You were told you were lucky. But, you feel more than lucky. Even thinking of your Wilmington car accident makes your head spin. Yesterday you and the kids were headed to the Independence Mall to get your wife a birthday present. You never made it there. As we were heading south, a tractor-trailer was headed north. As you got closer, the tractor-trailer swerved into your lane and slammed right into you. You never had time to react. Thank goodness everyone survived with minor cuts and scrapes, but you still had to go the Cape Fear emergency room and your car is completely totaled. What now?
Recovering from the aftermath of a car accident can seem like a maze of red tape. Here's some general information about the legal aftermath of a Wilmington car accident.
What to Do At the Scene of an Accident
Stop. Assist. Call the police. Three very simple things, but when you are in an accident adrenaline might be running high and it may be difficult to make good decisions.
First, stop at the accident scene or as close as possible without needlessly blocking or endangering other traffic. Do not leave the area. If you leave, you could be arrested for a criminal charge called a hit-and-run. Conviction will mean your driving privileges will be revoked or suspended at a minimum. It doesn't matter what you hit -- a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car or someone's property. You have to stop. You also could go to jail for a year or more depending on the severity of the accident.
Assist the injured
If someone is seriously injured, immediately call 911. Make the injured person is comfortable but don't move him or her unless you know what you are doing.
Call the Police
As soon as you can, call the Wilmington Police Department or North Carolina State Highway Patrol and ask them to take a report.
North Carolina law requires anyone involved in a car accident resulting in personal injury, death or property damages to notify the police. If the accident didn't involve any of those things, you don't have to tell the police. However, it's still a good idea to have the police make a record of the accident in case you need it later.
Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver -- your name, address and driver's license number; the registration number of the car you were driving; and the name your insurance company. You may wish to collect contact information for:
1. Other car's owner
2. Any passengers in the other car
3. Any witnesses to the accident
You should not admit liability at the scene. Be truthful with the police officer, but do not volunteer any information about fault until you speak to an attorney.
What if I Hit A Parked Car or Other Property Like A Utility Pole?
If you hit a parked car and can't figure out who the heck owns the car, you should contact the nearest police agency. Also leave your name, address and vehicle registration number conspicuously attached to the damaged property.
Either way, you have to tell the police of any accidents with a parked car or object within 48 hours. If you hit a guardrail, utility pole, or other fixed object, then contact the nearest police agency and make a written report North Carolina DMV within five days of the collision
North Carolina Car Insurance Minimums
As a driver in Wilmington, you have to carry a minimum amount of car insurance coverage.
- Up to $30,000 for a person who is hurt or killed in an accident,
- Up to $60,000 for each accident if several people are hurt or killed.
- Up to $25,000 for property damage in another state
You also have to carry uninsured motorist coverage at the same levels. Uninsured motorist coverage helps cover the losses when a driver is involved in a hit-and-run accident or an accident caused by a driver with no insurance. To protect themselves, many people buy higher limits of liability insurance.
What Legal Options Exist?
If insurance and other parties are not adequately addressing your concerns (financial or otherwise), you may want to consult with a Wilmington car accident attorney about next steps. Many lawyers take auto accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, you do not pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you get. A settlement is considered a "win" and you'll have to pay attorney's fees out of that amount.
North Carolina is a "contributory negligence" state. This means that if you are partially at fault in the accident you are not entitled to recovery against the other driver. Instead, you need to make a claim under the collision coverage of your own insurance policy. In essence, you can only recover from the other driver (or under your uninsured motorist coverage) if you were not in any way at fault.
If you do decide to sue, your attorney will provide details about where and when to appear in court. Here's a list of Wilmington courthouses.
Auto accidents can be stressful and unnerving. Knowing what to expect and remaining calm will make everything go more smoothly. After a Wilmington car accident, folks considering their next legal steps may wish to consider speaking with a lawyer.