Statistics show the rise of car accidents and associated insurance/civil claims across the nation. More and more of our core business at Kellum Law Firm involves providing legal support for car accident victims and pursuing claims for compensation through insurance companies and through the courts here in NC.
Car / Truck / Motorcycle Accident? Personal Injury? You Need An Experienced Lawyer
There are many things involved in making a damages claim following a car accident, a collision with a truck or a crash while riding a motorcycle.
If you file a claim against the responsible party’s insurance company and it goes uncontested, then it’s a straightforward matter of agreeing on an amount of compensation. But is it straightforward?
For one thing, unless they’re offering to pay you the maximum under the policy (cap limit), the insurance company representing the responsible party are rarely going to lead with their best settlement offer. Having an experienced car accident attorney on your team will provide you with the upper hand when negotiating with insurance companies. But there’s far more to consider than negotiating a settlement.
1. Potential Compensation for Damages
Some automobile accidents are caused entirely as a result of either negligence or incompetence of the other party. But what if the other party claims that you were in some part responsible for the accident? Perhaps you were speeding when the other driver ran a stop sign and side-swiped you? You may then fall foul of North Carolina’s Contributory Negligence laws which state that if you are in any way responsible for the accident, you cannot claim from the other party. Due to the complexity of this process, it is essential that you hire a good accident / injury lawyer, one who is conversant with the applicable NC state laws on automobile accidents and personal injury claims.
2. Role of Negligence
As stated above, the car accident lawyer representing you should thoroughly understand the laws of contributory negligence when strategizing on the best way to move forward with your claim. They must be able to prove that the other driver was negligent in his/her driving and that you in no way contributed to the accident.
Further, in accordance with personal injury law, your lawyer must be able to show that the driver who caused the crash and your subsequent injuries failed in their legal obligation not to endanger you, and that this failure directly resulted in your injuries. Your auto accident lawyer must also be able to demonstrate the connection between the other driver’s failed responsibility and your injury. Lastly, your lawyer must be able to prove that you suffered as a direct consequence of the accident – personal injury, financial losses and property damages are the primary considerations.
3. The Statute Of Limitations vs. Insurance Policy Deadlines
It is essential that your injury attorney understands the distinction between the contractual deadline in your insurance policy and the statute of limitations, and is able to file all necessary paperwork before one or the other expires. Insurance policies have a much shorter threshold for action than state Statute of Limitations.
4. What if the Other Motorist Was Uninsured?
North Carolina requires that drivers carry a minimum car insurance policy on their vehicles. This way, individual liability coverage can pay for property damage and bodily injury. Your attorney should be aware of the minimum coverage requirements in NC and also know how to approach your claim in the unfortunate circumstance of having to deal with an uninsured motorist.
Here are a few of the common questions and concerns that tend to be raised at client case review meetings:
Q – “What is the likelihood of winning an out-of-court settlement?”
A – Statistically, if we file a claim against a driver’s insurance company then the most likely outcome is an out of court settlement. This presupposes that we actually do file a claim, once all of the details of the case have been assessed by our car accident attorney.
The reason we say this is that quite simply, not all cases presented to us are claim-worthy. Where there’s a clear sharing of responsibility for the accident (you were in part to blame), then pursuing damages may not be feasible. North Carolina is one of a handful of states who utilize the contributory negligence law, whereby should you be responsible for the accident in any small part, you likely won’t be awarded any financial damages for the case.
This shouldn’t put you off talking with an attorney. We can work through the various details such as police accident reports, witness statements etc, then determine quite quickly whether or not you should pursue any action against the other driver’s insurance company.
Q – “How much do I stand to win from the case?”
A – It’s a reasonable question but one which is difficult to answer early in the process. First of all one shouldn’t automatically assume that the other driver has insurance. The problem of uninsured motorists is quite prevalent here in North Carolina, so we first need to work out what type of policy the other driver has, if any.
Secondly, there are limits and caps imposed by the various insurance companies and plocies, so we need to assess what these are. If your injuries are severe and the compensation limits on the policy too low, then way may recommend a civil action against the other driver, in certain (infrequent) cases.
Q – “How long will it take to get a payout?”
A – Again, this is very much case dependent. Insurance companies work at different paces and if your claim has to be pursued through the courts then timing will obviously be impacted by their schedules.
If it does go to court then there’s time set aside for the ‘discovery process’ where both sides are able to collect information about the incident including witness depositions. This can all take time so we’re generally reluctant to predict this at the start of a case so as to prevent frustration down the line.
Q – “How much will it cost – what are your fees?”
A – You have options when you work with most law firms. The most common fee structure is ‘contingency’ where your injury lawyer’s fees are contingent upon the amount of the settlement, usually set as a percentage of the award. But there are other fee structures too, such as working on a set hourly rate. Usually this will be explained at the case review and you’ll have time to go away and ponder the options available to you.
Q – “What happens if my case goes to trial?”
A – Most cases are settled without the need for a trial before a judge and jury. In the event that your case cannot be resolved to your satisfaction out-of-court then your chosen attorney should be able to represent you effectively in court. This should always play into your initial choice of lawyer when looking at options following your accident. Some law firms are clearly going to be better candidates for handling a trial by jury than others.