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North Carolina Car Accident Report Basics

Your plans for a trip to North Topsail Beach went up in smoke when someone hit your car at an intersection. Not only is your day ruined, but now you're facing the uncertainty of dealing with an auto accident and insurance companies. As a North Carolina driver, you must meet certain legal obligations after a car crash. Knowing what they are and what to do can save you from a lot of headaches.

While it might be difficult to focus in the moments right after a collision, being aware of a few basic steps ahead of time can help. After touching on North Carolina car accident laws and overviewing your requirements, this article will focus on an extremely important document: the police accident report.

The North Carolina police car accident report will be used by the involved insurance companies to determine fault in the accident, which will affect who does and doesn't recover damages. Read on to learn what you need to know about North Carolina car accident reports.

North Carolina Law and Car Accidents

As a driver in North Carolina, you're expected to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the state. While some are the same as those in other states, certain aspects of motor vehicle laws are specific to North Carolina.

Fault and Negligence in North Carolina

Many factors are often involved in an auto accident, and it can be difficult to know who's to blame. When it comes to car crashes, North Carolina is an at-fault state. This means that the person determined to be most responsible for the accident will be liable for the damages and medical bills of those deemed faultless.

"Faultless" is an important term to note, as North Carolina follows the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this system, if you are considered to have caused the accident in any way, no matter how small, you may be barred from recovering any damages. Even if you're only found to be 1% to blame, you can be denied.

For a better understanding of what you may or may not be entitled to, take a look at FindLaw's North Carolina Car Accident Compensation Laws article.

Liability Auto Insurance Requirements in North Carolina

To be a legal driver in North Carolina, you must have liability insurance. The state mandates the minimum required amounts, although they recommend getting more coverage if possible. The minimum insurance coverage includes:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident
  • Uninsured motorist coverage equal to the policy's bodily injury coverage but no more than $1,000,000

Additional but optional forms of insurance available include Medpay, collision insurance, and comprehensive insurance.

A deeper examination of what to expect when filing a claim and how long it takes can be found in FindLaw's North Carolina Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline article.

Car Accidents and Car Accident Reports in North Carolina

The aftermath of an auto accident can be traumatic and confusing. Knowing the best way to handle things can ensure you get the best outcome possible.

What To Do After an Accident

As part of an auto accident, you have certain legal responsibilities. You must report the accident to law enforcement if any of the following apply:

  • There is an injury
  • There is a fatality
  • There is at least $1,000 or more in property damage

This is considered a reportable accident, but it's always a good idea to have the police come to the scene of the accident, no matter how minor it may seem.

Do not leave the scene of the accident. If it's a minor crash and not likely to be reportable, you're still required to exchange information with the other driver(s). If you leave, you run the risk of facing a hit-and-run charge.

After taking a deep breath, check to see if you're injured before checking on passengers and the other drivers. If necessary, offer the aid you feel qualified to give. When you call 911 or a non-emergency police number to report the accident, let the operator know about any injuries.

If you’re in a town or city, 911 should summon the local police. If you’re on a highway, the highway patrol may respond.

If the vehicles are mobile, move them off the roadway to a safe location after taking pictures from as many angles as possible. While waiting for the police to show up, exchange the following information with the other drivers:

  • Contact information (phone number, email, etc.)
  • Driver's license numbers
  • Name, address, and birthdate
  • License plate numbers
  • Vehicle identification numbers (VIN)
  • Insurance company names and policy numbers

If any witnesses are present, get their contact information and a witness statement, if possible.

Let your insurance carrier know you've been in an accident. This will create a case file and may expedite your potential settlement.

If you suffered an injury, seek medical attention. Keep copies of all medical bills, expenses, and treatments.

North Carolina Police Accident Reports

When the police officer arrives, try to be calm and polite as you give your statement. Be as truthful as possible and avoid admitting fault.

In addition to collecting statements from all drivers, passengers, and witnesses, the responding law enforcement officer will gather as much objective data as possible while filling out the police accident report, known as Crash Report Form DMV-349. This means recording factors that include:

  • Location and type of roadway
  • Weather conditions
  • Types of impact and condition of vehicles
  • Traffic signals and signs
  • Time of day/lighting
  • Sobriety of drivers
  • Contact and vehicle information from all involved
  • Diagramming the accident scene

While the accident report is to be written in an observational, non-biased manner, this document will be what the insurance companies use to determine fault and negligence. It will have a major effect on any insurance claim you make.

The police officer is required to file the finished crash report within 24 hours of the accident. It will be forwarded to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days.

You will need a copy of the finished police report. You can get a copy for $5.50 through the DMV website, calling (919) 861-3098, visiting the DMV Headquarters, or mailing a request form to:

  • NCDOT-DMV Traffic Records Section
    3106 Mail Service Center
    Raleigh, NC 27697-3106

At times, dealing with police crash reports and insurance companies can be overwhelming. If you're uncertain of what's happening, consider consulting a car accident lawyer to learn what you should do next.

How To File a Car Crash Report in North Carolina Recap

This chart summarizes North Carolina laws and procedures for filing a car crash report discussed above.

State Accident Statutes

When To Report a Crash to the Police

North Carolina law says you must call the police when:

  • An accident occurred in a city that requires a report

  • Any person was injured or killed

  • Any one person suffered more than $1,000 in property damage

  • It's required by your insurance company

Requesting a Crash Report

North Carolina DMV:

Note: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Additional Information on North Carolina Accidents

While it's impossible to know every question you might have, there's common ground to be found in many situations. The answers below may prove helpful to you.

The damage to my car is more than the at-fault driver's liability coverage. What do I do?

If you have collision insurance on your vehicle, you should be covered if all else fails. Your first option is to reach out to your insurance company and ask them to negotiate with the at-fault driver's insurance carrier. If that doesn't pan out, you can file a civil lawsuit to recover damages.

Keep in mind that if you're considered to be at fault for the accident, even a tiny bit, you can't be awarded damages. If you're uncertain or feel like you need legal advice, speak to a car accident lawyer.

I didn't realize how much the seatbelt hurt my shoulder at the time of the accident. It's been a little over a year since then. Can I still file a personal injury suit?

The period within which you must file a lawsuit is called a statute of limitations. In North Carolina, you have three years from the accident to begin legal proceedings. Note that if you're filing a wrongful death suit, the time limit is only two years.

I was riding in my friend's car when he caused an accident. He has Medpay on his policy. Will that pay for my medical bills?

If your friend has Medpay, your medical expenses will be covered by their insurance.

North Carolina Accident Reports: Related Resources

Call a North Carolina Attorney Before Filing a Car Accident Claim

Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be intense. It's worse if you've sustained a serious injury. Insurance companies aren't always on your side.

In North Carolina, you have the right to hire a private attorney to represent your interests in an accident claim, whether against your insurance company or a different one. Consider consulting a local car accident law attorney.

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