Auto Accident Questions

What should I do if I am involved in a car accident?

First, to the extent you can, make sure that you and any other people who are at the scene who are injured get medical attention, by calling 911. You should make sure that the police are called to document what happened. If there are witnesses who can help you, make sure the police officer talks with those witnesses. If the driver who hit you tries to leave the scene, be sure to get as much identifying information as you can about the driver and the automobile. If you have a camera in your car, take pictures of the automobiles and the scene. After the accident, and as soon as possible, you should report the accident to your own insurance company.

Should I negotiate with the insurance company myself?

If you have only damage to your automobile, or very few, if any, physical injuries, you may wish to handle your auto accident claim yourself. However, if you have any substantial medical bills or injuries, you should call an attorney for a free initial consultation. Do not make any settlement decisions quickly! Some injuries from auto accidents do not appear right away, but do appear within days or weeks after the accident. Do not sign any release in a hurry! Remember that the insurance adjuster for the person who caused the wreck does not work for you, and her primary goal is not to help you, but to settle the claim as quickly and for as little money as possible.

Should I sign a medical release for the insurance company?

If you have any significant injuries or medical bills, you should not sign any medical release given to you by the insurance company. Remember, the insurance adjuster for the person who caused the wreck works for that person, and not for you. There are limitations on what you are required to disclose to the insurance adjuster about your personal medical history.

What should I do about the damage to my automobile?

You should address the damage to your automobile right away with the adjuster for the person who hit you. If that adjuster will not pay the amount owed for damage to your automobile, your own insurance company will pay for the damage. If there is a disagreement between you and the insurance company over the amount that the repairs will cost, you may get opinions from several automobile repair shops to assist in your negotiations with the insurance adjuster. If you think the adjuster has treated you unfairly, you may make a complaint with the North Carolina Department of Insurance. If we handle your personal injury claim, we will help you if there is a dispute over property damage.

What if the driver who hit me didn’t get a ticket?

Police officers do not always give tickets in automobile accident cases. If the other driver was at fault he will be legally responsible for your injuries regardless of whether he received a ticket. If the insurance adjuster for the driver that hit you will not take responsibility for the claim, and you believe that driver was responsible for the wreck, you should call a lawyer for a free initial consultation. At Copeley Johnson Groninger PLLC we often call on experienced accident reconstruction experts to investigate auto accidents to determine who was at fault and what went wrong.

When do I need a lawyer?

You should seek the services of a lawyer if your injuries are significant or if you lose time from work because of an automobile accident that was the fault of another driver. At Copeley Johnson Groninger PLLC, your initial consultation with a lawyer will be free. If we accept the case for representation, we will charge an attorney’s fee only if we are able to obtain a settlement or award for you.

What if the driver who caused the wreck had no insurance?

If the driver who caused the wreck had no insurance, you can turn to your own insurance company for compensation for your injuries. This is why it is extremely important that you carry as much uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage as possible. If you thought you purchased this insurance coverage, but your insurance company tells you that you don’t have this coverage, you should consult with an attorney about this situation. If your own insurance company did not follow the law when it did not sell you this coverage, the company may be responsible for your injuries.

What is the statute of limitations?

Normally the statute of limitations in an automobile accident case in North Carolina is three years. However, if you intend to seek the services of a lawyer you should contact the lawyer well in advance of the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Do I have to file a lawsuit to get compensated for my injuries?

No. Many claims are brought by attorneys and then settled, as long as the insurance company for the person who caused the wreck offers a fair amount to compensate for the injured person’s lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. You do not have to have a trial if you do not want one. On the other hand, if the person who caused the wreck or his insurance company is not willing to take full responsibility for the damage caused by the wreck, then a lawsuit leading to a trial is ordinarily the only way to require them to be responsible. You and your lawyer can discuss all the options and decide together whether a lawsuit is necessary.

Can I get punitive damages?

Punitive damages may be warranted where the conduct of the person who caused the wreck was willful, reckless, or with conscious disregard for the rights of others. Punitive damages are awarded by juries only rarely; however, you may have a valid claim for punitive damages where the person who caused the wreck was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, or in other circumstances that you may discuss with your lawyer.

How will I pay my medical bills?

If you have health insurance or Medicare, you should give all of your medical providers your health insurance or Medicare information and ask that they bill your health insurer or Medicare for the cost of your medical treatment. You have the right to insist on this. Also, you very probably have medical payments insurance as part of your own automobile insurance policy. If you have this coverage, you should give copies of your medical bills to your own insurance company and they will reimburse you for the full amount of the bills, up to the limits of your coverage. You should do this even if you have health insurance or Medicare, because under North Carolina law, your insurance company does not get a credit for other insurance that is available. If your health insurance is through your employer, you may have to reimburse your health insurance company from your settlement or award. You should always check with your lawyer before making this reimbursement.

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