Personal Injury FAQs
NC Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions
- What is personal injury?
- What is the process for a personal injury claim?
- What is contributory negligence?
- What does it mean when a law firm works on a contingency fee basis?
- What is uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) and how might it affect my personal injury case?
- What is Medical Payment Coverage (Med Pay or MedPay) and how might it affect my personal injury case?
- What is the legal definition of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
- What is the definition of distracted driving in North Carolina?
- What do I do if I’m in a car wreck but I’m not a U.S. citizen?
- Isn’t my insurance company supposed to help me get the compensation I may deserve?
- If I hire a lawyer after being injured in a car wreck will I have to go to court?
- What do I do after a car accident?
- If the insurance company wants to settle with me, why should I hire a lawyer?
- How much is my personal injury case worth?
- Insurance only covered part of my damages. How can I recover the rest?
- How long do I have to decide if I want to pursue a personal injury case?
What is personal injury?
Personal injury is a legal term for an injury to the body, mind, or emotions, rather than injury to property. It’s up to the injured person to prove that the other person acted irresponsibly in causing the accident or injury – running a red light or not fencing in a dangerous dog, for example – and that the injury was a direct result of those actions.
What is the process for a personal injury claim?
If your injuries warrant filing a personal injury claim, our law firm is set up to make it as easy as we possibly can for you. We know you are going through enough. You will have a team dedicated to your case to include a lawyer, paralegal, and possibly others. You are also a part of this team. An important part. Two-way communication is key to keeping the process moving forward. Documentation is extremely important – medical records, photos of injuries and evidence, police reports, insurance records, etc. We try to gather all the evidence we can (and then some) in our efforts to help you. We’ve honed our process over many years. It generally involves an investigation and medical treatment phase, negotiation phase, litigation phase (if necessary), and finally potential settlement and compensation to you.
What is contributory negligence?
North Carolina is one of the few states in the country considered a contributory negligence state. This means that if the insurance company can prove you were at fault in any way (even just 1% at fault) and that you did not exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, you may not be eligible for compensation for your injuries.
What does it mean when a law firm works on a contingency fee basis?
A contingency fee is just another way of saying you do not pay an attorney’s fee up front. The attorney's fee is based on a percentage of the gross recovery. In other words, if we don’t get you compensation, you do not owe us an attorney’s fee. This arrangement allows many people to benefit from legal representation even if they don’t have money up front. While a case may have fees and costs associated with it, we do not charge an hourly or flat fee.
What is Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) and how might it affect my personal injury case?
Everyone who drives a vehicle in North Carolina is required to carry Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage.
Your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is intended to provide a financial safety net when you or another person covered by your car insurance policy is injured by an uninsured driver who is at fault. This can include unidentified hit-and-run ("phantom") drivers. It also provides property damage coverage.
Your underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage will provide protection when you or another person covered by your car insurance policy is injured by an underinsured driver who is at fault.
What is Medical Payment Coverage (Med Pay or MedPay) and how might it affect my personal injury case?
Many car insurance policies contain Med Pay coverage, which can be used to pay medical bills in the event of injury, regardless of who is at fault. MedPay coverage provides reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses due to a car accident. The policy will pay up to the limits listed in the policy for each individual injured.
The at-fault party may be liable for the cost of your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In North Carolina, you may be able to recover from your MedPay coverage as well. There can be complicated interactions with MedPay and other insurance coverages. These matters are best addressed with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
What is the legal definition of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
In North Carolina a person is considered to be "driving while intoxicated," (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher and are operating a vehicle. A BAC level of 0.08 is about four standard drinks in one hour for a 170-lb. man or three drinks in an hour for a 140-lb. woman. These BAC values are estimates only and should not be relied on.
If you will be driving, don’t drink. If you plan on drinking, designate a sober driver or call a cab, Uber or one of the NC Sober Ride companies.
If you have drugs or another substance in your system impairing your ability to drive safely, that is also considered DWI.
What is the definition of distracted driving in North Carolina?
Distracted driving in any state means doing anything except keeping your eyes and attention on the road and your surroundings. It is illegal in North Carolina for anyone to text and drive. If you are a novice driver (under 18 years old) or a bus driver, it is illegal to use any device – hand held or hands free – while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
What do I do if I’m in a car wreck but I’m not a U.S. citizen?
North Carolina accident laws are designed to protect anyone who is injured in the state — documented, undocumented, citizens of other countries, and U.S. citizens. If you or someone else is injured, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you can, try to get as many facts about the injury as possible. Report the accident to the police. They will make an official accident report. Take pictures of damages and injuries with your cell phone if possible. Contact your insurance company to report the accident. But do not make a statement over the phone to them as to what happened. If there are injuries to report, our advice is to contact an attorney right away. We have Spanish-speaking advocates, staff, and attorneys who can help you understand your rights and advise you further. Click here for more on our website in Spanish.
Isn’t my insurance company supposed to help me get the compensation I may deserve?
Yes. They are supposed to be looking out for your best interests. But experience has proven that has not always been the case. Insurance companies are by and large, for-profit companies, and the more money they can hold on to the better, in their book. Click here for some first-hand accounts of the deceptive ways some insurance companies have tried to hold on to our clients’ money.
If I hire a lawyer after being injured in a car wreck will I have to go to court?
Most car accident cases don’t require that you go to court, and many settle through negotiations — the back-and-forth process of your attorney’s demand and the insurance company’s counteroffer. If you settle a claim in mediation or beforehand, court is not necessary. But when negotiations fail the next option is to file a civil lawsuit in court. We evaluate each case individually and would advise going to court only if we believe it could potentially result in the greatest financial return for you. If your case does go to trial, we have an entire department dedicated to courtroom litigation.
What do I do after a car accident?
After a car accident you should seek medical attention right away, even if you don’t feel like you’re injured. Sometimes the effects of injuries can show up hours or days later. Also, if you decide to file a claim, not seeking medical care right away could potentially hurt your case. Collect evidence, photos, statements, names and addresses of those involved – anything that you might need to help prove your case. Keep pristine records of phone calls, dates, times, names, and contact information and notes of what was said. We advise that you contact a good personal injury attorney to discuss your specific situation. Our Hurtline is open for free case evaluations 24/7. Click here for our free guide that can help you try to avoid common post-accident pitfalls.
If the insurance company wants to settle with me, why should I hire a lawyer?
In some instances people who have been injured don’t need a lawyer. Many do. When people are injured they may need to be out of work to heal, they may have medical bills, and car repair bills. Yet they still need to put food on the table and keep the lights on. Insurance companies know this, and we’ve seen them sometimes try to lowball clients with a quick settlement because they know clients may need the money. Or they might try to stall your settlement. We’ve seen these things happen and they usually don’t end well. It doesn’t hurt to call for a free case evaluation. Sometimes an attorney can make good things happen and help ease some of the burden you may be carrying alone.
How much is my personal injury case worth?
Of course each case is different, but generally we consider a variety of reasons for compensation. You may be entitled to damages for out-of-pocket expenses (for example, replacement of property, medical bills, lost wages, and rehabilitation). In certain instances you may be able to recover for loss of future earning opportunities, loss of consortium (harm to your marriage), emotional suffering, pain and suffering, loss of business opportunities, disability, inability to enjoy life, and punitive damages (which are awarded in an effort to punish the at-fault person).
Insurance only covered part of my damages. How can I recover the rest?
In the event of a serious injury, an attorney may seek an excess judgment if there isn’t enough insurance to cover current and future medical bills. This is particularly true if the at-fault party has significant assets that could be used to satisfy the judgment. Typically known as “recreational assets” these types of assets may include things like vacation homes, boats, fancy cars, etc. But trying to go this route can be a very long arduous process. You must first go to court and a jury will determine how much you should potentially be awarded above the policy limits. Click here to learn more.
How long do I have to decide if I want to pursue a personal injury case?
For a number reasons we advise anyone who is injured in North Carolina to decide whether or not to pursue a personal injury lawsuit as soon as possible after the injury. First and foremost, an experienced personal injury lawyer can try to help you with the practical, medical, and record-keeping matters. If not handled properly, these matters can sometimes damage your case. From a legal perspective, North Carolina law states that you generally have three years to file in most personal injury situations, except in the case of wrongful death, which is two years. Read more here.