Is North Carolina a no-fault state for car accidents? With hundreds of thousands of car accidents occurring in North Carolina every year, experiencing an accident is an incredibly common experience. It is natural to feel anxious about what will happen after an accident, especially if you have been injured or if your vehicle has experienced a great deal of damage. The way in which a person recovers damages following an accident depends entirely on North Carolina’s fault system. While this system may be complex, we are here to demystify the process and answer the common question, “is North Carolina a no-fault state for accidents?”
Fault & Negligence
Each state has different laws surrounding fault and negligence following a car accident. These laws are used to determine how a person recovers damages and receives compensation for any injuries sustained during the accident. Generally, states can fall into two major categories: at-fault and no-fault. In a no-fault state, each accident victim will receive compensation for their medical expenses and lost wages regardless of the role they played in the accident. In an at-fault state, damages are paid depending on the negligence and liability of the parties involved in the crash.
This begs the question: is North Carolina a no-fault state for car accidents? Unfortunately, no. North Carolina is an at-fault state, meaning that the driver of the vehicle that ultimately caused the accident is legally responsible for paying for the damages of the other party or parties. The at-fault driver can provide this compensation either through their insurance or out of pocket. This is important, as compensation can only be paid out after fault has been determined.
Under this system, if you were injured in a car accident you can receive compensation in the following ways:
- From your insurance company, which will seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
- By filing a lawsuit in order to obtain compensation from the at-fault driver for personal injuries sustained in the accident
- Using a third-party claim to seek damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company
What is Contributory Negligence?
Since North Carolina is an at-fault state, there must be a process for determining who is liable for an accident. Determining negligence is key to understanding how a claim will be handled and whether a person will be able to collect damages. Many states follow the doctrine of comparative negligence, which allows each party to collect damages depending on their level of fault. If they were 80% at fault for the accident, for example, they will only be able to collect a portion of the damages.
Contributory negligence, on the other hand, is much more strict. Here, a person cannot recover compensation if they contributed in any way to the accident. North Carolina is one of few states that still utilizes a “pure” contributory negligence system. This means that if you were involved in an accident and it has been determined that you were even 1% at fault, you will be unable to recover damages.
Under this system, the following are used to determine negligence:
- A person had a duty to act or not act in a certain way
- The person breached this duty
- This breach of duty directly caused injury to another person
- Realistically, the person should have foreseen that their actions would cause injury to another person
- The injury resulted in actual damages, such as medical expenses or lost wages, for instance
An interesting piece to keep in mind, though, is the last clear chance doctrine. Here, you may recover damages if you can prove that the other party had the last possible chance to avoid the accident that caused harm. This way, even if you are partially at fault in some way, if you can show the other party could have averted a dangerous situation by using ordinary and reasonable care.
Time is of the essence in these situations, as insurance companies will aim to quickly assess the available evidence to determine negligence. Moreover, according to Chapter 1 Section 52 of the North Carolina General Statutes, a person must file a claim within three years of the car accident. If they exceed this time limit for claims, they will be unable to recover damages.
Because North Carolina has such strict laws, proving liability is often the most important aspect of your claim. Your personal injury attorney may use video footage, police reports, witness accounts, or medical reports, for example, to prove liability. Moreover, an experienced attorney will be able to navigate contributory negligence defense and ensure that you receive adequate compensation for your injuries.
How Edwards Injury Law Can Help
Being involved in a car accident is often an anxiety-inducing experience. This stress can be made worse by the strict fault and negligence laws that North Carolina uses to settle car crash claims. As a leading black-owned, veteran-owned personal injury law firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, we work diligently to secure compensation for our clients. If you are struggling with insurance claims and mounting bills following an accident, do not hesitate to contact our office.