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Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation

Motor Vehicle Accident Motor vehicle accidents cost individuals and companies billions in medical expenses and lost wages every year. A car accident is a personal injury case, so you need a personal injury lawyer to help you recover damages from the at-fault driver. North Carolina does have a contributory negligence law, which means that you cannot be at fault in an accident if you want to recover damages from the defendant. If the defendant accuses you of being at fault or partially at fault in a motor vehicle personal injury claim, the defendant must prove that you share in the fault for the accident.

For example, if a defendant T-boned you at an intersection and you had the right of way, if the defendant is able to prove that you were speeding through the intersection, the jury could find you partially at fault in the accident. In this case, the defendant would not be responsible for paying damages to you. However, the costs of the accident are still calculated in the state’s statistics for the value of an accident case.

How Much Is My Accident Case Worth?

According to a report by the Division of Motor Vehicles, North Carolina has 267,494 crashes in 2016. Of those, 1,340 were fatal and 82,603 were injury crashes. The CDC compiled statistics as to the cost of motor vehicle accidents and found that these costs were $1.71 Billion in one year, which includes $17 Million in medical costs and $1.69 Billion in work loss costs. Personal injury compensation from a motor vehicle accident depends on several factors, including the severity of your injuries and whether the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional.

The cost of a motor vehicle accident continues to increase over the years, due to several factors, including:

  • An increase in the state’s population;
  • Young drivers getting their license;
  • The increase in the cost of medical care;
  •  The increase in the cost of lost wages when workers receive raises; and
  • The increase in the cost of other fees and costs involved in negotiating a personal injury settlement or taking a case to trial.

These costs vary depending on your county and how much professionals, including legal and medical professionals and vehicle repair technicians, charge for their services. The cost may also depend on the defendant’s insurance policy coverage. Since North Carolina is an at-fault state, the person who is responsible for the accident — or his or her insurance company — must pay for damages.

North Carolina Statutes require minimum insurance coverage as follows:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury to one person;
  • $60,000 for bodily injury to two or more people; and
  • $25,000 for property damage.

These amounts are for any one accident. If your injuries are more than the defendant’s insurance company will pay, you may choose to take your case to court to get more damages from the defendant or his insurance company.

Why Should I Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Unless your injuries are very minor, you should always retain an attorney for a personal injury lawsuit, including motor vehicle accidents. Personal injury legal representation can make a difficult case run more smoothly. Your case may seem simple enough, but you could run into complications if: Personal Injury Law

  • More than one defendant is involved in the accident. This happens in a multi-vehicle crash where more than one driver is at fault.
  • You are one plaintiff out of two or more. For example, if a tractor-trailer crashes into two other vehicles, you and two others have claims against the driver and/or his company.
  • The insurance company offers you a low-ball settlement. This is common because insurance companies are in business to make money. Every claim they pay out lowers their profits, so insurance companies will try to pay the least amount possible.
  • Your injuries are severe.
  • Doctors expect your injuries to be long-term or permanent.
  • The defendant accuses you of contributing to the accident.

While no government statistics exist to show that retaining an attorney gets you a better settlement, many lawyers, including our firm, have learned that when you retain a lawyer, you do get a better settlement.

Many people who try to settle end up retaining our firm when settlement negotiations break down because the insurance company offers such a small amount. In some cases, insurance companies offer so little that their offer wouldn’t cover your initial medical expenses, never mind future medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

How Long Will It Take My Case to Settle?

Many car accident cases settle in a few months, but some may take a year or more, depending on the circumstances. A personal injury settlement consists of economic damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages. If your injuries are not severe, you might be entitled to economic damages, sometimes referred to as special damages. These are things that have a price tag attached and include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of personal property and funeral and burial expenses.

Non-economic damages are those things that do not have a set price. They include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, disfigurement and loss of use. Generally, you get non-economic damages when you suffer long-term or permanent injuries in a car wreck.

A jury awards punitive damages if it finds that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent, such as driving under the influence, excessive speeding or driving while distracted. If the jury finds that the defendant’s actions were intentional, such as in some road rage cases, you might also collect punitive damages.

If the defendant’s insurance company agrees to everything you ask for, your case could settle quickly. However, if not, several factors could increase the time it takes for you to get a settlement, including:

  • Getting your medical records;
  • Whether you need expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction investigators and medical professionals;
  • The length of time the defendant’s insurance company and/or the defendant takes to return documents and schedule depositions; and
  • The availability of the court and defendant’s lawyers for court hearings (if attorneys request any prior to the trial) and the trial.

Should I Settle or Go To Trial?

When you are in an auto accident, you have a choice of whether to settle or go to trial. If you are happy with the settlement the insurance company offers, you do not need to go to trial. However, if the insurance company and/or the defendant offer you a low settlement amount, you might decide to go to trial.

If you were in a car wreck, contact The Clauson Law Firm, PLLC to set up a consultation to learn more about your rights in a North Carolina car accident.

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