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!