13 Common Myths about Motor Vehicle Personal Injury Claims in North Carolina
I can settle my personal injury claim with the "at fault" driver's insurance company and still sue the driver who caused the accident.
No. When you settle your claim with the auto liability carrier you have to sign a release. The release will bar any claim against the "at fault" driver.
The insurance company for the "at fault" driver is required to pay my lost wages and medical bills as I incur them.
No. The "at fault" driver's automobile insurer is not required and will not pay your medical bills or lost wages as they are incurred. The only time the "at fault" driver will pay you for lost wages or medical bills is when you settle your claim or a jury determines its driver is negligent and a judgment is entered against the "at fault" driver.
If the investigating officer gives the other driver a ticket from the wreck, the other driver is automatically "at fault" in the motor vehicle collision, and his insurance carrier will pay my medical bills, lost wages, and pain and mental suffering.
No. The insurance company can still deny your claim or deny liability in an answer to the lawsuit. If you or your attorney files suit on your behalf, the police officer will not be able to testify that he gave the driver a ticket or otherwise found the other driver "at fault" (on the codes on the right side of the police report). The officer will not be allowed to testify as to who is "at fault."
If I cannot settle my bodily injury claim with the "at fault" driver's insurance company, I can sue his insurance company.
No. You would have to sue the person you contend caused the (automobile, truck or motorcycle) crash, and his insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent him.
If my case goes to court, I will get to tell the jury that the other driver has liability insurance.
Generally, No. Only in very limited circumstances will the jury hear the defendant has automobile liability insurance that is paying the defense attorney and will pay the judgment the jury renders against the defendant (up to his auto liability insurance limits). Typically, the jury never gets told that the other driver has insurance.
If the insurance company tells me that they "admit liability" or "admit fault" and are paying my property damage claim, they are bound by this admission and will pay my bodily injury claim.
No. If the responsible driver's insurance company pays your property damage claim, the insurance company could still deny your bodily injury claim. If your case goes to court, the defendant and his insurance company are not bound by such admission and may deny liability in the defendant's answer to the lawsuit.
If I file suit and want my case decided by a judge (instead of a jury), I can do that.
Probably Not. Even in small cases which may not warrant a jury, insurance carriers who hire the attorneys for the "at fault" drivers are requesting jury trials in cases where no jury is requested by the plaintiff. In North Carolina, the defendant has an absolute right to a jury trial when he requests one in the answer to the lawsuit.
If my doctor tells me an injury or medical condition is "possibly" from an automobile accident, the defendant or his insurance company is responsible for that injury or medical condition.
No. At a minimum, your doctor has to say the injury or medical condition is "probably" or "more likely than not" due to the motor vehicle collision.
If the owner of the car that caused the collision is different than the driver, the owner is automatically responsible for the crash if the driver is found responsible.
Not necessarily. Typically, the owner will have to have been negligent in letting the driver operate the vehicle or there has to be some determination of agency for the owner to be responsible for the collision.
If I have a prior condition and the motor vehicle collision makes it worse, I cannot recover for the condition.
No. If an automobile collision aggravates (or activates) a pre-existing condition, the driver and his insurance carrier are responsible for such.
If the "at fault" driver is not insured, I cannot recover for my injuries.
No. Generally, there will be uninsured motorist coverage on the car you are occupying, as it is required in North Carolina. You could present a claim under the uninsured motorist coverage (or "UM coverage") of the car you are in. If there is no UM coverage on the car, you can generally recover under the uninsured motorist coverage on another vehicle you own or which is owned by a resident relative.
If I am a pedestrian or on a bicycle and am injured by an uninsured motorist, I cannot collect any money for my medical bills, lost wages, permanent injury, or pain and suffering due to the injuries I sustained.
No. If you or any family members you live with have auto insurance with uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim under the uninsured motorist coverage of the auto liability insurance policy. You could also stack (add together) the amounts of the uninsured motorist policies if you have a severe injury and you and / or your resident family members have more than one UM policy.
If the "at fault" driver does not have enough insurance, I cannot recover any more money for my injuries.
It depends. If there is underinsured motorist coverage (also known as "UIM coverage") on the vehicle you are in (even if you are in the "at fault" driver's car), or if you or a resident relative have UIM coverage on any vehicle, then you may be able to collect above the amount of the liability coverage of the "at fault" party's insurance coverage. You also may be able to stack the UIM coverages from multiple insurance policies. However, if you sign a release or do not follow the rules required to present a UIM claim, then the UIM claim will be lost. If you have a potential UIM claim, you really need to speak with an attorney who regularly handles UIM claims before signing any document; otherwise you may inadvertently waive your UIM claim.
The above is not legal advice. It is a general overview of North Carolina law and common misconceptions of the law based upon questions we hear from clients and the general public who contact our office concerning personal injury claims which arise out of motor vehicle accidents, as well as questions I heard will working as an insurance adjuster prior to practicing law. The information is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. No attorney / client relationship is created. No recipients of content from this site should act on the basis of any content included in the site without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts, issues and circumstances from an attorney licensed in North Carolina.
Copyright 2014, C. Douglas Maynard, Jr., Maynard & Harris Attorneys at Law, PLLC