the court.”

While it would seem as though equal (a 50/50 split) and equitable are the same thing, the key distinction is that equal is exactly even and equitable implies a sense of fairness in the division. Along with that, “in the eyes of the court” is an important caveat.

For example, consider a situation in which one spouse has a disability that requires costly treatment and prevents them from working. In an equitable distribution state, the judge could take this into consideration when dividing the marital property and may grant them extra resources due to greater need. But if the same divorce were to happen in a community property state, the value of all marital assets would be totaled, and each spouse would receive exactly as much as the other spouse.

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What Is Considered Marital Property?

Attorney and client review paperwork at the attorney's law office

Things of value like the marital home, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and stock options that were acquired during the marriage can be considered marital property. Other valuable assets can fail into this category—as long as they were obtained prior to the date of separation—even though they are held in the name of one spouse only.

That means when “his” platinum necklace or “her” new boat are bought prior to separation, they are technically part of the marital estate (for distribution purposes). The appropriate valuation will be assessed, and the judge will factor it into their considerations when determining a final distribution.

RELATED: What Does Marital Property Mean in Property Division Cases?

What Is Considered Separate Property?

Daughters help father unload boxes out of a moving truck

The general rule here is that property acquired in the following ways would potentially be considered one spouse’s separate property, rather than marital property, and not divided in the divorce.

  • Property already owned by one spouse before the marriage began
  • Property acquired by one spouse after legal separation
  • Gifts or inheritance explicitly designated to one spouse only, even if it occurred during the marriage.

However, there are some important caveats.

One is that North Carolina law presumes that all property owned by either spouse on the date of separation is marital property. So, if you believe a certain asset should be considered separate property instead, you will need to prove it to the court.

Another is that there are many circumstances in which separate property can become marital property.

A court may also consider what funds were used to purchase the property. To go back to the necklace- and boat-owning couple:

  • If he bought the necklace with money that was marital property, the necklace would be marital property even if purchased after the date of separation. Cash accumulated during a marriage counts as marital assets, no matter when (or by whom) it is spent.
  • If she bought the boat with money she earned after the start of the separation, then she will likely be able to keep the boat without having it count against her share of the final distribution.

While that might seem fairly straightforward, we also need to address a few key definitions and requirements involved in the North Carolina divorce process.

Divorce and Legal Separation in North Carolina

The North Carolina divorce law has a specific definition of legal separation that must be met for an “absolute divorce” to be granted—and this plays a role in property distribution.

To meet the legal requirements for the official, one-year separation, the following factors must hold true:

1) Spouses must be living in separate homes.

2) At least one spouse intends the separation to be permanent.

These requirements for an “absolute divorce” to ultimately be granted in our state can also affect what kind of assets are considered which kind of property.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Separation and Divorce in North Carolina?

How Separation Status Can Affect Property Distribution

If a couple doesn’t meet the above circumstances, they will not be considered separated and any property they acquire will typically be considered marital property.

It should be noted that North Carolina does not require any paperwork or legal documentation of a separation. Once a spouse moves out of the marital residence (with the intention of doing so permanently), the couple is considered separated. However, it is important to keep your own records in case the date of separation is later challenged.

Of course, you and your spouse could also choose to draft and sign an official separation and property settlement agreement (commonly known as a separation agreement), which will formalize the date of separation and can even settle property distribution, child custody, child support, spousal support, and other disputes that would otherwise fall to a court to decide. But this is completely optional.

Property Acquisitions During Brief Reconciliation Periods Between Separations

The fact that couples can (and do) separate, decide to “give it another chance,” and then separate again provides ample opportunity to create complicated situations when one or both spouses acquire property. In this instance, anything that one or the other spouse decides to acquire during the initial, less-than-one-year separation should considered marital property, even though the couple wasn’t together (and even intending to divorce) at the time of purchase.

The spouse who bought the asset during the “trial” separation, though, might be inclined to think it should be designated as separate property. Since the couple was retroactively considered to be not legally separated at the time, however, this argument may not stand up in court.

What Is Divisible Property?

Attorney helps woman understand and complete paperwork

North Carolina recognizes a third category beyond marital and separate property: divisible property. Divisible property is the term given to property that is acquired or changes in value between the date of separation and the date the property is actually divided. This category of property can be distributed between the spouses, just like marital property.

Determining what constitutes divisible property can be complicated. Divisible property accounts for assets that change value between the separation and date of distribution. These changes could be appreciation or diminution in value. It also includes any property received after the date of separation that was earned during the marriage.

Examples of divisible property include bonuses and sales commission that were earned during the marriage but not received by a spouse until after the date of separation. Also, the passive appreciation of an asset, such as a house, is divisible property.

Determining what is passive versus active appreciation or diminution is often complicated. For example, if one spouse lives in the former marital house, does not make any improvements, and the house increases in value, the increase will be passive and is therefore divisible property. If the spouse makes improvements to the house, though, a determination needs to be made about what was passive versus active appreciation. Another example could be stocks. If the stocks were owned on the date of separation and increase in value due to the market, the increase is passive and therefore divisible property. If one spouse is actively trading the stocks, the increase could be active and not divisible.

Myers Law Firm Provides the Help You Need in Divorce Law

Myers Law Firm is experienced in helping clients navigate the challenging aspects of divorce law. Our attorneys always listen to you and use our experience in the North Carolina legal system to fight for your fair share of marital assets. If you’d like, you can learn about our divorce lawyers on this page.

If you are interested in scheduling a consultation with our firm, please either fill out the brief form below or call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889).

References

Howell, C. (2017, September 8). Equitable Distribution: The Marital Property Presumption. On the Civil Side: A UNC School of Government Blog. Retrieved from https://civil.sog.unc.edu/equitable-distribution-the-marital-property-presumption/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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What to Do After a Bike Accident in North Carolina

Bicycling has seen a surge in popularity in North Carolina in recent years—particularly as cars and gas get more expensive, and cities and counties slowly start to build out better (and safer) bike infrastructure. It’s a great choice for exercise, fresh air, and getting around town.

But it can also be dangerous, particularly when bikes share the road with cars. Due to the lack of protection for the rider and massive differences in weight and momentum, almost every car-bike crash results in some kind of injury, and serious injuries or death can occur even at relatively slow speeds.

And the danger for cyclists doesn’t end after the bicycle accident. Because of North Carolina’s contributory negligence laws, our state is one of the hardest for injured cyclists to get compensation from an at-fault driver, potentially leaving them on their own to pay for their medical bills, lost wages, and more.

In this blog, we’ll go over what riders should do after a bike accident to give themselves the best chance at a successful medical and financial recovery, and how a bicycle accident attorney can help.

Call 911

close up of a bike rider leaning on his handlebars

Even if you don’t believe you’ve been seriously hurt, it’s always a wise idea to remain calm, contact the police, and file an accident report. This can serve as a crucial piece of evidence if you later wish to pursue a legal claim.

Your first priority should be to get medical help if you need it. If basic first aid is offered at the scene, take it. And of course, if you have been seriously injured, you should seek medical attention right away.

RELATED POST: The 5 Most Common Causes of Bike Crashes and How to Avoid Them

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Collect Evidence at the Accident Scene

a bent bicycle tire from a crash with a car

Don’t rely on a police report to provide all the necessary details. They are often incomplete and may even contain errors, particularly if the police officer is under the pressure of a complex accident scene or hasn’t reported on many bike accidents.

Just as you would after any other kind of auto accident, gather any evidence and info that might be relevant to a personal injury claim, including:

  • Name, address, phone number, and insurance information from the driver who hit you
  • Contact information and statements from any eyewitnesses
  • Photos of your injuries
  • Photos of damage to your bicycle and the other vehicle
  • Photos of the scene, including the road and weather conditions at the time of the crash
  • Notes about any nearby businesses or homes that might have security camera footage of the bike crash

Do not throw away any gear or equipment that may have been damaged in the accident, such as bike parts, your helmet, or your clothing. These can serve as evidence as well.

Do Not Apologize or Admit Fault

a man calling the police after a bike accident

For reasons we’ll explain in a moment, North Carolina is a difficult state for bicycle accident cases. In the immediate aftermath of a bike crash, it’s normal to want to pre-emptively apologize, particularly if you’re worried about defusing a tense situation—even if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. However, the insurance company could potentially use this as an excuse to deny you any compensation for your injuries.

To be clear, we are not telling you to lie or hide the truth. We are simply saying not to take the blame before a full investigation can take place and all the facts are known. The evidence will ultimately determine who was responsible.

RELATED POST: Who’s Right, Part 2: North Carolina Right-of-Way Laws for Bicycles

Seek Medical Attention Promptly

Even if it seems like you’re one of the lucky ones able to walk away from a bike crash with only minor injuries, you should always get a full medical evaluation if you’re experiencing any pain whatsoever or notice any other visible signs of injury.

It’s not uncommon for symptoms of head injuries, neck and back injuries, pulled muscles, internal bleeding, and other injuries to take days or even weeks to fully emerge. You might also expect dull aches to go away after a few days but discover that they only get worse.

By going to urgent care or the emergency room right away, you not only have a better chance of catching and treating a serious injury promptly, but you also establish solid medical records linking those injuries to your bike accident.

A Word About Bike Accidents and Contributory Negligence in North Carolina

a bike rider cycling to work

North Carolina is one of just four states in the United States that follow a pure contributory negligence standard when determining who can receive compensation from a personal injury lawsuit.

Under contributory negligence, anyone who shares at least some of the fault for an accident—even if it’s only 1%—is ineligible to receive any compensation. This is a harsh standard that frequently leads to injury victims being left to deal with mounting medical bills and lost wages on their own, with no help whatsoever from drivers whose negligence played a much greater role in their accident.

Because of this standard, insurance companies will look for any possible argument they can use to pin at least a small part of the blame on you. Unfortunately, they are often successful.

Adding to the challenge, many people carry negative stereotypes about cyclists: for example, that they are reckless, and either don’t understand or don’t care about the rules of the road.

Of course, these stereotypes are unfair—while there are certainly “bad bicyclists” out there, the vast majority are careful about their own safety and following the rules. (In this way, they’re no different from car drivers.) But when the evidence is unavailable or unclear, anti-bicycle bias from the responding police officer, insurance company, or jury can be a significant obstacle that injury victims must overcome in order to win their case.

RELATED POST: Why Contributory Negligence Matters for Your North Carolina Personal Injury Claim

Contact a Bicycle Accident Attorney as Soon as Possible After Your Crash

Bicycle accident cases are rarely straightforward. Injuries are often severe and life-altering, with extensive medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The burden of proof when it comes to establishing negligence is often high, since police and juries tend to assume cyclists are at fault unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. And with contributory negligence threatening to wipe out your entire claim if you’re held even 1% at fault, the stakes—and the risks—could not be higher.

In order to protect yourself and your legal rights, we strongly recommend working with a personal injury attorney with extensive bicycle accident experience. Among other things, your attorney can:

  • Give you an honest, impartial assessment of your legal options and whether or not you have a case.
  • Fully investigate the circumstances of the crash to clearly establish fault. This may include things most people without legal experience are unlikely to be able to handle on their own, such as obtaining cell phone and security camera records or consulting with accident scene reconstructionists.
  • Ensure you get the medical care you need.
  • Accurately estimate your damages so you know how much your case is worth (and whether or not the insurance company is offering you a fair deal).
  • Handle settlement negotiations on your behalf.
  • Give you the time and space you need to focus on getting better, not your legal case.

Myers Law Firm: Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyers in Charlotte, NC

If you or a loved one have been hurt or killed in a bike accident, we can help. Our lawyers understand the medical, emotional, financial, and legal challenges riders face after bicycle accidents, and we are committed to aggressively defending their legal rights.

We offer free initial consultations for all personal injury cases, including bicycle accidents, and do not get paid unless we win your case. The sooner you contact an attorney, the easier it may be to preserve and gather critical evidence, and the more time we will have to prepare a comprehensive legal strategy before reaching the statute of limitation.

To schedule your free consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or fill out and submit our online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Is Everything Split 50/50 in a Divorce in North Carolina?

Even when a divorce is relatively amicable, property division can still be contentious. There are complex rules governing what counts as marital property, what counts as separate property, and how it all gets divided. While the division of property is supposed to be “equitable,” you and your spouse may disagree on what is equitable or fair.

On top of that, the rules can be drastically different depending on where you live. Each state has its own rules about how marital assets should be divided. While some states strictly split assets 50/50 in all cases, others (including North Carolina) do not.

In this blog post, we’ll briefly discuss the two main systems of property division used in the United States—and discuss what is used in North Carolina.

Community Property States vs. Equitable Division States

a divorcing couple discussing the division of assets

Although each state has its own specific set of rules about dividing property, they generally fall into one of two broad categories:

Nine states, located primarily in the western and southwestern United States, observe community property laws. In a community property state, all marital assets and debts are split 50/50 in the divorce. This group of states includes California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Wisconsin.

The remaining states, including North Carolina, follow the law of equitable division, also known as equitable distribution. In an equitable distribution state, marital assets are to be divided “equitably” or fairly. What is equitable or fair is generally in the discretion of the judge.

One state, Alaska, generally follows equitable distribution but also allows couples to “opt in” to a community property arrangement before or during the marriage (but not once the divorce process has begun).

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Separate Property vs. Marital Property

a spouse going over paperwork to determine property division

Before we go further, it’s important to clarify what we mean by “everything” when we ask if everything is split 50/50 after a divorce. “Everything” in this case refers to marital property.

But what exactly is “marital property”? In general, marital property refers to any assets acquired during the course of your marriage—income, property, debts, investment accounts, pension and retirement benefits, etc. It does not matter whose name the asset is in, and they are not required to be in joint names. These are the assets that are to be divided during the divorce process—50/50 in community property states, or “fairly” in equitable distribution states.

By contrast, separate property refers to assets that one spouse owned before the marriage, or gifts or inheritances given specifically to one spouse and not the other during the marriage. These do not get divided.

RELATED: What Does Marital Property Mean in Property Division Cases?

However, in practice the line isn’t always quite so clear. For example, in North Carolina, all assets owned by a party on the date of separation are considered marital property by default (the “presumption” of marital property). If one spouse contends that certain assets should be considered separate property, that spouse must have evidence to overcome the presumption. Furthermore, assets that begin as separate property can become joint property if they are mixed with marital assets during the marriage.

This aspect of the law is extremely complicated, so it’s always wise to consult with an experienced property division attorney. If you’d like more information on how separate assets can become marital property, we cover this in much greater detail in a recent blog post.

RELATED: How Does Separate Property Become Marital Property?

Equal and Equitable Are Not (Necessarily) the Same Thing

a spouse determining whether everything is split 50/50 in a divorce

In the context of property division, “equal” and “equitable” have very different meanings. Equal simply means both sides get the same amount. Equitable means that the division is fair for both sides.

Of course, sometimes a 50/50 split really is the fairest approach, and that’s exactly what a judge will decide. In fact, North Carolina state law instructs that marital property and divisible property should be divided equally according to their net value, “unless the court determines that an equal division is not equitable.”

But as you can imagine, there are many relevant factors that could shift the balance from strict 50/50 when it comes time to divide property equitably. Here are a few examples of what a court might consider:

  • Duration of the marriage. Couples that have been married a long time, naturally, tend to accumulate a lot of joint property, and division typically becomes more complicated. By contrast, relatively short marriages typically have much less property acquired during the marriage.
  • Child custody. If one spouse will be the primary caregiver for the couple’s children, they might receive the family home and a proportionally greater share of the assets to provide for their care.
  • Future financial needs and earning potential. For example, say that one spouse is a high wage earner, while the other is unable to work due to chronic health issues or disability. A court may divide the property in favor of the spouse with fewer resources and greater needs.
  • Contribution to career advancement. Say one spouse paid to help the other get an advanced degree—or, alternatively, quit working and stayed home to allow their spouse more time to devote to their own professional opportunities. These scenarios might lead to a more unequal distribution being considered “fair.”
  • Tax considerations. If a certain division of property would pose unequal tax burdens on the parties, they may also be given a greater share of assets as compensation.

These are not the only examples. North Carolina law allows for a judge to consider several factors that the court shall take into consideration if one party requests an unequal division, but also allows for “any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper” to be considered as well. This gives the judge a wide degree of subjective authority when it comes distributing assets “equitably.”

How a Divorce Attorney Can Help

a divorce attorney can help with figuring out what is equitable in a divorce

If this all seems complicated, that’s because it is. Every marriage is unique, and determining what’s “fair” is much more difficult than simply figuring out what’s “equal.”

Because what is equitable can be subjective, and there are often few easy answers, it’s normal for divorcing couples to strongly disagree about how to divide their assets—even when both sides act in good faith and aren’t actively trying to take advantage of one another. When spouses can’t agree between themselves, the matter must be resolved in court.

A divorce attorney can be a huge benefit as you and your spouse go separate ways—even if your divorce is (or at least begins as) an amicable one. An experienced lawyer will know the law, know the local courts, know how to distinguish between marital and separate property (and obtain the evidence needed to document and prove that certain assets should be considered separate), and how to accurately calculate the value the property to be divided.

Further, divorce is almost always stressful and painful even when both parties agree it’s for the best. Having an attorney handle this delicate, complicated legal work often means a faster resolution and less drama between separating spouses. You can focus on building your future life and, ideally, maintain a better relationship with your ex-spouse (especially if children are involved) while your attorney handles the legal work.

And the unfortunate reality is arguments over how the property will be divided can, and often do, lead to bitterness even in divorces that start out amicably. If your ex-spouse starts acting in bad faith or trying to get more than their fair share, a divorce attorney can help you protect your legal rights and work toward the quick, fair resolution that’s ultimately in the best interests of everyone concerned.

Myers Law Firm: Honest, Ethical, and Effective Representation

If you’re looking for an honest, compassionate, and dedicated legal team to help you resolve your property division issues after a divorce in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County, contact Myers Law Firm today for a free consultation.

Our attorneys have extensive experience handling every aspect of the property distribution process, as well as all family law matters related to divorce, separation, child custody, and child and spousal support. We are here to help you understand your options and protect your rights during stressful circumstances like this. 

To request your free consultation with Myers Law Firm, simply call 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or complete our online contact form.

References

N.C.G.S. § 50-20

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Contributory Negligence

“Contributory negligence” is one of those legal terms that tends to make a non-lawyer’s eyes glaze over. But despite its obscure-sounding name, contributory negligence is a legal concept that has an enormous impact on personal injury cases in North Carolina (and a few other states), which is why you need to understand what it means if you’ve been injured. 

While injured individuals can still get some compensation from personal injury claims even if they are partly or even mostly at fault in some states, this is (with a few exceptions) generally not the case in North Carolina. Our state’s strict contributory negligence rule, unfortunately, means that an entire claim could be wiped out far more easily than most other states, thereby leaving claimants with no way to recover compensation for their serious injuries.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about what contributory negligence means, why it’s so important, and how you can protect yourself.

What Is Negligence?

accident caused by negligence

To understand what contributory negligence means, we should start out by defining the term “negligence,” an important concept in the world of personal injury law. The outcome of every personal injury lawsuit hinges on the idea of negligence and whether someone acted in a negligent manner. 

Of course, you probably know what the word “negligent” means in an everyday sense if you’re reading this. The legal definition of negligence isn’t all that different from the everyday definition of the word — it’s just a little more complicated (as most things involving the law tend to be). 

Under the law, negligence is a failure to behave with the reasonable level of care that an ordinarily prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. In other words, if a person finds themselves involved in a personal injury lawsuit, the jury must essentially answer two questions to determine if the person was negligent: 

  • What would a typical, reasonable person have done to act in a safe manner? 
  • Did the defendant fail to act in a safe manner? 

In order to successfully recover compensation in a negligence claim—say, after a car accident, slip and fall, or other personal injury incident—a plaintiff must show that:

  • The person who caused their injury had a duty to exercise reasonable care.
  • They failed to do so—and thus acted negligently.
  • Such failure caused (directly or indirectly) injury to the plaintiff.

Although this sounds simple on paper, it’s not always straightforward to decide which actions constitute negligence. Everyone has their own reasons and motivations for their actions, and there is no magic handbook that tells us exactly what constitutes “reasonable” behavior in every situation. Instead, it’s up to judges and juries to decide what actions are reasonable in a specific circumstance. 

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Contributory Negligence Versus Comparative Negligence 

writing a document regarding contributory negligence

Now that we know what negligence means in a legal sense, let’s talk about the “contributory” part. There are two options for how courts proceed once they determine who is at fault for an accident or injury in a personal injury lawsuit. 

With comparative fault, the plaintiff (the injured victim in a personal injury case) can receive compensation from a lawsuit based on what percent the defendant was at fault. In other words, if the defendant was 50 percent responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff can recover up to 50 percent of the total damages. 

With contributory negligence (which is technically called “pure contributory negligence”), the plaintiff can’t recover anything if they were even slightly at fault for their injuries. Even if the accident was 99 percent the defendant’s fault and only 1 percent the plaintiff’s fault, the plaintiff’s contributory negligence bars them from any right to compensation.

Which theory the courts apply varies from state to state. Only five jurisdictions use the pure contributory negligence rule: Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The other 46 states all apply comparative fault to some degree.

If contributory negligence sounds like a terrible deal for injury victims compared to comparative fault, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, since the system of negligence that applies to your case depends on the jurisdiction where you suffered your injuries, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Exceptions to Contributory Negligence

working with a lawyer to determine exceptions to contributory negligence

While contributory negligence remains a harsh system, North Carolina law does provide some exceptions to this standard to reduce the likelihood of an excessively unjust ruling against an injured party. There are a few ways you can overcome a contributory negligence defense in court.

Gross Negligence Doctrine

If the defendant’s willful or wanton conduct caused your injuries, then the defendant can’t claim contributory negligence. In essence, it means that if the defendant intentionally fails to exercise reasonable care—or in other words, acted with reckless disregard—then your own negligence won’t bar you from recovery.

This might come into play in a drunk driving case, for example, with a grossly negligent intoxicated driver traveling significantly over the speed limit. Even if you would otherwise be considered contributorily negligent (for example, you were traveling 5 miles per hour over the speed limit or failed to signal a turn), you could still get compensation for your damages.

Last Clear Chance Rule

Alternatively, if you can show that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid an accident and failed to do so, then the defendant can still be held accountable, even under contributory negligence. 

Last Clear Chance is a defense to the defense of contributory negligence. However, the plaintiff must show that, although she may have had some fault for the incident, the defendant had the time and the means to still avoid the incident but failed to do so. This is difficult to prove.

Working With Contributory Negligence 

hiring an experienced personal injury attorney

So, if you suffered your injuries in North Carolina, you’re stuck working under the contributory negligence rule. That means if you want to get fair compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll need to either show that the defendant was entirely at fault for your injuries, or that your situation qualifies for an exception. 

The other party’s insurance company knows they only need to show that you were at least 1 percent at fault for the accident to win the case, so they will be looking for any possible excuse to do so from the very beginning. One piece of ambiguous evidence, or misstatement you make when speaking with the claims adjuster, could threaten your entire recovery.

What can you do to help your case? 

The best thing you can do to improve your chances of a successful financial recovery is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who can give you candid advice and fight on your behalf in court. 

RELATED: Here’s What You Should Expect in a Personal Injury Deposition

Benefits of Hiring an Attorney

Having an experienced attorney advocate on your side who can prepare for and defend against their efforts can be extremely helpful. 

A qualified attorney should be able to give you an honest and realistic assessment of your odds of winning your case. Even if it’s disappointing to find out that you have only a small chance of successfully recovering compensation for your injuries, it is better to figure this out before you ever set foot in a courtroom rather than after you’ve sunk countless hours (and dollars) into preparing legal paperwork, gathering evidence, and figuring out how to represent yourself at trial. 

And although it’s possible to represent yourself in a personal injury lawsuit, it is often an uphill battle for victims. This is especially true in jurisdictions like North Carolina that use the pure contributory negligence rule. Meanwhile, contacting an experienced personal injury attorney for a consultation should be free and could make all the difference for your case. 

Contact Myers Law Firm if You’ve Been Injured in Mecklenburg County

At Myers Law Firm, we work to demand justice and fair compensation for the victims of senseless injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, we’re here to help. If you choose us to represent you, we’ll act as your advocate and use our legal experience to fight relentlessly on your behalf until your case reaches a resolution. 

Call our offices today at (888) 376-2889 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule your free initial consultation with us. We’ll use this time to get to know you, learn about your situation, and inform you about your legal options so you can go forward with confidence. 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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How Does Separate Property Become Marital Property?

During a divorce or separation, emotions run high. Even an amicable split is stressful and difficult. And one of the biggest headaches in these kinds of circumstances can be caused by the division of assets, especially when it seems particularly unfair to one side.

Understanding what separate property is, and how one spouse’s separate property can become marital property, will help prepare you for the legal process of property division.

North Carolina is not a “community property” state. Instead, our state follows the “equitable distribution” method of dividing property when spouses are separating. This means that property is divided fairly in the eyes of the court, and that does not necessarily mean each side receives an equal share of the property. “Equitable” does not have to mean “equal.”

If you want to protect your separate property during a divorce, an experienced family lawyer like Myers Law Firm can guide you through the process and help you find the documentation to prove that your assets should not be included in the division of marital property.

What Is Marital Property and What Is Separate Property?

A woman going over paperwork looking for help to understand how separate property can become marital property.

In the event of a divorce, there are different classifications for property and assets. These classifications determine whether the property goes to one spouse, or whether each spouse has a claim to the value of the property.

Marital Property

Marital property is anything that was acquired from the date of marriage to the date of separation, with exceptions for separate property like gifts and inheritances clearly belonging to one spouse.

Marital property typically includes any wages, assets like houses or cars, real estate, investment accounts, retirements accounts, bank accounts, and debts. Even if an account only has one spouse’s name on it, it is still marital property if it was acquired during the marriage.

Separate Property

Separate property includes property that was acquired before marriage, or any property acquired during the marriage that was a gift or inheritance for one spouse.

Divisible Property

There is a third classification in North Carolina, which is called divisible property. This is property that was acquired before the date of separation, but was received after separation, or marital property for which the value has changed since separation.

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The Presumption of Marital Property

A woman thoughtfully walking down the street

One very important factor in all of this is the “presumption” that applies to the definitions of marital versus separate property.

Under North Carolina law, all property that was owned by either spouse on the date of separation is presumed to be marital property. What this means is that the spouse who is claiming that a certain piece of property is separate property must present sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption and prove that the property qualifies under the definition of separate property. If sufficient evidence is presented, then the property should be declared to be separate property.

Why Property Classification Matters

Reviewing various accounts in property division

The classification of property is incredibly important because a judge can decide how marital property gets divided up between the spouses. Separate property only belongs to one spouse, and therefore cannot be awarded to the other spouse. However, separate property can become marital property in certain scenarios.

When separate property gets mixed with marital property, these “comingled” assets can become marital property or be considered “mixed” property that is partly separate and partly marital.

RELATED: Equitable Distribution — What Does “Marital Property” Mean in Property Division Cases?

Real Estate: Separate or Marital Property?

One of the most complicated comingling of assets is the marital house. If one spouse owned the house before marriage, it is a separate asset. However, if the other spouse moves in, what happens then?

If the other spouse is added to the deed, then North Carolina law says that the house becomes marital property. This is usually pretty straightforward.

If the value of a house that is separate property goes up due to the real estate market only, for example, that appreciation is considered separate property.

However, if money that is earned during the marriage is used for upkeep, the mortgage, or renovations, the non-owner spouse will gain a marital interest in the property. In some cases, they only have a claim to the appreciation in value, such as if they contributed to renovations that made the house more valuable. This calculation can be very contentious and requires good recordkeeping.

RELATED: Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina?

How About Other Assets, Accounts, and Debt?

Getting help to figure out marital property and separate property

While real estate and houses are major considerations in property division, there are a variety of other ones as well. Various accounts, investments, and even debt are all reviewed in cases of legal separation and divorce:

Appreciating Assets (Investments)

Separate property assets that appreciate passively, like investment accounts, real estate, and collectibles, remain as separate property. However, if someone were to use marital assets to fund an investment account, that action can then turn the asset into mixed separate and marital property.

Similarly, if a retirement account acquired before marriage continues to receive contributions after the date of marriage, this converts the account into mixed separate and marital property. With extremely good recordkeeping or forensic accounting, it may be possible to determine which portion of the account is separate property and which portion is marital property, but this can be very difficult and time-consuming.

Depreciating Assets

For depreciating assets like automobiles, boats, RVs, furniture, etc., the same rules apply. If they were acquired before marriage, or after marriage with separate funds, they are separate assets. If they were acquired after marriage using marital funds, they are marital property that will be divided between the spouses. The fair market value of the assets plays a part in the equitable distribution of such property.

As an example, if a boat is acquired during marriage but paid for with money that is separate property, then the boat is also separate property. However, if the other spouse makes any contribution to payments or upkeep, it could change the classification to mixed property.

Debt

Debt can be very contentious to settle. Debt acquired before marriage is separate property. As a general rule, if the debt was taken on during the marriage and was for the benefit of the marriage, both spouses are typically responsible for the debt.

Student loan debt taken on during the marriage can sometimes be treated as separate debt, but if the other spouse benefitted from the education, or if the loan money was used to benefit the marriage (such as payment for groceries or rent), then the debt is marital property.

Unfortunately, if your spouse had hidden credit cards from you during your marriage, you may need to prove that you did not benefit from the things your spouse purchased in order to treat that debt as separate property.

Bank Accounts

Bank accounts that start out as separate property must be treated carefully so as not to become marital property. If you deposit marital property into a bank account, such as a paycheck, that can count as comingling assets. If you use money from a separate bank account to make payments on a marital loan or mortgage, that is considered a gift to the marriage.

When you have a joint bank account, there is typically less question as to whether it is considered marital property or not. In this instance, the joint account belongs collectively to the married couple and falls in the category of marital property.

Gifts and Inheritance

Gifts and inheritance bequeathed to a single spouse, whether before or during the marriage, are typically treated as separate property. If the other spouse contributes towards the asset and increases its value, it can become mixed separate and marital property.

Myers Law Firm Will Help You Figure Out Marital Property Versus Separate Property in a Divorce

If you believe you have separate property during the dissolution of your marriage, it can be challenging to find the documentation necessary to prove your sole ownership. The help of a divorce attorney like Myers Law Firm can be invaluable. We can assist you in understanding your rights and options during stressful circumstances like this.

Schedule your consultation with Myers Law Firm by calling 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or using our online contact form. Our knowledge of the local court system in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County will help us answer your questions about how your property may be classified during your divorce.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina?

Deciding to separate and proceed with a divorce isn’t easy, but it’s only the first step in a sometimes-long process. When the emotional weight of splitting up with your spouse is still heavy in the air, maybe the last thing you want to do is think about what will happen to your family home.

An experienced divorce attorney can help you understand what options you have in moving forward. You’ll have to think hard about keeping the house, selling it, or contesting your spouse’s plans. It’s usually not an easy decision, but it can be even more difficult when there’s an emotional attachment to where you live.

There’s more than one possible answer, and the best one for you could require a greater understanding about the process.

Who Decides Who Gets the House in a Divorce?

Couples have the option of reaching an agreement when it comes to dividing assets. While this is the simplest and least costly option, sometimes the case has to proceed to court for a judge to make the final decision. At the conclusion of a trial, the judge will have to decide what they think is an equitable division of the property.

The judge will have to look carefully at all assets the couple owns before making any decisions on dividing property.

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What Does Property Division Look Like in Divorce?

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina

The court has a lot of discretion when it comes to dividing assets. The process starts with the court categorizing assets into three categories:

  • Marital property
  • Separate property
  • Divisible property

Marital Property

Marital property is all the real and personal property acquired from the date of the marriage up to the date of the separation. Houses and mortgages often fall into the marital property classification if the couple purchased the home after getting married, even if the property is only listed in one person’s name.

Divisible Property

Divisible property is the change in value of marital property from the date of separation until the date of distribution of the property. House valuations, ongoing upkeep, and tenant payments could all affect this amount.

Separate Property

Separate property is real or personal property that a spouse owned before the marriage or that came to them as an inheritance or gift in their name alone during the marriage. If one party’s parents gave the couple the house as a gift, it likely doesn’t count as separate property.

Sometimes, a house can be converted from separate property to marital property during a marriage. If a couple modifies a deed to include both names, it could convert the property to marital property. If the non-named spouse helped with finances or upkeep of the house during the marriage, the spouse acquires a marital interest in the property.

Marital and divisible property can both be divided by the court, while separate property is just that – separate. If the house is considered separate property, it will remain with the appropriate owner. If the house counts as marital or divisible property, the court will handle the division with equitable distribution.

RELATED: 5 Common Questions About Property Division During a Divorce

North Carolina and Equitable Distribution

The division of property after separation in North Carolina follows equitable distribution. This term means that the law presumes that an equal division is equitable. However, there are grounds for a judge to make an unequal division and the division still be equitable. A judge will decide whether to allow for an unequal division by looking at several factors, including:

  • Incomes, debts, and separate property
  • Contributions to the household beyond finances
  • Help during the other spouse’s education and professional development

When it comes time to consider how the house will be divided, a judge could also take custody matters into consideration. The parent that receives primary physical custody could get to stay in the marital home to keep the children secure. This decision still leaves the question of covering the mortgage, paying property taxes, and compensating the other spouse for such a large asset.

Fault Affecting the House

Fault can affect alimony and spousal support if a spouse cheated or had an affair, but North Carolina doesn’t consider fault when considering equitable distribution. This means that the offending spouse can still get their fair share of the property, including the house.

Do You Have to Sell the House?

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina

Selling the house and splitting the proceeds might be the simplest option, but it’s not the only one. There are ways to keep the house in the family, but it’s important to remember that some choices can come with complications, ranging from emotional effects to tax implications.

  • Balancing assets: One spouse can choose to keep the house while trading an equal value of other assets in exchange. When paying outright isn’t possible, a spouse can offer other assets with a high enough value to balance the scales.
  • Payments over time: If one spouse keeps the house but does not have enough other assets to make the division of property equal, that spouse can pay the other over time. These payments are called a distributive award.

Figuring out how these plans play out might only be the beginning of a complex solution. Property disagreements, a spouse passing, and bankruptcy could all have major impacts on what happens to a house.

How Can a Homeowner Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina

Experienced help can be vital for a spouse considering divorce, especially when an asset as big as a house is included in the discussion. Often the largest asset a person will own, the outcome of division can have a lasting impact on a person’s life.

But before you hire a divorce lawyer to help you with your case, it’s important to think about a few details:

  • Do my final expectations align with my attorney’s?
  • Do I agree with my attorney’s approach?
  • Does my attorney have experience in this area?

Answering these questions starts with research, but it’s important to get to know the law firm you’re working with before you sign a contract.

Why Might Myers Law Firm Be the Right Choice for Homeowners in Divorce?

Planning for the future of a house can be an enormous task to do alone, especially with the included challenge of the divorce process. Myers Law Firm has over 60 years of combined experience helping clients approach divorce and property division, and is ready to work with you to get your fair and equitable share.

Reach out by calling 1-888-376–2889 or complete our brief online contact form to schedule a free consultation. We’ll discuss your case and your options, so you can create a plan for handling your house through a divorce.

References

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-6

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-20

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-21

R., Branan. Land Title: Understanding Rights in Real and Personal Property. NC State Extension. Retrieved from URL https://farmlaw.ces.ncsu.edu/land-use-and-zoning/land-ownership-and-liability/land-title-understanding-rights-in-real-and-personal-property/

Separation and Divorce. North Carolina Judicial Branch. Retrieved from https://www.nccourts.gov/help-topics/divorce/separation-and-divorce

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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How to Choose the Right North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer for You

Getting into an accident can push you into a whole world you haven’t entered before. Dealing with another driver’s negligence, their insurance company, and the legal system can be an enormous undertaking for someone who’s never even had to make a claim before.

When you need to manage a personal injury claim, it might be time to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you in the process. But when expenses from a car accident can change your life, it’s essential to find an attorney who can successfully support your claim in a way that aligns with your requirements.

This isn’t a matter of choosing the first attorney you find online (although, that very well might turn out to be the one who’s right for you). It’s about investing the time now to make sure you’ve got the best help you can find. And understanding the process upfront can mean peace of mind as you navigate the sometimes-difficult process of building and supporting a personal injury claim.

When Should a Person Consider Hiring an Attorney for Their Personal Injury Cases?

North Carolina personal injury lawyer

Know When a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help a Claim

If there’s no damage or injuries, it’s possible that you don’t need to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. But if you need ongoing medical care, have a traumatic brain injury, or are going to have future lost wages or earning capacity, it’s probably time to consider the option.

There Might Not Be a “Too Soon”

If it makes sense to hire a personal injury attorney, waiting may only hurt your chance of fair compensation. Saying the wrong thing to an adjuster, forgetting to track medical expenses, or missing important windows for legal action could all happen if you wait too long to get help.

When evidence and statements from the scene of the accident matter, it’s important to think about the future of your claim. But a traumatic experience can make navigating a personal injury claim even harder, especially with North Carolina’s law of contributory negligence. These type of issues often makes hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer from the very beginning a good choice.

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What Does a Personal Injury Attorney Do, and When Should You Consider Hiring One?

North Carolina personal injury lawyer

Understand if You Have a Personal Injury Claim Worth Pursuing

First, a personal injury attorney can help you decide if you have a case or not. The ultimate decision is with you, but someone with experience navigating claims according to North Carolina law can help you weigh your options.

Even if you think your claim is worth money, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Is the potential amount of money you might be awarded worth filing and defending your claim?
  • Will you likely receive enough to cover your costs and attorney fees?
  • Can you show that the other driver was negligent and that they caused your injuries?

Fortunately, many personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations, so you can better understand your legal options without financial risk.

Find Out How Much Your Claim Could be Worth

Major injuries, property damage, and lost wages can add up to a lot of unexpected costs, but it’s hard to know what price to put on the effects of a car accident.

An attorney can help you determine what costs to include in personal injury claims:

  • Physical injuries. Emergency, ongoing, and future medical expenses could quickly grow.
  • Pain and suffering. Beyond medical bills, mental anguish and physical pain can equate to a monetary value.
  • Necessary changes. Home and vehicle accessibility upgrades can be essential after a serious injury.
  • Missed earnings. Lost wages or earning potential due to an accident can count as a cost from the accident.
  • Property damage. Car repairs or damage to things inside the vehicle can also count toward costs.

But claiming the injuries can also depend on what you can prove.

RELATED: Compensation Explained: What Can I Receive From My Injury Case?

Get Support as You Defend Your Claim

Crafting your claim is only the beginning of the process. You’ll still need to support it with evidence and defend it if the insurance company isn’t willing to offer a fair settlement. From security cameras to eyewitness testimony, it’s important to track down evidence and witness statements and incorporate them into a claim.

Drivers can also rely on things like depositions, anti-spoilation, and Public Records Law requirements, but it may be daunting to manage all of that on their own. A lawyer can help you understand what kind of evidence matters, where you can find it, and how to preserve it.

What Should You Learn About a Personal Injury Attorney Before Hiring Them?

North Carolina personal injury lawyer

Make Sure the Lawyer Can Practice in Your Region

It’s important to know where the lawyer you choose can practice law. If a driver is injured in North Carolina, they’ll have to find a lawyer able to practice in the state. Beyond that, a lawyer that has localized knowledge of laws, and clerk and court operations, can be helpful.

Find Out the Lawyer’s Experience

Lawyers often focus on specific areas of the law, and it’s important to know if they have a history of working in the area you need help. An attorney that works mostly in workers’ comp with little focus on motor vehicle accidents might not be the best fit for your personal injury case. Larger firms can have teams that focus on different things, but then you’ll have to consider if that’s the kind of experience you’re looking for.

Get the Right Fit for Your Case

Bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to a law firm. A larger firm can get around knowledge gaps with sheer resources, but a smaller firm with a more personal touch can deliver a tailored approach.

Think about what you want from your case and see how the firm answers your questions with their actions. How much time will the firm dedicate to your case? Can you get in touch with someone when you call with questions? Will they keep you updated on your claim?

Reach Out and Learn More

Research is a good first step but finding out if a lawyer aligns with you can really depend on a conversation. When a free case evaluation is available, it’s worth the time to see if you’re comfortable with their approach, they have room to take on your personal injury case, and you align on what your claim could be worth.

Take a Look at Their Resume

Lawyers new to practicing law or that have recently changed disciplines or entered a new area might not have the expertise you need to successfully support your claim. Find out how long they’ve been practicing, what organizations they support, which associations endorse them, and their track record of success in recent cases.

What Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Do for a Client if They Have to Work With an Insurance Company?

North Carolina personal injury lawyer

Your personal injury claim will likely involve the negligent driver’s insurance company. Even if you have a well-supported personal injury case, it’s not a guarantee that the insurance company will pay your losses. There are a few tactics that insurance adjusters might follow:

  • Offer less than fair compensation
  • Discount or refuse to consider expenses in your claim
  • Try to show you’re partially responsible for the accident
  • Try to deny payment altogether

Your position isn’t necessarily wrong. The insurance company is focused on making money by paying out as little as possible on claims. This means the insurance adjuster is not on your side. Refuting your claim can come in different forms and be coupled with different ways of getting you to accept less, like asking leading questions to get you to accept some of the blame.

This circumstance is where a personal injury lawyer can step in. You can allow the attorney to deal with the insurance company on your behalf, so you don’t have to worry about slipping up because of rules and tactics you don’t know about.

RELATED: 9 Secrets the Insurance Adjuster Doesn’t Want You to Know

Why Might Myers Law Firm be Your Right Choice?

You’ve got plenty of options when it comes to hiring a personal attorney but getting an attorney for your case can seem like a lot of work. Hiring the right attorney, though, could ultimately mean a lot less work and the possibility of a better outcome.

Myers Law Firm could be that right choice for you after an accident. We’ve got over 60 years of combined experience serving accident victims in North Carolina. Our experienced team has been fighting for the injured to get them the help they deserve.

We offer a free consultation, so don’t hesitate to reach out to our office at 888-376-2889 or with our short online form to schedule a consultation. We’ll review your case, learn what you expect from your recovery, and help you better understand your legal options.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

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How Do You Manage a Vehicle Accident Lawsuit?

Car accidents might be over in an instant, but the procedures that follow can seem never-ending. When you’ve never had to make a big insurance claim or file court paperwork before, trying to manage the whole process alone can leave you feeling stranded in another world.

The law isn’t always easy to understand on your own. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you work through the steps involved with a lawsuit. To give you a better understanding of what this entails, let’s look at how to navigate your way through a vehicle accident lawsuit.

What Should Drivers Do After a Car Accident?

vehicle accident lawsuit

The lead-up to a lawsuit starts the moment of an accident. Laying the right groundwork can ultimately have a profound impact—positively or negatively—so it’s important for drivers to know what they should (and shouldn’t) do.

Don’t Ditch the Evidence

The evidence surrounding a car accident doesn’t always last forever. Eyewitnesses sometimes forget important details. Nearby shops could delete useful security footage. Skid marks fade away over time. Even visiting the repair shop and getting damage repaired without taking photos first can make it harder to prove a claim. You should document everything about your case through photos and taking good notes.

Don’t Talk to the Insurance Company

If the negligent driver’s insurance company becomes involved after a car accident, it’s likely that an insurance adjuster will contact the victim. They’ll ask questions and take statements, but it’s rarely done in an effort to offer fair compensation. The insurance provider could work against the victim, using their words against them later to lower payouts or even deny a claim altogether.

Do Get Medical Attention

Seeing a doctor right after an accident can be crucial for a healthy recovery:

  • Symptoms don’t always show up right away
  • Minor injuries can turn severe
  • A prompt visit can help connect injuries to a car accident

Do Track Everything

From medical expenses to doctor’s notes to missed time from work, it’s important to save everything that relates to a case. Insurance adjusters may try calling judgment into question, but a paper trail and doctor’s notes can strengthen a car accident claim.

Do Look Into Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

Serious injuries can be overwhelming, but there’s help available. Even if a driver has done everything right, it can still take an experienced personal injury attorney to know what to do next.

Let us help you.

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Does a Car Accident Victim Need a Personal Injury Attorney?

vehicle accident lawsuit

Not every car accident benefits from hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit, but passing on legal representation without talking over a case with an attorney could cost the victim in the end:

  • Building a strong case takes a lot of time and experience, and going it alone can be risky
  • It’s difficult to navigate all the legal requirements of filing a lawsuit and supporting a claim
  • Insurance companies might try to take advantage of drivers by making low offers and applying high pressure

Evaluating a personal injury claim can be a complicated process, and victims could benefit from reaching out for legal help.

RELATED: Do You Have a Personal Injury Case? Here’s How Attorneys Decide

Preserving Evidence From a Crash

Drivers can start collecting evidence on their own, but an experienced attorney knows where to look and how the law helps:

  • Official witness testimony. In-person questioning, or a sworn written account, can help uncover details that led to an accident. Making the process official through a deposition or an affidavit puts the process under oath.
  • Anti-spoliation letter. Sometimes, obtaining evidence is out of a victim’s hands, but a written demand to preserve evidence can keep proof intact. If the defendant has car damage that supports a case, getting repairs after an anti-spoliation letter could result in consequences.
  • Public Records Law. If there were traffic cameras on the scene, it’s not always obvious how to get the footage. Sometimes it’s also important to get the 911 call because these records may be destroyed after a certain period of time. Your attorney could file a request for access to some documents held by public agencies.

Understanding Contributory Negligence

North Carolina has a legal principle called contributory negligence that outlines who can get compensation after a car accident. If a driver shares any responsibility at all for a crash, the law says they aren’t entitled to any recovery for damages.

When 1% of blame is enough to stop a claim, working with an experienced attorney becomes crucial. A strong legal strategy might be the only way to show an insurance company or jury that the negligence falls entirely on one driver.

Navigating Deadlines in Personal Injury Cases

Though injuries can last a lifetime, the window for beginning a personal injury lawsuit does not. Victims in North Carolina generally have three years from the time of the car accident to bring a claim. This is called the statute of limitations.

Damages that stem from an easily identifiable cause, like a car accident, will often signal the start date of the statute of limitations. Drivers will be barred from compensation if they haven’t settled or filed a lawsuit before their statute of limitations expires.

It’s not always clear to a victim exactly when the clock beings to tick, but legal representation can help look at the evidence and offer guidance for legal strategy.

Decide Whether to Settle or File a Lawsuit

While it falls on the victim’s shoulders to build a strong argument for damages after a car accident, that doesn’t mean a claim will cover every cost. The other driver’s insurance company will usually make an initial offer that doesn’t come close to meeting the list of damages.

Victims need to understand what a personal injury claim can include after a car accident:

  • Economic losses. Costs that can be tied to the car accident with a receipt generally fall into this category. Medical bills, accessibility upgrades, lost wages, and property damage can all stem from a car accident.
  • Non-economic losses. Damages aren’t always as easy as showing bills. Physical pain, depression, lost happiness, and post-traumatic stress disorder can add up to a big piece of a car accident claim but might be harder to prove.
  • Punitive damages. Reckless or malicious behaviors like drunk driving can lead to punishments for the defendant. These additional damages can also be included in the lawsuit.

Finding an accurate number for damages is an essential but complicated process that an experienced legal team can help work through. Your attorney will work through settlement negotiations to get the best offer that the insurance company is willing to make before you file a lawsuit.

RELATED: How Do Pain and Suffering Damages Work in Personal Injury Claims?

What Does the Lawsuit Process Look Like?

vehicle accident lawsuit

When the evidence is in order and the legal requirements are met, it’s time to undergo a step-by-step process.

Evaluate the Insurance Offer

The insurance provider will decide on whether to make a settlement offer and for what amount. It will be up to the driver and their attorney to review the offer and decide if it adequately covers the cost of damages.

If amount isn’t fair, then it becomes time for a lawsuit.

File a Complaint With the Clerk’s Office

Drivers have to put together a formal complaint that includes specific allegations and file it at the clerk’s office. This action makes the victim the plaintiff, and the person they’re suing becomes the defendant. The clerk’s office will issue a summons, which the plaintiff will have to serve to the defendant along with the complaint.

The defendant has 30 days to respond, with one extension available for another 30 days. Their answer will include a number of defenses, most of which may not even be applicable, but it could also include counterclaims, which the plaintiff will need to answer.

Get Evidence on the Record

After everything is filed and answered, there’s a time for gathering information. This is called the discovery phase. This period is where the official witness testimonies from depositions take place. The plaintiff, the defendant, and other witnesses could all have to have their deposition taken. There are also written discovery requests that must be answered and documents that must be produced.

Go Through Mediation or Arbitration

North Carolina courts require personal injury cases to go through mediation or arbitration before they make it to trial. In both instances, a neutral third party tries to help the plaintiff and defendant come to an agreement:

  • A professional mediator will attempt to work with both sides toward an agreement, but the process isn’t totally binding. Either party can leave the table, which will bring the case to trial.
  • An arbitrator will hear both sides of the complaint, then make a decision. A court-ordered arbitration decision can be appealed which will bring the case to trial.

Resolve the Issue in Court

If a claim makes it all the way to trial without a settlement, the plaintiff will have to support their claim before a jury. The jury will weigh the plaintiff’s evidence against the defendant’s and come to a decision. There’s room to file an appeal if there’s an undesirable outcome, otherwise, the decision becomes final.

Myers Law Firm Can Help

If you’ve been in an accident and are trying to determine whether to file a lawsuit, contact Myers Law Firm. We’re ready to sit down and look over the details of your case and help you determine your next steps.

Our team has over 60 years of combined help serving the injured in North Carolina, and we’re here to support you. We know the process from beginning to end and fight tirelessly for victims throughout.

Call us at 888-376-2889 or fill out our brief contact form for a free consultation.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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What Are the Worst Car Crash Injuries That Might Need Legal Help?

A car accident might happen in an instant, but the fallout can last for years to come. Victims often have a long road to overcoming debilitating injuries while being faced with a mountain of unexpected costs.

Recovering after a car accident can entail managing your treatments, dealing with car and health insurance, and legal strategies. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer could help you get the compensation you deserve.

How Do Car Accidents Happen?

worst car crash injuries

Car accidents happen for a variety of reasons and cause a range of injuries. While circumstances like driving in poor weather conditions can be dangerous, another driver’s negligence is more often what causes an accident. Drunk driving, drug use (even legitimate medication), failing to yield or stay in the correct lane, and careless or distracted driving are some of the leading types of negligence and causes of injuries.

The blunt force trauma of an auto accident can make the situation even worse. Head-on collisions, rollover accidents, or additional vehicles involved may increase the likelihood of lifelong injuries or conditions, but even simple rear-end collisions can cause long-term effects.

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What Are Possible Life-Altering Injuries From Car Crashes?

worst car crash injuries

In 2020, drivers who suffered injuries in car accidents shared an estimated $473 billion in costs. Those expenses included treatments and wage loss because of injuries. Many types of injuries add to climbing medical costs, but there are a few serious kinds that can greatly contribute to a compensation claim:

  • Traumatic brain injuries: When the head connects with the headrest, steering wheel, window, or frame of the car, problems can go a lot further than facial injuries – damage to the brain is likely. And when there’s a serious blow to the head, the effects might last a lifetime. From emergency surgery to ongoing mental anguish, the expenses and challenges of a brain injury can keep growing.
  • Spinal cord injury: Motorcycle and car accidents cause over half of new spinal cord injuries annually. Medical conditions ranging from lower back damage and up to upper neck injuries like aggravated ligaments, fractured vertebrae, and damaged nerves can cause paralysis and other complications that make it difficult to achieve independence after an accident.
  • Amputation: Traumatic injuries, like what drivers experience in a car accident, make up about 45% of amputations. The force of an accident can damage a limb so severely that it is removed, either by the impact or a later surgical procedure. Victims will likely face ongoing therapy, accessibility renovation costs, and continued pain and suffering.
  • Internal organ damage: What starts as a light tenderness can be a sign of serious internal injury. A broken rib could puncture a lung, or a seatbelt can apply too much force to the intestines. Whatever the cause, organ injuries might lead to internal bleeding and failed bodily functions, which usually means emergency surgery is necessary.
  • Broken bones: The force of a car accident may be too much for bones to handle, and clean breaks aren’t always the outcome. Bones that completely separate or break through the skin can come with potential organ, tendon, and ligament damage and require immediate surgery to repair. Common broken bones can include the foot and ankle, up the legs, and the arms and hands.

Related video: Compensation Explained: What Can I Receive From My Injury Case?

Why Is Medical Treatment So Important Following a Car Crash?

common car accident injuries

Getting proper medical attention after an accident is crucial for several reasons:

  • Your number one goal after an accident is to take care of yourself and your health. Even with the most severe injuries, slow-onset symptoms or shock can disguise warning signs and waiting to act could be extremely dangerous.
  • Going to the doctor right after a car accident makes it easier to show the direct line of causation from an auto accident to symptoms and treatments.
  • Finally, it’s important to have receipts to support your claim. Visiting the doctor will allow you to start accounting for all the costs you face from an accident, along with emergency treatment, therapy, and ongoing medication. Saving all receipts from your medical care will be helpful when you seek reimbursement.

You Got Medical Help, but How Do You Get Insurance Help?

common car accident injuries

Most drivers don’t have the money necessary to cover another person’s personal injury costs, which is where their insurance company comes into play. The insurance company might make an offer to cover expenses after a car accident. But too often, the amount doesn’t match the actual cost of an accident. Settlement offers don’t always include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and ongoing care.

It’s important to consult a personal injury lawyer to decide whether the offer is fair based on the circumstances of your accident. If the insurance company doesn’t agree to what you view as a fair offer, it might be time to file a lawsuit.

Myers Law Firm Is Here to Help You After a Severe Car Accident Injury

At Myers Law Firm, we understand how serious injuries from a car accident can change your life. When you’re facing unexpected trouble because of someone else’s negligence, we’re here to help you.

We have over 60 years of combined experience in helping car accident victims get the compensation they deserve, so call our office at 888-376-2889 or fill out our brief online form to schedule a free consultation.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2021, February 2). Transportation Safety. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/index.html

National Safety Council. (2022). Injury Facts. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/overview/introduction/

Insurance Information Institute. (2022). Facts + Statistics: Highway safety. https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-highway-safety

Shores, Jaimie Troyal, M.D. (2022). Amputation. John Hopkins Medicine: Health. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/amputation

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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How Are Typical Car Accident Settlement Amounts Determined?

Sometimes things change the course of your day or your week. Car accidents can change your life. The ripples from a car accident can affect your health, your family, and your happiness far into the future.  

Millions of drivers across the country suffer injuries from car accidents every year, and the costs that stem from those accidents can be hard to measure. From compassionate medical staff to experienced personal injury lawyers, it can take a lot of help to get a fair car accident settlement to help to recover. 

Compensation from an accident should include all kinds of unexpected hardships, such as car repairs or lost wages, but those facing significant and ongoing medical expenses after an auto accident can have the largest undertaking ahead of them. 

What Are Common Car Accident Injuries? 

The violent force of a car accident can put the whole body in danger: 

  • Back injuries: Torn and sprained muscles are just the beginning. Auto accidents are one of the country’s leading causes of spinal cord injury. From a herniated disc injury to nerve damage, cases of serious pain and paralysis can be connected directly to car accidents. 
  • Neck injuries: A continuation of back injuries, the spine is also vulnerable in the neck area. Car crashes often send the head back and forth quickly, causing whiplash or worse. These injuries can lead to loss of movement and sharp pain that extends into the shoulders and arms. 
  • Head injuries: Drivers with head injuries can find the road to recovery full of medical complications. Headaches, seizures, and weakness are symptoms of head trauma, along with sleep, balance, behavior, and long-term memory problems. 

Major injuries play a big role in accident costs, but seemingly minor injuries can also lead to chronic, debilitating issues. An injured driver thinking about skipping the trip to the doctor because “the pain isn’t that bad” should think twice for several reasons: 

  • Injuries like internal wounds and spinal injuries might not show signs right away but should be treated as soon as possible 
  • Slow-developing mental and emotional trauma can be found early in the healing process 
  • Immediate doctor visits can create a stronger link to injuries the accident caused 

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Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer? 

Challenges after a car accident can last a lifetime, like keeping up with outstanding medical bills, preparing for future medical bills, and facing health insurance liens. An experienced personal injury attorney could help you build a strong case under North Carolina law so you can get the compensation you deserve. 

To receive full compensation after a car accident requires showing several things: 

  • The other driver was negligent 
  • Their negligent actions caused your injuries or damages 
  • Evidence supporting your claim 

Missteps in these three key components could cost you in recovering your losses, so let’s explore each of them more closely. 

The Other Driver’s Actions Were Negligent 

Negligence is the failure to act in a safe manner with the level of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same circumstances. A driver that didn’t pay attention to traffic, obey posted speed limits, or take any actions to avoid a crash could be negligent. 

Collecting information to prove negligence can include conducting investigations, consulting experts, and combing through reports. An experienced car accident attorney knows where to look for answers that coincide with North Carolina’s legal standards. 

RELATED: How an Attorney Can Help Preserve Evidence in Your Injury Case 

Their Negligent Actions Caused Your Damages 

In order to get full compensation for your losses, you must show that the other driver’s negligence and your injuries are reasonably connected to each other. You might have an easier time saying a spinal injury immediately after an accident came from the crash. You might have a harder time showing the connection to a reaggravated injury or delayed diagnosis. 

You’ll Need to Show Evidence of Medical Bills and Other Losses 

Medical bills and vehicle damage are often linked to personal injury claims, but they might only be the beginning. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand how to establish and prove the damages in your claim. 

What Can a Personal Injury Claim Cover? 

how long after car accident can you claim injury

Personal injury claims cover the costs, or losses, from an accident. Known as “damages,” the medical bills, lost wages, physical injuries, pain and suffering, and property loss make up the components of a claim.  

Economic Damages 

The amount of money that an auto accident costs, from bills to missed income to future costs, plays a part in a personal injury claim: 

  • Medical bills like emergency care and surgeries 
  • Ongoing medications and physical therapy 
  • Home and vehicle accessibility upgrades 
  • Lost wages and earnings potential 
  • Car repairs or replacement 

These financial costs can quickly add up after a car accident, and keeping track of all of them will likely help support your claim. 

Non-economic Damages 

Claims also go beyond the type of losses that can be shown by a medical bill or receipt. Mental anguish and physical pain from a car accident include pain and suffering damages to a personal injury claim. This calculation is much more complicated than adding up financial costs but can hold a high monetary value. Pain and suffering can include a range of difficulties: 

  • Physical pain from injuries 
  • Anxiety or depression  
  • Panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Loss of companionship, enjoyment, or happiness 

Punitive Damages 

While economic and non-economic car accident damages compensate you for costs, punitive damages are a form of punishment for the defendant for malicious or extremely reckless actions. This category can include behaviors like drunk driving. 

How Does North Carolina View Fault in Drivers? 

An auto accident settlement isn’t guaranteed if you’ve experienced damages. North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. This term means that if you share any fault for the accident, you can’t get compensation for any of your losses.  

Even if the other driver was 99% to blame for the accident, that still leaves you unable to pursue a personal injury claim. When the slightest tip of the scale can cost you compensation, it’s another reason to turn to an experienced legal team to help navigate contributory negligence. 

RELATED: Why Contributory Negligence Matters for Your Personal Injury Case 

Why Does the Insurance Company Matter in a Personal Injury Claim?

Most defendants don’t have the money to personally cover damages which is why insurance coverage often plays an important role. But if a driver can’t cover the cost and isn’t insured, then your insurance could come into play. There are a few policies and coverage limits that could decide how much you can recover financially: 

  • Liability insurance of the defendant 
  • Your Med Pay insurance policy 
  • Your uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage 

Reduced Offer After a Car Crash 

When an insurance company makes an offer, it doesn’t necessarily have to be fair. Instead, it’s often the first step of the negotiation process. Knowing what your claim is worth becomes even more important when the insurance company makes a settlement offer that is far below a reasonable amount.  

An insurance company could look at your medical records and place a much lower value on the losses than you do or argue that some damages have nothing to do with the claim. The adjuster could say a treatment wasn’t necessary or that a reinjury isn’t their responsibility. 

If you can’t arrive at an agreement with the insurance company, it might be time to file a lawsuit to take your case to trial. This step is a rare circumstance, but sometimes it’s necessary to get a fair settlement. 

Arguments Involving Contributory Negligence 

While you want to work toward a stronger car accident settlement at trial, an insurance company could try to devalue your claim completely. If they prove you shared blame for the accident, they’ll be off the hook for paying damages. 

Representing a strong claim and showing you didn’t share fault in the accident become vital to receiving a fair recovery. 

Myers Law Firm Can Work With You on Your Car Accident Settlement

Building a claim, finding supporting evidence, and defending your compensation are key parts of getting help after a car accident, but it’s extremely difficult to do on your own. Knowing the steps to take within the letter of North Carolina personal injury law can require the help of an experienced personal injury team. 

Myers Law Firm has over 60 years of combined experience standing up for injured people in North Carolina. We’re here to help you navigate the complex and stressful process that leads to a fair settlement to help with your losses after an auto accident. 

We offer a free and confidential discussion about your claim to help you understand what to do next. Schedule your consultation so we can get to know you and your case. Call our office at 888-376-2889 or fill out our brief online contact form today. 

References 

American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Spinal Cord Injury. Neurological Conditions and Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Spinal-Cord-Injury  

Mayo Clinic. Whiplash. Patient Care & Health Information. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whiplash/symptoms-causes/syc-20378921#:~:text=Whiplash%20is%20a%20neck%20injury,traumas%2C%20such%20as%20a%20fall  

Mayo Clinic. Traumatic brain injury. Patient Care & Health Information. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20378557  

National Safety Council. Motor Vehicle Injury Facts. NSC Injury Facts. Retrieved from https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/overview/introduction/  

 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. 

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

Type of Case (Select One)(Required)

What to Do if You Have Back Pain After a Car Accident

back pain after car accident

It shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re experiencing back pain after a car accident: Motorcycle and car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries every year. The big question is what you should do once the pain starts.  

Regardless if it’s a dull ache or intense pain, the damage from a car accident can be serious. Quick action can be essential to recovery. Consulting a doctor is an important step, along with speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer to make sure you’re fully compensated after a car accident. 

Back Pain Can Appear in Different Ways After a Car Accident 

back pain after car accident

The term back pain could lead to thoughts of sleeping in the wrong position or lifting a heavy object. But when it comes to car accidents, back pain can be a sign that something is seriously wrong. Drivers experiencing back pain after a car accident should be on the lookout for common symptoms: 

  • Aching or burning 
  • Sharp and pinching pains 
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Numbness 
  • Any level of paralysis 

While a doctor might use more scientific terms like damage to the lumbar spine or cervical spine, what back pain means is problems that can stretch from lower back to upper neck injuries, with pain reaching out in any direction. Shoulder pain, headaches, and limb numbness can all stem from back injuries. 

Even minor back pain after a car accident could be a sign of greater troubles, as every symptom doesn’t show up right away and some problems continue to worsen. And it’s not just growing discomfort, as paralysis can develop over time.  

Putting off a visit to the doctor can lead to complications and make recovering from the accident more difficult. Whiplash, herniated discs, and fractures can lead to serious long-term problems that require ongoing physical therapy and pain management. 

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What Do Personal Injury Claims for Car Accidents Cover? 

car accident back injuries

The term “damages” can refer to property loss or mental anguish, but it specifically covers any losses from a car accident, including back pain. This type of compensation for physical injury can cover immediate medical bills and surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and even lost wages if the injury impacts your ability to work. 

These tangible costs are usually the first piece of the equation for compensation after a car accident. The second is pain and suffering, which can be harder to define. Chronic pain, bouts of depression, and lost enjoyment in life that stem from back pain are just some of the things that might not show up on a medical bill but can still count as damages. 

How Does a Back Injury Translate Into a Personal Injury Claim? 

Recovering costs associated with back pain starts with making a paper trail right after the car accident and relies on professional recommendations to forecast continuing challenges. It isn’t enough to explain in court that you’ve got facet joint injuries or a herniated disc. You’re going to want records and written reports to help you tell the story of your injuries. 

Records from your first trip to the hospital, prescribed pain management programs, and physical therapy assignments are only the beginning. Specialists can also detail chronic back pain and other hardships you’ll face in the future. 

RELATED: How Do I Know if the Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer Is Fair? 

The Insurance Company Isn’t in the Business of Helping You 

Showing your costs strengthens the case for financial recovery, but you’ll also need to show the injuries from the car accident aren’t your fault because North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. That means if a court finds the defendant 99% responsible for the collision, compensation for accident injuries isn’t an option because you made a 1% contribution. 

To assign responsibility, a judge or jury will decide if: 

  • The injured driver behaved like a reasonable person acting in a safe manner 
  • The defendant failed to act in a safe manner 

These standards will help determine the share of blame, or contributory negligence. 

Insurance companies are all too aware of this rule and will jump to use it to their advantage. It could only take one piece of evidence to show a fraction of contribution, thereby ending your ability to get compensation. 

Experienced Legal Aid Can Help You Recover From Back Pain After a Car Accident 

car accident back injuries

That’s why finding legal help early in the process can be so important. Before any allegations arise, it can be beneficial to enlist experienced counsel that knows where to look for evidence in your favor and can deflate any allegations the insurance company might bring. 

Accident evidence doesn’t stick around forever, and undocumented treatment doesn’t support your case. It’s best to act quickly to preserve important information that can be used when dealing with the insurance company in negotiations or in court. 

Myers Law Firm Is Ready to Make Your Personal Injury Concerns Our Own 

Myers Law Firm is ready to meet with you to discuss your car accident case and review important documents. We can take this information to do our own investigation and then reach out to the insurance company on your behalf. We’ll work through the negotiation process, followed by filing a lawsuit if the insurance company doesn’t offer a reasonable settlement. 

Our initial consultation is free, and from there, we’ll work with you to build a case for the compensation you’re entitled to under North Carolina law. Our experienced, compassionate team is ready to stand up for you. 

Contact us today by calling (888) 376-2889 or complete our simple online contact form to schedule your free consultation. 

References 

Mayo Clinic. Spinal Cord Injury. Patient Care & Health Information. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/spinal-cord-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20377890 

American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Spinal Cord Injury. Neurosurgical Conditions and Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Spinal-Cord-Injury 

 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. 

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Emergency Custody in North Carolina

emergency custody

Parents should be the people that children feel safest with—but sometimes a parent isn’t healthy for a child. If you’re concerned about the immediate wellbeing of a child, you have options for helping the child transfer to a safe environment (especially if you’re a parent, close relative, or other care provider).

One of the most urgent methods to help a child in a dangerous custody situation is a motion for emergency custody—an option in which you can quickly ask a judge for temporary custody to provide safety to an endangered child. However, this process can be complex, especially when emotions are running high. In this article, our team walks you through everything you need to know about emergency custody in North Carolina.

North Carolina Child Custody Law

how to file for emergency custody

In North Carolina, “legal custody” grants a parent or guardian the right to make major life decisions for a child until they reach the age of 18; “physical custody” refers to the right of a parent or guardian to keep the child in their care, within their household. When separated parents share these responsibilities, it’s referred to as “joint custody.”

In some custody cases, a judge may decide that only one parent can make important life decisions and providing necessary care, but that the second parent is not a danger to the child. In this case, the first parent will be granted “primary custody” and take full responsibility for the child.  Meanwhile, the second parent is given specific periods of custody time known as “secondary custody.”

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What Is Emergency Custody and Who Can Petition It?

how to file for emergency custody

When granted, an emergency custody order alters an existing custody arrangement.

For instance, if one parent is putting the child in their custody in immediate danger, the law gives the other parent the ability to go before a judge, present the situation, and seek temporary custody. This order will help the parent remove the child from the current parent’s custody and take the child into the safety of their own care. This emergency order will only be in effect for a short period of time. While this procedure mostly applies to parents, third parties, such as grandparents, may be able to utilize this procedure in the appropriate case.

Emergency custody is only granted in serious cases. You can’t obtain custody because you disagree with a parent’s parenting decision; in North Carolina, there must be proof of impending and physical danger. These situations include:

  • When the child is at a substantial risk of bodily injury: parents may have substance abuse problems
  • When the child is at a substantial risk of sexual abuse: this could be a parent or someone the parent allows around the child abusing the child
  • When the child is at a substantial risk of removal from North Carolina: this must be for the purpose of avoiding the authority of North Carolina courts (this can include relocating a child during a divorce, but not always)

RELATED ARTICLE: Can I Prevent My Spouse from Seeing the Children During a Divorce?

Who Can Get Emergency Custody?

In North Carolina, most of the successful emergency custody cases are filed by:

  • Another parent
  • A grandparent
  • A close relative such as an aunt, uncle, or sibling who is of age
  • Someone who have previously cared for the child but are not their parent

A judge has jurisdiction to rule for emergency custody only if the child has lived in North Carolina for at least six months, or since birth if the child is younger than six months old. In some cases, this restriction may be lifted for the safety of the child.

If you need to petition for emergency custody of a child, consider hiring an experienced child custody attorney to guide you through the process.

What Happens After Emergency Custody Is Granted?

what happens after emergency custody is granted

Once you’ve visited the courthouse and filed an emergency custody petition (more on that process in a bit), the judge will decide whether the case is extreme enough to warrant an emergency order.

Depending on the case, the judge could take anywhere from a couple minutes to a few days to decide the outcome.

If your motion is granted, here’s what will happen:

  • You will be granted temporary and short-term custody the moment the order is given.
  • The parent the child is with must be served with the Motion and the Order stating that custody has been changed.
  • Depending on the situation, law enforcement may help remove the child from the original guardian’s care.
  • The judge will schedule a hearing very soon during which both you and the original parent will have a chance to present your case. In this situation, legal counsel can improve your outlook.
  • Finally, the judge will make a decision on whether to go back to the custody arrangement that was in place or make a new arrangement. Depending on what decision the judge makes, the case will likely proceed on for a permanent custody trial.

How to File for Emergency Custody in North Carolina

what happens after emergency custody is granted

While the emergency custody petition process is complicated, legal counsel can help you ensure you complete every step correctly:

  1. Identify the district courthouse where you’ll file your petition for emergency custody.
  2. Obtain and complete the necessary paperwork.
  3. Print two copies of the necessary forms, one to submit to the court and another to give to your attorney for your records.
  4. Gather third-party statements to back up your claims and strengthen your case. Include third party name, residence, relationship to the child in question, and contact information.
  5. Compile any relevant evidence, such as past and current custody orders, any pending charges of domestic violence or abuse, any pending termination of parental rights, relevant medical records or CPS reports, and any relevant screenshots, text messages, or photos.
  6. Your attorney will file the complaint or motion in district court.

Keep in mind that you must provide only factual, relevant, and credible information. If you provide false information, you may be held in contempt of court or receive a fine (and if you already have shared custody of the child, you may lose it). Working with a skilled family law attorney from Myers Law Firm is one of the best ways to ensure the entire process is smooth, accurate, and in the best interest of the child.

What Happens if an Emergency Custody Order Is Denied?

There is always a possibility the judge will deny your request for emergency custody. When this happens, it’s usually because the judge feels you didn’t prove the existence of the qualifying conditions.

While a delay isn’t ideal, there are still a few things that may happen in your favor. A psychologist and Child Protective Services (CPS) may conduct further investigation into your case. You also have the option to pursue custody through the standard process. This will take a bit longer, as you’ll need to provide legal notice and service requirements so that the child’s guardian can have a voice in the courtroom.  If you decide to pursue custody through traditional routes, don’t wait to contact an attorney who can help you understand your options, complete every step in the process correctly, and advocate on your behalf. This is support is critical, especially in cases where children are potentially in danger and emotions are running high. The Myers Law Firm team has decades of experience supporting families like yours. Our team is ready to meet with you and help you take the next best step.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Reasons a Judge Will Deny a Custody Order

Contact Myers Law Firm Today

For fast, skilled, and dedicated help filing your emergency custody order, reach out to Myers Law Firm at (888) 376-2889 or through our online contact form.

Myers Law Firm has years of experience and a reputation for skilled and compassionate representation to help you through this difficult time.  Contact us today to set up an initial consultation to discuss your emergency and develop a plan of action.

References

North Carolina Judicial Branch. Child Custody. Retrieved from https://www.nccourts.gov/help-topics/family-and-children/child-custody

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

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What Happens if I Reject a Settlement Offer?

what happens if I reject a settlement offer

So, the insurance company made you a settlement offer on your car accident case, but it’s not enough to cover your costs. What happens if you reject their offer?

We outline the answer to this question and more—keep reading to learn more.

Why Reject the Insurance Company’s First Settlement Offer

what happens if I reject a settlement offer

The insurance company’s goal is to save money. One of the ways they accomplish this is by offering people who filed an insurance claim a settlement that’s far less than they deserve. If you were hurt in an accident, filed an insurance claim, and received a settlement offer that is too low to cover the cost of your medical care, medical bills, and other related expenses, your math isn’t bad; the insurance adjuster is likely trying to manipulate you into a low-ball offer.

Unfortunately, this is a fairly common occurrence. Rejecting their initial settlement offer is the first step in getting the compensation you need and deserve.

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How to Reject the Insurance Company’s First Settlement Offer (and What to Do Next)

settlement counteroffer

The first settlement offer is just that—an offer. If you’ve decided to reject the insurance company’s first offer, it doesn’t mean you are no longer eligible to claim compensation. Telling the insurance company “no” is simply part of the negotiations process. If you want to reject a settlement offer, you should submit a letter that outlines your refusal; it’s in your best interests to draft this with the help of a skilled attorney.

Negotiations can be a stressful process, so we always recommend securing legal representation and working with a personal injury attorney who can handle the negotiations process on your behalf.

Respond With a Counteroffer

settlement counteroffer

A counteroffer is your response to the insurance company and your demand for what you believe is fair compensation. It outlines the details of your claim, related costs, and the impact it had on your life. Based on that information, the counteroffer will include the settlement amount that you and your lawyer have determined is fair.

To calculate the true value of your case, your attorney will consider:

  • Medical expenses: Hospital bills, medication costs, medical bills, ambulance rides, emergency medical treatment, ongoing services, such as physical therapy, and any other related costs.
  • Lost income: Standard wages, overtime pay, bonuses, and any other income you may have missed out on.
  • Household services you need because of your injury: Cleaning services, lawn services, in-home care, and other costs.
  • Emotional injuries: Pain and suffering, anxiety developed as a result of the accident or injury, and any related emotional impact.
  • Any future expenses: This usually covers long-term treatment, renovations to your home, assistive devices, and any other ongoing costs related to your injury.

Once complete, your lawyer will deliver the letter to the insurance company. They’ll then respond to your counteroffer. In fact, it’s not unusual to have several back-and-forth communications before coming to an agreement. This agreement is called a “settlement.” 

If you can’t come to a fair settlement, your attorney may suggest you take your case to trial. Going to trial is fairly rare for most personal injury cases, but when the insurance company refuses to cooperate, it may be in your best interest.

Why Is it Important to Work With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney?

Injured people who work with an attorney tend to receive higher settlements than those who represent themselves.

Why? The insurance company works with injured people every day. They know how to manipulate people into accepting low settlements. They may try to use high-pressure tactics, like short timelines and strong language, to push you to accept their first offer. They may push even harder if they know you have a strong case that could be taken to court.

It can be extremely difficult to stand up to these tactics, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the process and are trying to focus on your recovery. Plus, if you do accept an offer that’s too low, you won’t be able to ask for more compensation later—the case is closed. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney helps you avoid mistakes and give you the time and space to focus on your healing.

The Team at Myers Law Firm Is Ready to Help You Navigate the Insurance Claims Process

The insurance claims process is notoriously complex and stressful. Our law firm has been standing up for injured people in Charlotte, North Carolina for decades. We know how to handle the insurance company’s tricks and are ready to stand by you to get a fair settlement. To learn more about your options, the value of your case, and whether you should turn down the company’s first offer, call (888) 376-2889 or complete this brief form. We’ll meet with you in a free consultation so you can make the best choice for your future.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

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Is a Driver Always at Fault When Hitting a Pedestrian in North Carolina?

When a car hits a pedestrian, the laws of physics apply harshly to the victim. A human being is simply no match for a vehicle, and the pedestrian incurs the worst injuries. This can be a lifechanging experience, with long-term health consequences, lost wages, and other damages.

If you were the victim of such an accident, you may wonder if you can pursue the driver or their insurance for financial compensation. You may want to know how pedestrians get compensated for accident injuries. You may ask yourself whether a driver is always at fault when hitting a pedestrian in North Carolina.

These questions may not be easily answered, because the answers depend on the specific circumstances of the accident and the “contributory negligence” law in our state. You may be entitled to compensation, but you will need to prove that the car driver was negligent.

The Driver Might Not Be Held Responsible

is a driver always at fault when hitting a pedestrian

All drivers have a responsibility to drive safely when they get behind the wheel. This is called “duty of care,” and it means they need to exhibit the same caution that a normal person would in the same circumstances. If a driver runs a red light, speeds, or is texting while driving, they violate their duty of care.

When a careful person drives through a bustling city like Charlotte, with many pedestrians on the sidewalks, they vigilantly watch for persons entering the roadway. They slow down if they see children near the road, and make sure to yield at crosswalks. These are examples of someone following the duty of care.

To hold the driver responsible for hitting a pedestrian, you must be able to show that they violated their duty of care.

If the driver can prove they were being reasonably careful, then there may be reason to believe the pedestrian is somewhat at fault for the accident. And if it can be shown that the pedestrian was “contributorily negligent,” then they may not be entitled to any compensation. This is why it is very important to hire an experienced lawyer after you’ve been injured as a pedestrian.

RELATED: Learn About Our Pedestrian Accident Attorneys

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What Does “Pure Contributory Negligence” Mean?

is a driver always at fault when hitting a pedestrian

Legally speaking, pure contributory negligence means that you are not allowed to be compensated for your damages if the insurance company can prove you were even slightly at fault. This law can be very unfair in auto-pedestrian accidents. If the driver was 99% at fault and the pedestrian was only 1% at fault, the pedestrian cannot recover anything due to contributory negligence. There is a doctrine called Last Clear Chance that could show that the driver had the “last clear chance” to avoid hitting the pedestrian, but this can sometimes be difficult to prove.

Because of contributory negligence, it is in your best interest to stay highly visible to vehicles while walking and not make unpredictable moves when crossing the road.

RELATED: These Tips Can Reduce Pedestrian Accidents

A Pedestrian’s Negligence May Contribute to an Accident

is a driver always at fault when hitting a pedestrian

So, what might be considered as contributory negligence for a pedestrian? This can vary, and it is ultimately up to the defense or insurance company to prove that your actions qualify as such. However, some acts that could potentially be considered negligent include:

  • Darting out in the roadway unexpectedly.
  • Walking along a road where people rarely see pedestrians, like the side of the freeway.
  • Walking on the side of the road at night while wearing dark-colored clothing, making it hard to see that there’s a pedestrian present.
  • Looking down at your cellphone as you cross a street.
  • Crossing the street in an unexpected place, such as jaywalking rather than using a crosswalk.

As a pedestrian, the best way to avoid an accident is to behave predictably when vehicles are present. When people get hit by cars, regardless of who is at fault, the injuries are often severe. This can translate to significant costs, like medical bills and lost wages. Insurance companies will do everything they can to avoid paying fair compensation, even when their insured is clearly at fault.

If it can be proved in court that the pedestrian holds some of the responsibility for the accident, they will have to look to their own health insurance for help with medical bills. And there will be no compensation for lost wages or pain and suffering.

RELATED: How Do Pedestrians Get Compensated for Accident Injuries?

Myers Law Firm Can Help Pedestrians Seeking Compensation

If you are a pedestrian who has been hit by a car, the driver’s insurance company will probably do everything they can to keep you from receiving fair compensation. In order to avoid paying damages, they will try to prove you were even 1% responsible for the accident.

That is why it is so important to have the right lawyer on your side. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows all the ins and outs of the legal system and fights for the compensation you deserve.

At Myers Law Firm, we know how difficult it is to recover from an accident. That’s why we offer a free consultation to discuss your personal injury case and assess your liability claim. Call our offices today at 888-376-2889 or fill out this contact form to learn about your legal options for pursuing damages.

References

NCDOT, Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation. (2009, November 13). Pedestrian Laws of North Carolina. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved from https://transportation.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/wt-ped-laws.pdf

Vehicle control signs and signals. NCDOT. § 20-158. (2020). https://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByChapter/Chapter_20.html

 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.