Did you know that North Carolina has the largest state-maintained highway system in the U.S.? Needless to say, where car accidents are concerned, North Carolina also has its share of regulations, laws, and rules of the road. If you've been in a car accident in Charlotte, this article highlights important legal aspects and information about your accident, including North Carolina laws regarding auto insurance and accidents, as well as local lawsuit information. Check out FindLaw's helpful article Car Accident Basics and then come back to this page for information more specific to your Charlotte car accident.
Auto Insurance in North Carolina
After a car accident, generally one or more of the drivers involved will have auto insurance that will pay for some of the damages. You probably know that to obtain a North Carolina driver's license, most people need to show proof of automobile liability insurance coverage. The minimum liability coverage you must have to drive in North Carolina is as follows:
- $30,000 per person;
- $60,000 per accident; and
- $25,000 in property damage.
North Carolina also requires insurance polices to include uninsured motorist coverage at or above the same minimum levels as liability coverage. If you have other questions about auto insurance requirements and regulations in North Carolina, visit the auto insurance consumer services page on the North Carolina Department of Insurance website.
Making an Insurance Claim
Most North Carolina drivers are required to have auto insurance, so hopefully you and other drivers involved had insurance coverage at the time of your accident. You have a few options when it comes to making an insurance claim. First, you may file a claim with your own insurance company. This is necessary if you are the at-fault driver or if other drivers involved in your accident do not have insurance.
Second, you may file a third-party claim with the insurance company of another driver at fault in your accident. An insurance adjuster will be appointed to your claim and will determine who was at fault in the accident using all available evidence. FindLaw's article Car Insurance Claims: Do's and Don'ts is a must-read before you make your claim.
Third, you may file a lawsuit against an individual or entity that you believe bears the fault in your accident. Generally, people file lawsuits after car accidents if the insurance policies involved will not cover all of their damages or if there is a dispute over who is at fault.
Determining Fault in an Accident
If you file a claim with an insurance company, an insurance adjuster will determine fault in your accident. If liability for your car accident is being decided in a lawsuit, a judge or jury will determine fault at the trial stage of the proceedings.
The finder of fact will use whatever evidence is provided to him or her to make a fault determination. Evidence of fault could include police reports, statements of witnesses (including the drivers), photographs of damage and of the scene of the accident, and traffic laws that were in play at the time of your accident. If you feel that another person was at fault in your accident, you will want to compile as much evidence as possible to prove fault in your car accident.
North Carolina's Contributory Negligence Rule
North Carolina is one of the few states that still follows a system of contributory negligence when it comes to apportioning liability for accidents. Generally, under this system, if one person makes a claim against another person for damages resulting from an accident, he is not allowed to recover if the accident was caused by his own negligence. Essentially, this means that anyone found to be at fault in an accident will be barred from recovery if his fault, in any part, caused the accident.
Consider this example: Amy and Beth were in a car accident. Amy ran a red light and hit Beth's car as Beth was changing lanes without using her turn signal. A finder of fault might find that Amy was 80% at fault for the accident because she ran the red light and Beth was 20% at fault for the accident because she changed lanes without signaling. If their accident occurred in Charlotte, Beth wouldn't be able to recover anything from Amy because Beth's negligence contributed to the accident, even though Beth was only 20% at fault.
Because North Carolina's strict contributory negligence system could bar your recovery in the event that a judge or jury finds you to be even slightly at fault for your accident, you may want to consider consulting an attorney before filing a lawsuit.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Charlotte
If you do choose to file a lawsuit, you'll file your claim with the appropriate Mecklenburg County civil court. For civil cases claiming damages of $10,000 or less, you'll file your case with the Mecklenburg District Court.
If your damages exceed $10,000, you'll file your case with the Superior Court. You should note that all civil cases in Mecklenburg County for less than $15,000 are subject to court-ordered, non-binding arbitration.
For more information about car accident legal claims, you might want to explore FindLaw's section on car accident legal help. This section contains tips for hiring a car accident lawyer, information about legal costs and fees, and more material that may be relevant to your Charlotte car accident.