If you have been injured in a car accident in North Carolina and called 911, you know that one of the first questions the responder will ask is, “Do you need a medic?” This should be a simple question to answer, but unfortunately it is not, because for many Americans medical treatment is prohibitively expensive. Car accidents are stressful enough without getting thousands of dollar worth of bills in the mail. You may have heard people tell you that you should always get checked out after a car accident, but if your financial situation is challenging, you might not want to risk getting stuck with a lot of medical bills. If you are injured in a car accident, you may be wondering who is going to pay your medical bills and if there will be enough money to pay them. How can you protect yourself and your finances when you get into a car accident?
The best way to get answers to questions like these is to contact an attorney who specializes in handling personal injury claims. Speaking with a car accident attorney allows you to protect yourself and your finances after being involved in a car accident. Having a personal injury lawyer on your side will take a massive amount of stress off of your shoulders, freeing you up to focus on getting healthy. But, if you find yourself in a situation similar to the one described above, you might not have time to contact a personal injury lawyer. You need to know what to do ahead of time, so here are three things to know about car insurance in North Carolina.
North Carolina law makes it abundantly clear that if someone negligently hurts you through no fault of your own, the negligent person is responsible for paying for all the reasonable and necessary medical treatment the injured person needs. However, just because the law makes the negligent person responsible for your medical bills, there is no guarantee that they will have the money to pay your bills. This is where car insurance comes into play.
The Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act of 1957 states that “the owner of each motor vehicle registered in this State shall maintain financial responsibility continuously throughout the period of registration.” What does it mean to maintain financial responsibility? N.C. General Statute § 20-309(b) says that financial responsibility “shall be a liability insurance policy.” Therefore, to maintain financial responsibility continuously means that all drivers in North Carolina must have car insurance if they own a vehicle.
However, just because someone is required to have car insurance does not mean they do, which brings us to Thing to Know #1: Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) is required to be included in all car insurance policies in North Carolina. We will take a deep dive into the ins and outs of uninsured motorist coverage in another post, but for now the main thing to know is that if you have car insurance, you have this coverage. So, who will pay your medical bills? The at-fault drivers car insurance company or, if they do not have insurance, your own insurance company.
Now, as mentioned above, medical treatment is expensive, and you may be wondering if there is enough insurance to cover your bills. Is it possible to know what the least amount of coverage a person in NC can have is? Yes, it is possible, and this is Thing to Know #2! The answer to this question can be found in North Carolina General Statute § 20-279.21(b)(2), which tells us that the least amount of bodily injury liability coverage someone can have is $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00 per accident. A minimum limits policy such as this cannot pay any more than $30,000.00 to one person, and has an upper limit of $60,000.00 total. This means that if there is an accident in which three people get injured, and all three people have the same amount of damages, the most money than can get from the other person’s insurance would be $20,000.00 each, because of the total limit of $60,000.00 per accident. Keep in mind that the minimum amount of uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage is also $30,000/$60,000.
For the majority of accidents this limit is not an issue, because in the majority of accidents the medical bills do not reach $30,000.00. However, if you have sustained a serious injury, or are in need of advanced testing to determine what the injuries are, then this limit may come into play. Is there anything you can do to protect yourself in case you get injured by a negligent driver with a minimum limits policy? Yes there is, and it is Thing to Know #3. In North Carolina, you have the option of adding underinsured motorist coverage to your policy (UIM). Underinsured motorist coverage is exactly what it sounds like – coverage that kicks in when there is not enough bodily injury liability coverage (or uninsured motorist coverage) to cover all your damages. We take a closer look at this coverage in our Guide to Purchasing Auto Insurance, but the main takeaway for today is just knowing it exists.
When the 911 call responder asks you if you need a medic, the only thing you should need to ask yourself is, “Am I Injured?” It may sound cliché, but knowledge is power, and armed with this knowledge you should be able to make the right decision when asked if you need that medic. However, the unfortunate reality is that just because there is coverage doesn’t mean the insurance company will willingly pay your bills. Insurance companies are notoriously tight fisted when it comes to paying out on claims, and sometimes you need more than knowledge to get them to do the right thing. If you have been injured in an automobile accident in the Carolinas and want to do everything you can to protect yourself, pick up the phone and call The Law Offices of Brian deBrun today! With over 50 fifty years of combined experience, Brian deBrun and his associates have the knowledge and the skill to get you the settlement you deserve. When it comes to personal injury, Personal Service Gets Results! And as our clients can attest, we get results, so call us at 704-405-5505 or come on by The Law Offices of Brian deBrun to get your free consultation today!
So you’ve recently been involved in a traumatic car accident. Your car is completely smashed up and had to be towed from the accident scene. Now your car is stuck at a tow yard, you are sore, you are tired, and you are getting a letter in the mail from the insurance company saying something about you having to pay for tow yard’s storage fees. If this is happening to you, you are probably angry. You didn’t cause this accident, so how can the insurance company tell you that you have to pay for the storage of your vehicle?
The unfortunate reality is that in certain situations, the victim of a car accident can get stuck paying for storage fees. The basis for this is found in the North Carolina Administrative Codes (11 NCAC 04 .041), which contain the following paragraph:
“The insurer shall be responsible for all reasonable towing and storage charges until three days after the owner and storage facility are notified in writing that the insurer will no longer reimburse the owner or storage facility for storage charges. Notification to the owner shall include the name, address, and telephone number of the facility where the vehicle is being stored. Notification to the storage facility shall include the name, address, and, if available, telephone number of the owner.”
In the situation referenced in the first paragraph, the letter mentioned is called a “storage letter,” and the reason you are receiving one is because the insurance company is putting you on notice as required by 11 NCAC 04 .041. Once you receive a storage letter, the insurance company only has to pay for three more days of storage. What do you do if this is happening to you?
The first thing to do is to call an attorney that specializes in handling car accident claims. If you have recently been in an accident, then finances may already be tight, so you cannot afford to accrue a lot of storage fees. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is the best way to protect yourself in this situation. However, if you are unable to get an attorney, or if you are still looking for one, the following are a few simple steps to try to prevent these fees from overwhelming you.
First, try to contact the at-fault drivers insurance company and ask them to move the vehicle. If they have accepted liability, then they will most likely have no problem getting your vehicle out of storage and moved to a location that does not have storage fees. In order for the insurance company to move the vehicle you must first contact the tow yard and give them permission to release the vehicle to the insurance company.
If you are unable to reach the insurance company, or if they have not yet accepted liability, then the next step will be to contact your own insurance company. If you have the full coverage, you likely have coverage for towing and storage, so your insurance company could get the vehicle moved for you. Do not worry about your own rates going up – if you are not at fault for an accident, then your insurance company can bill the other insurance company for the costs of moving your vehicle, and that should prevent your rates from increasing.
If neither of these options are working for you, then the last option is to try to work something out with the tow yard. They may be willing to give you a discount if you can pay cash, and if you do this you do have a right to get reimbursed by the at fault insurance company.
If you are still facing a great deal of trouble from a situation like this, then it may be time to focus on hiring an attorney. Insurance companies and towing companies both rely on the ignorance of the accident victim in order to maximized profits. The insurance companies will try as hard as they can to avoid paying for your storage costs, and the towing companies would love to hang onto your vehicle for as long as they can so that they can rack up more and more fees. The best way for you to deal with these two predatory groups is by retaining a personal injury attorney to protect your interests. Without proper representation there is only so much you can do to fight back, but when you have an experienced attorney on your side, you know you will be properly cared for.
It is important to remember that not all law firms are the same. A car accident is a very personal situation. Your damages are uniquely personal to you, and in order to maximize your chances of success you need attorneys that recognize a simple truth: Personal Services Gets Results. If you have suffering a personal injury, then its time to contact the Law Offices of Brian deBrun. With over 50 years of combined experience handling personal injury claims, we understand what it takes to protect your claim, so contact our office today to schedule your free consultation!
The North Carolina Administrative Codes (11 NCAC 04 .0418) make it abundantly clear that the pre-accident condition of a vehicle has a major impact of the vehicle’s value – but it does not provide all the answers. Maybe you just purchased a pre-owned vehicle, and a few days after purchasing it you are involved a car accident that totals your vehicle. You know how much you paid for the car, but the insurance company is offering you significantly less than what you paid. Or perhaps the insurance company is offering you less than the local market price of a comparable vehicle, and your personal injury lawyer is telling you that this is a fair offer. How can this happen? How can two of the same vehicles in comparable condition be valued differently?
The pre-accident condition of the vehicle does not just mean its physical condition; it also takes into account the condition of the title. If your vehicle has a “Branded Title,” also known as a “Salvage Title,” then it is going to be worth less than a comparable vehicle without a branded title. Why?
A “Branded Title” refers to a marking made to the title and registration that reflects the previous history of the vehicle. N.C.G.S § 20-71.3(a) states that “”branded” means that the title and registration card shall contain a designation that discloses if the vehicle is classified as any of the following:
(1) Salvage Motor Vehicle.
(2) Salvage Rebuilt Vehicle.
(3) Reconstructed Vehicle.
(4) Flood Vehicle.
(5) Non-U.S.A. Vehicle.
(6) Any other classification authorized by law.
What all the classifications have in common is risk. For a prospective buyer, it is a risk to buy a vehicle that has previously been flooded, rebuilt, or has been involved in a total loss accident, and this risk is reflected in what the insurance company offers you for your vehicle.
The most common way for a vehicle to get a branded title is for the vehicle to be a “salvage” vehicle. A salvage vehicle is a vehicle that has been deemed a total loss. In a previous post we mentioned that the insurance company does not have to repair a vehicle if it has been involved in a total loss, so you may be wondering how a total loss vehicle gets repaired. This can happen in one of two ways: either the claimant chooses to keep their vehicle after it has been totaled, or the insurance company sells a total loss vehicle and the buyer fixes it up and resells it.
If you decided that you want to keep your vehicle after it has been totaled it is called “retaining the salvage.” There are a couple things to keep in mind when you retain your salvage. First, is it important to know that under 11 NCAC 04 .0418 the insurance company is allowed to deduct the salvage value of your vehicle from whatever amount they are paying you for the total loss. However, the insurance company must gives you the name and address of a salvage dealer who will purchase the salvage for the amount being deducted. They cannot just deduct the money without proving to you that the amount being deducted is correct.
The second thing to keep in mind is that you must send your vehicle’s title in to the DMV so it can be branded, which will in turn lower the value. If you then decide to sell the vehicle, the law requires you to provide notice to the buyer that there is a branded title. If you fail to provide said notice, then the buyer may be able to pursue you for damages.
Unfortunately, despite law requiring the seller of a vehicle with a branded tile to give notice to buyers of the brand, this does not always happen. If the insurance adjuster is the first person to tell you that your vehicle has a branded title, then it is probably time for you to speak with an attorney that specialized in car accidents and handling total loss claims. You may have an additional claim for damages against the seller of your vehicle, and when it comes to car accidents, it is important to make sure you are pursuing all possible options for compensation, and the best way to do that is to hire a personal injury attorney. Here at the Law Offices of Brian deBrun we specialize in helping people is just this sort of situation. With over 50 years of combined experience is handling all sorts of automobile accident cases, we know where to look to maximize your chance at getting full compensation for your damages.
Now that we have covered the meaning behind the term “total loss,” it is time to dive into the impact a total loss will have on your wallet. As discussed previously, when a vehicle is deemed a total loss, the at-fault driver’s insurance no longer has an obligation to repair your vehicle. Instead they must pay you the pre-accident cash value of your vehicle.
If you have been involved in a total loss accident before, then you know that figuring out the actual cash value of your vehicle is not always a simple process. In fact, one of the most common reasons for an accident victim to seek out a car accident attorney is because the insurance company has valued their vehicle for significantly less than excepted. How does this happen? Shouldn’t finding out the value of your vehicle be as easy as going online and searching?
The North Carolina Administrative Codes (11 NCAC 04 .0418) provide some guidance on how to proceed if you think the insurance company is offering you a raw deal:
“If the insurer and the claimant are initially unable to reach an agreement as to the value of the vehicle, the insurer shall base any further settlement offer not only on published regional average values of similar vehicles, but also on the value of the vehicle in the local market. Local market value shall be determined by using either the local market price of a comparable vehicle or, if no comparable vehicle can be found, quotations from at least two qualified dealers within the local market area. Additionally, if the claimant represents that the vehicle actually owned by him was in better than average condition, the insurer shall give due consideration to the condition of the claimant’s vehicle prior to the accident.”
There are two main takeaways from this section. First, the value of the vehicle in the local market is controlling – not just published regional averages. In order to figure out the value of your vehicle, you must look to the local market price of a similar vehicle. So, if you live in an area where a cars tend to be more expensive than regional or national averages, you may be entitled to more money than a person living in a different part of the country.
The second takeaway here is that the insurer must give due consideration to the condition of your vehicle prior the accident. If you have done work on your vehicle that raises the value (this does not include general maintenance), you have a right to receive compensation that takes the increased value into account. Therefore, if you upgrade your car’s sound system, add a spoiler, or get a special paint job, then you should generally be getting a better offer than someone with the stock version of the same car. However, if you do not have documentation verifying the amount of you spent upgrading the vehicle, you may have difficulty getting full compensation for the upgrades. Make sure you save any and all receipts or invoices for parts bought and work done because that gives your personal injury attorney the evidence he or she needs to get your vehicle valued correctly.
Unfortunately, the pre-accident condition of a car does not always have the impact one might expect. For example, let us say that you recently got into a pretty serious car wreck, and the insurance company has told your car accident lawyer that your vehicle is totaled. You give your attorney some receipts for the tires you just bought and an invoice showing that you recently have some maintenance done on the car. You are expecting this to raise the value of your car, but you are instead being told that it does not have a positive effect on the value. How can this be? Routine maintenance maintains the value. In order to increase the value, whatever work being done must be above or better than the “routine”. Brand new tires may add a bit a value, especially if the tires serve a special function or are higher-than-normal quality, but routine maintenance generally does not increase the value.
Even armed with this knowledge, the insurance company may still be trying to get you to accept a low ball offer on your vehicle. The unfortunately reality is that the insurance companies know that it is very difficult for a lay person to assert their right to fair compensation. If you find yourself being given a crummy offer on your total loss vehicle, then it may be time for you to get a lawyer than specializes in car accidents. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer can make a world of difference when it comes time to demand a fair valuation on your total loss or bodily injury claim, so pick up the phone and call the Law Offices of Brain deBrun today. With over 50 years of combined experience resolving car accident claims, Brian deBrun and his associates know what it takes to get even the toughest claims resolved.
If you have paid off your car, it is natural to want to repair and keep using your vehicle after its been involved in a car accident; after all, it is very nice to not have a car payment. Or maybe your car was passed down to you by a family member or loved one, or perhaps you just really like your car. Even when an accident is severe and the vehicle heavily damaged, shopping for a new car is a pain, and often ends up draining your wallet, so trying to avoid having to get a new car after you’ve been hit by somebody else may be a priority. You’ve told the insurance company that you want your car repaired, but they are saying that they have to fix your car. Is this correct, or is the insurance company just trying to scare you?
Truth regarding your car accident can be difficult to find without talking to a personal injury attorney. If you live in the Carolinas and find yourself in a situation like the one described above, calling a lawyer that specializes in car accidents is a great call. However, if you have not had time to talk to an attorney yet, then this guide will be quite helpful.
Let’s start by looking into the insurance company’s claim that they do not have to repair your vehicle. Is this accurate? Unfortunately the answer is yes…in certain situations. If your vehicle is deemed a “total loss,” then the insurance company is not required to repair your vehicle. So what is a “total loss” exactly?
We find our answer in Title 11 of the North Carolina Administrative Codes. 11 NCAC 04 .0418 (5) states that:
“When a motor vehicle is damaged in an amount which, inclusive of original and supplemental claims, equals or exceeds 75 percent of the pre-accident actual cash value, as such value is determined in accordance with this Rule, an insurance carrier shall “total loss” the automobile by paying the claimant the pre-accident value, and in return, receiving possession of the legal title of the salvage of said automobile.”
There are several items to unpack here. First we have the “75%” rule. If the cost of repairing your vehicle equals or exceeds 75% of the vehicle’s pre-accident fair market value, then the insurance company shall (i.e. must) total your vehicle. This means that neither the insurance company nor the claimant have a choice in whether or not the car is totaled – if the repairs are going to cost 75% or more of the car’s value, then the vehicle is totaled.
An example of where this can become tricky is when the vehicle at first appears repairable. Let’s say you are driving an older vehicle, perhaps something worth $4,000.00. Repairing a vehicle is expensive, so it does not take that much to hit $3,000.00 in repairs. The vehicle may be driving just fine, but if both bumpers need to be replaced then this older vehicle will probably be totaled, despite the fact that it is working just fine.
Now what if the repairs on the vehicle have already begun, and all of a sudden the insurance company is telling you the car is totaled? How is that fair? Unfortunately, the NCAC states that the vehicle is totaled if the 75% limit is reached by the initial estimate or at any time during the repair process.
Just because a vehicle is totaled doesn’t mean the insurance company is off the hook completely. Instead of repairing the vehicle, the insurance company must pay you the pre-accident value of your vehicle. This is where having an attorney that specializes in car accidents really pays off. If you think you are being offered less than you car’s value, an experienced personal injury lawyer can go to bat for you and make sure your rights are being protected. However, not all attorneys handle total loss claims. If you are running into trouble with the insurance company, or just want to make sure you are getting treated fairly, call the Law Offices of Brian deBrun at 704-405-5505. With over 50 years of combined experience, Brian deBrun and his associates have what it takes to maximize the value of your total loss claim.
North Carolina House Bill 211 just announced exciting news that may impact you and may even make updating your car registration a breeze.
In the bill, the North Carolina Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee is now tasked with studying the feasibility of making digital license plates available to the public as an alternative traditional physical registration plates currently issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles. The bill states, “the Committee shall report its findings, together with any recommended legislation, to the 2020 Regular Session of the 2019 General Assembly”.
Now, technology is entering every facet of our lives, but what are the benefits and the potential consequences of this new technology?
Shorter Lines at the DMV
With the ability to pay for your registration online, the digital license plate can automatically update your registration. This will drastically impact the time needed to be spent at the DMV, leaving lines shorter, and a more convenient experience.
Easier to Identify Hit-and-Run
This innovation could potentially reduce the chances of a criminal fleeing the scene if a vehicle is in an accident or associated with a crime. In these situations, the plate could emit a signal of collision or crime, directly identifying the vehicle’s involvement. If not identified at the scene, the license plate would be able to hold the information in memory and display a digital alert. The advanced technology in electronic license plates could give more certainty in these cases instead of attempting, after the fact, to capture a potentially distorted image of the fleeing vehicle.
Damaged Plates and Insurance
Although this innovation seems to have a lot of benefits, it comes at a cost. Digital license plates are new to the market, so the price tag is still steep. The deciding factor for many car owners to invest in this technology may be if car insurance companies consider the digital license plate an anti-theft device and offer a discount when you install one. Also, what happens if the license plate gets damaged in an accident? Insurance companies will need to develop new policies to aid in assisting customers as these technologies emerge.
These license plates will be developed in accordance with privacy regulations, and individuals may only reference information from an electronic license plate for legal purposes. The information in these license plates have the potential to be acquired, which could include the vehicle’s speed and position. This information will be useful for patrolling highways, to reduce speed violations, and to increase safety on our roads.
What do you think? Will digital license plates benefit our city and make our roads safer?
Do I really need to hire an attorney if I’ve been in a car accident?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you have probably got a lot on your plate already, and now people are telling you that you need to go talk to an attorney. Is an attorney really necessary? You might have doubts. Maybe you think your case isn’t big enough, perhaps you are worried about attorney’s fees, or are you wondering if the insurance companies are really as frustrating as people say? Is hiring a personal injury lawyer really necessary?
The short of it is this: if you want to make sure you get the best possible outcome in your case, you need professional assistance from an attorney that specializes in personal injury law. The law is complicated, and North Carolina law especially so! (link to article about contributory negligence). One little mistake on the phone with the adjuster or one wrong thing said to police can have a dramatic impact on the compensation you receive.
Let’s take a closer look at the three concerns above. You may not think much of your situation, but insurance companies treat every accident like it’s a million-dollar case. You must be prepared to fight for every inch, even for a simple fender bender, and the only way to know the value of your case is to meet with a lawyer. Fortunately, at the Law Offices of Brian deBrun, consultations are free, so it doesn’t cost a penny to find out exactly what it will take to get you the compensation you deserve.
That brings us to the second concern: attorney’s fees. Attorneys do not come cheaply, so you may be wondering if hiring a car accident attorney is a good idea. First off, by hiring an attorney you are ensuring the insurance company takes you seriously. Filing a lawsuit on your own is incredibly difficult, and the insurance companies know this. Without a lawyer there is not much you can do to show the adjuster that you mean business. Oftentimes just the mere fact that you are have a lawyer is enough to get a better settlement from the insurance company.
Thirdly, maybe the adjuster has said some pretty nice things to you. Are the insurance companies really so bad to deal with? If you have thinking this then the insurance advertising is working. Insurance companies, just like any other business, are here to make money. Their revenue model looks like this: take in money in the form of premiums, invest that money, and minimize claims payouts. The “minimizing” of claim payouts is what you are dealing with. Every penny the adjuster gives you is another penny the insurance company is losing. It is in the insurance company’s direct interest to help you as little as possible. By yourself there is not much you can do, but with a good personal injury lawyer on your side you can show them what you are really made of!
These are just a few of the reasons why hiring a personal injury attorney is a good idea. For more reasons, or to find out how helpful a good lawyer can be, give us a call at (704) 405-5505 and schedule your free consultation today. Personal service gets results!
Car accidents make life a whole lot more complicated. That’s a fact. You’ve got to be at work in the morning, you have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, and your car is destroyed. You need a rental car ASAP, but everywhere you turn you face obstacles. How are you going to get through this in one piece?
The only way to keep a collision from tearing your life apart is to know exactly what to do, from the moment of impact all the way until the case is over. So let’s start at the beginning. Here are three things you can do at the scene of the accident to give yourself a fighting chance:
#1 Take Photos!
You’ve probably heard the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, if you are the victim of a car accident, a picture of the accident scene is worth ten thousand words. If you are able to safely get out of your vehicle, the first thing you should do is pick up your phone and take a picture or video showing the position of the vehicles. The key here is to take a picture or video before the vehicles are moved, because then you are able to prove where you were hit and who hit you. There is no guarantee that the police report will be correct, or that the other driver will tell the truth, and without photographic or video evidence there is little you can do if something goes wrong.
The one caveat here is safety. Call 911 first if you are seriously injured, if you are in an unsafe environment, or if you do not feel comfortable getting out of your car. Once you have taken photos and called the police, move onto step two.
#2 Look for a Camera or a Witness
Sometimes the facts of an accident are such that taking a photo or video after the impact is not enough to establish what actually happened. For example, if two vehicles collide in an intersection, and both driver’s are saying that they had a green light, how can we figure out who is at fault? Photos taken after the collision won’t be of much help here. In this situation, having a witness or video footage showing the stop light is a game changer. There are cameras posted all over the place, so taking a look around to see if you spot one is a great call. If you spot a camera, make sure to point it out to the police once they arrive.
With regards to witnesses, a person may stop to ask you if you are okay. If this happens, take a moment to ask them if they saw what happened. If they did, be sure to get their name and phone number. That way, if they leave before the police arrive you will still be able to contact them for a statement if needed.
#3 Communicate Cleary
Accidents are very stressful situations. You may be injured, in a rush to get somewhere, or just very upset, all of which can cause a person to not communicate as clearly as they normally would. Communicating clearly with any witnesses and the responding police officer will help minimize the chance of a mistake being made in a statement or in the police report. When talking to a witness, first ask them what they saw. Then, once they have finished, repeat their statement back to them to make sure you understood it correctly. If you understand the witness’s statement, then it is likely that the police will as well.
When you are giving the police your statement, make sure to speak with intention. Remain calm and speak slowly, pausing occasionally to give the officer time to properly write down what you are saying. If you are angry or upset, the officer may make a mistake, and that can cause numerous problems for your claim. You may want to ask the officer if he or she has any questions. If he does not, then go ahead and summarize the facts anyway to make sure you were understood.
If you have been injured in an accident, these three tips will help reduce the possible of delays to your claim down the line. However, when it comes to insurance companies, nothing is a guarantee. Insurance companies do not always listen to reason or follow the law, and even if you do everything right they may still you give trouble. That’s where we come in. If you are tired of fighting or just want some professional help, please do not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Brian deBrun. With over 50 years of combined experience, Brian deBrun and his associates know that when it comes to Personal Injury, Personal Service Gets Results! Call (704) 405-5505 or come by in person to speak with a personal injury attorney today.
If you have been involved in an accident in North Carolina, the rule of contributory negligence, or “contrib” for short, may come roaring into your life suddenly and without warning. An adjuster may be telling you that he or she is investigating to see if you are “contrib,” or maybe a friend is telling you that a little mistake you made could ruin your whole claim. What is contributory negligence, and what do people mean when say you are “contrib?”
Contributory negligence is defined by the Wex Legal Dictionary as “a common law tort rule, abolished in most states.” Under contributory negligence, a plaintiff was “totally barred from recovery if they were in any way negligent in causing the accident, even if the negligence of the defendant was much more serious[i].” This means that if you are involved in a car accident and the other driver’s insurance can show that you did something wrong too, then they will deny your claim.
You may be thinking, “Okay, I get it, if I’m negligent and I hurt myself then I can’t sue somebody else. But counselor, the other driver hit me! How can the adjuster be telling me this is my fault?” The thing about contributory negligence that is so unjust is that you do not have to be completely at fault to be “barred from recovery.” In states that follow the rule of contributory negligence, such as North Carolina, even a tiny little mistake can ruin your case, because you do not need to be completely at fault to be considered “contrib.” There is a reason adjuster’s sometimes call this the “1% rule;” the insurance company is allowed to deny your claim completely if you are even 1% at fault. No rental car, no medical treatment, no settlement, no compensation of any kind.
Let’s go over one example of what contributory negligence looks like in everyday life. A person (let’s call them “Driver #1”) is driving on the interstate in the left lane. Driver #1’s exit is about a mile away, so Driver #1 decides to go ahead and merge into the right lane. Drive #1 looks over their shoulder and sees a large truck in the right lane a good distance behind them. Driver #1 sees that there is plenty of space, so Driver #1 starts merging into the right lane without using a turn signal. After completing the merge, Driver #1 looks in the rear view mirror and sees that the truck is not slowing down. The truck slams into the back of Driver #1’s vehicle, sending it off the road and into a ditch.
Driver #1 thinks to him or herself, “I know I didn’t use a turn signal, but I had plenty of space and it was a bright sunny day! Any reasonable person would have seen me. How am I contrib?” Being “contrib” does not mean you are totally at fault; all that is required to be found “contrib” is that the defendant show you did anything wrong. Yes the truck driver should have seen Driver #1, but the truck driver can say that Driver #1’s failure to signal their intention to merge contributed to the accident occurring. It’s called the 1% rule for a reason; if Driver #1 is even 1% at fault then the insurance company can get off scot free!
Since North Carolina is one of the only states to still follow the rule of contributory negligence, it is especially important that you do everything you can to maximize your chances of successfully recovering your damages from the other driver’s insurance. You can bet your bottom dollar that the insurance company is doing everything they can to minimize your chances of recovery!
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in North Carolina and want to maximize your chances of success, come to the Law Offices of Brian deBrun for a free consultation. With over 50 years of combined experience, Brian deBrun and his associates know that Personal Services Gets Results! Gives us a call at (704) 405-5505 or come on by in person to maximize your chances at a good settlement today!
Still have questions at contributory negligence? Feel free to email the author at Cameron@debrun.net if you’ve got a specific situation to discuss, or keep on reading for the Top Three Ways to Avoid Being Found Contrib.
Contributory negligence is an aspect of North Carolina law that continues to frustrate drivers across the state. Contributory negligence, or “contrib,” is a common law tort rule followed by North Carolina that can have a major impact on your life if you have been injured in a car accident. As described in detail in the previous post, contributory negligence is bad for you if you have been the victim of a car accident because it gives the defendant a rock-solid defense if you have done or said anything that could be misunderstood or misconstrued. It goes without saying that doing everything possible to avoid being found “contrib” is important. Here are the top three ways to avoid contributory negligence.
#1 Never say “I didn’t see them”
In Hyder v. Asheville Storage Battery Co. the court stated that “Notwithstanding the driver is faced with green light, however, the duty rests upon him to maintain a reasonable and proper lookout for other vehicles in or approaching the intersection.” Hyder v. Asheville Storage Battery Co., 242 N.C. 553, 556, 89 S.E.2d 124, 127-28 (1955). In this statement, the court establishes that a driver has a duty to maintain a reasonable and proper look out at all times.
Why is this important? This matters because it is considered negligence to fail at keeping a proper lookout. One of the most common mistakes people make is telling the adjuster that they did not see something because that hands the adjuster a possible defense. If you admit that you did not see the other vehicle before it hit you, you open the door to an improper lookout defense. Try to say something else, or even better would be…
#2 No statements
It can be very stressful to give an adjuster a statement about what happened. You have to worry about saying the right things and not saying something that could hurt your accident case, and this can be quite a challenge from someone that has recently been injured in car accident. The adjuster may be pressuring you to give a statement, and you might think you have to give them one. This is not true. You have no obligation to give someone a statement. Without knowing what to look for and what to avoid, giving a statement can be a surefire way to complicate things. If you have an adjuster attempting to strong arm you into giving a statement it is in your best interest to speak with a specialized personal injury attorney, as they can guide you through this process.
#3 Know the speed limit
When the police are called to an accident they always ask each driver how fast they were going, so knowing the speed limit at all times is very important. If the speed limit is 35, and you tell the officer you were going 35 to 40, then you may have just admitted to being negligent, which bar your claim under the rule of contributory negligence. Even 1 mph over the speed limit has the potential to bar your claim completely.
If you have been injured in a car or truck accident and want to speak with an attorney, or if you just have questions about the finer points of contributory negligence, please do not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Brian deBrun. There is no charge for a consultation, so come on down and say hello. Brian deBrun and his associates know that when it comes to personal injury, Personal Services Gets Results!