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Is North Carolina a No-Fault State for Auto Accidents?

No. North Carolina is not considered a “no-fault” state when it comes to car accidents. North Carolina is an at-fault state, which means that the insurance company of the at-fault driver bears the primary responsibility for paying for your medical costs, lost wages, and other damages.

But that’s only part of the story. North Carolina is one of just a few states that has an especially strict rule about liability called contributory negligence, meaning you could lose your right to compensation if you were even slightly responsible for your accident. Further, just because North Carolina isn’t a no-fault state doesn’t mean you can’t buy no-fault auto insurance.

Confused? Let’s take a closer look at the law. Keep reading to learn more about North Carolina law and how it may affect your auto accident case.

What Is the Difference Between a No-Fault and an At-Fault State?

Two drivers at the scene of a car accident

Although every state has unique laws governing auto accident insurance rules, they can all be broadly categorized as at-fault states or no-fault states. The main difference is who bears the primary responsibility for paying damages to an injured person after an auto accident.

  • In an at-fault state like North Carolina, the negligent driver who causes a car crash must pay for damages to both people and property. Under these systems, if you weren’t at fault, you should be eligible for compensation from the at-fault driver’s car insurance policy.
  • In a no-fault state, both drivers file claims for compensation with their own insurance company after a collision, regardless of who was at fault for the wreck.

Keep in mind, though, that even in an at-fault state, you probably still have no-fault insurance through your own insurance provider, also known as medical payments (med pay) coverage. In an at-fault state, your med pay benefits can help quickly pay for medical expenses while your car accident claim is pending. They can also provide much-needed support if you caused the accident.

Likewise, even in a no-fault state, no-fault benefits only cover medical care and wage losses, and usually only up to a certain cap. So, if your total damages exceed the no-fault cap, or you suffered non-economic injuries like pain and suffering, you’d still need to file a claim against the at-fault driver to receive the full compensation you deserve.

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North Carolina Fault Laws for Auto Accidents

Cars driving on a busy highway

North Carolina requires that every driver carry auto insurance coverage for any vehicles they use on the road. The minimum liability coverage requirements in our state are:

  • $30,000 of bodily injury coverage for each person in a crash
  • $60,000 of total bodily injury for all persons in a crash
  • $25,000 for property damage

This means that if you cause an accident, your insurance company will pay for the damages you caused to the injured driver up to at least these amounts (or higher, if you purchased more than the minimum coverage).

While we are an at-fault state, North Carolina also applies a rule for personal injury claims known as contributory negligence. This rule says that any driver involved in an accident who contributed to the crash (even in the slightest way) cannot get compensation for their injuries by filing a personal injury claim.

Contributory Negligence Explained

Let’s suppose you’re driving over the speed limit and another driver pulls out in front of you, causing a car accident. The insurance company and their attorneys may try to claim that your speeding contributed to the accident, even if the contribution was tiny. If they succeed, you’ll lose your right to compensation. However, the insurance company has the burden of proof on this issue, and they need to have a legitimate claim that your fault was a cause of the crash.

Only three other states and the District of Columbia use this system, which is very unfair to injured victims. When you file a personal injury claim in a state that applies contributory negligence laws, you may have two burdens of proof on you.

First, you need to prove that the person who hurt you was negligent. If the insurance company claims you were contributorily negligent, they only need to prove you were 1% at fault. Second, you need to prove that the other driver had the “last clear chance” to avoid the crash. This can get complicated. So, having a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney on your side in North Carolina is extremely important if you want to receive compensation.

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

Proving Fault After a North Carolina Auto Accident

A driver taking a photo of damage at the scene of an accident

Contributory negligence can make life very difficult for injured victims. However, injured victims can still receive compensation— they just have to prove they were not at fault or that the negligent driver who injured them had the last chance to avoid the collision. If they succeed, the insurance carrier for the reckless driver must pay the damages that resulted from the crash, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage.

So, how can you and your car accident lawyer go about proving your case? Here are the steps in that process.

  • Gather documents: Your attorney will collect all documentation related to your claim, including the police report, photos of the damages to the cars, as well as all medical records and bills. These documents can help prove the extent and costs of your injuries.
  • Collect testimony from fact witnesses and expert witnesses: A fact witness is a person who saw the crash. While expert witnesses may not have seen the crash, they can draw from their own expertise as well as tools like crash reconstruction software and medical tests to talk about the wreck or your injuries.
  • Present visual evidence: Your attorney will gather, organize, and present all photographs from the scene as well as video footage from local businesses and traffic light cameras. Your lawyer may also provide pictures of your injuries. These images can serve as important evidence and help the jury understand what you’ve been through.

No matter how you choose to proceed, remember that contributory negligence could be a critical factor that determines whether you receive compensation for your injuries. Your goal should be to present as much objective evidence as possible during your insurance claim and any litigation that follows. Usually, the best way to gather the critical evidence you need is to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the crash.

What Should I Do After a Car Accident in North Carolina?

After a car crash, the first thing you should do is make sure everyone is safe, call the relevant authorities, and exchange contact information. From there, you should try to collect any evidence from the scene that you can, such as photos and witness statements. (If you’re injured, this may not be possible, so you’ll need an attorney to help.)

Finally, you’ll want to contact a skilled car accident attorney who can help explain North Carolina’s fault laws for auto accidents and how they could affect your personal injury claim.

Contact Myers Law Firm if You’ve Been Injured in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, our experienced personal injury attorneys understand that stress, anger, and confusion often accompany a senseless injury. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, we’re here to help. When you choose us to represent you, we’ll act as your advocate and use our legal experience and resources 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 consultation with us. We will use this time to get to know you, learn about your case, 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.

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