The questions on this page were answered by our team of lawyers. The questions are categorized by practice area such as car wrecks, medical malpractice, traumatic brain injuries, etc. If you have specific questions about your situation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an actual attorney.
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The insurance company says I was partly to blame for causing the crash. Can I still pursue a personal injury claim?
North Carolina personal injury law follows an archaic and unjust rule called contributory negligence. Under that rule, car insurance companies can deny injury coverage to people who are even 1 percent responsible for causing a crash.
You can still pursue a personal injury claim when insurance company representatives accuse you of contributory negligence, but you will need to partner with an experienced car accident injury victim’s attorney who knows how to collect, organize and present evidence to end doubt over the other driver’s fault.
Will my car insurance company contest my uninsured motorist claim?
My decades of experience as a North Carolina car accident injury victim attorney is that insurance companies treat uninsured motorist claims the same as claims from people who are insured by other companies. That is, no insurer welcomes a request to pay out on a personal injury claim.
Insurance company representatives will definitely demand proof that a crash occurred, that injuries requiring medical treatment resulted directly from the crash and that you were not responsible for causing the crash. Insurance reps will also offer the lowest settlement they can justify. Some uninsured motorist claims even go to a civil jury trial because the insurance company believes it can make the case for offering no settlement.
What can I do when the police report is unclear on which driver caused the crash in which I got injured?
North Carolina requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, This coverage can be invoked when fault for a crash cannot be clearly established.
Filing an uninsured motorist claim does not guarantee you will receive a settlement, however. State law requires proof that a collision actually occurred and that the collision directly inflicted an injury which required medical treatment. Your insurance company may also contest liability by arguing that sufficient evidence exists to show that you were responsible for causing the crash.
Partnering with an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer while pursuing an uninsured motorist claim is generally a good idea.
Does North Carolina cap damages in dram shop cases?
Yes. No matter how many victims of an underage drunk driver file injury or wrongful death file claims against the business or party host who provided the alcohol, the defendant cannot be made to pay more than a total of $500,000 for all types of damages.
Can a drunk driving victim sue a party host for injuries in North Carolina?
North Carolina courts have recognized liability for party hosts who knowingly served alcohol to underage drivers. Since no law directly addresses this, the question is answered on a case-by-case basis.
To succeed with a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a party host, the plaintiff must show all the following:
- The drunk driver was younger than 21 and consumed alcohol at the defendant’s party.
- The party host provided the alcohol consumed by the underage driver.
- The driver caused the crash in which the plaintiff suffered injuries or died.
- The injuries or death resulted directly from the crash.
- The party host knew of should have known that the driver was under the legal age to consume alcohol.
- The party host knew or should have know the driver would be driving after consuming alcohol.
What is the North Carolina dram shop law?
North Carolina, under General Statute 18B-121, makes it possible for the injured victim of an underage drunk driver to file injury or wrongful death claims against the bar, restaurant or store that sold the at-fault driver alcohol.
This is called a dram shop law because a dram is a measure of liquor roughly equal to a normal-sized shot. The law places these restrictions of dram shop lawsuits:
- Claims must be filed within 3 years of the date on which the crash happened or the death occurred.
- The at-fault driver was provably intoxicated, was definitely under the age of 21 and clearly caused the crash.
- The victim/plaintiff suffered injuries or died as a direct result of the crash caused by the drunk and underage driver.
- The seller of the alcohol knew, should have known or made no attempt to determine whether the person buying alcohol was younger than 21.
What besides texting causes distracted driving?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a distraction behind the wheel as “anything that takes your attention away from driving.” The agency also identifies three types of distracted driving: visual, mental and cognitive.
Activities other than texting that take a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel and mind off road and traffic conditions include
- Talking on a phone
- Eating and drinking
- Fiddling with the radio
- Applying makeup/Shaving
- Using a GPS device
- Speaking with passengers
- Reaching for a dropped object
Why is texting and driving dangerous in North Carolina?
Between 2011 and 2015, North Carolina saw 356 people die in distracted driving crashes. While just 31 of those deaths could be directly associated with cell phone or smartphone use, state and local police admit that they cannot be sure that phone use did not play a role in any of the other 287 fatalities attributed to “carless/inattentive” driving.
The real problem, as explained on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s distracted driving webpage is that “sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph.”
A lot of bad things can happen when traveling 300 yards without full control of one’s car or truck.
What is the North Carolina law on texting and driving?
Section 20-137.4A of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it illegal for a driver to manually enter multiple letters or text into a mobile device while moving along a public road or highway. The statute also makes reading emails and texts while driving illegal.
The state does not prohibit the use of hands-free technology behind the wheel. It also provides exceptions to the texting while driving prohibitions for police, firefighters and ambulance drivers who are carrying out their official duties.
Violations of the texting while driving law is a primary offense, meaning police can pull over and ticket drivers just for using a smartphone. The penalty is a $100 fine and court costs.
Can private hosts be held responsible for a drunk driving accident?
In addition to dram shop laws, North Carolina also has social host liability laws. A victim of a drunk driving accident can pursue damages against a host who served the drunk driver the alcohol. The elements needed to be legally proved include:
- The host is the person who served or otherwise proved the drunk driver the alcohol.
- The host knew, or should have known, that the drunk driver was intoxicated.
- The host knew the drunk driver they were serving alcohol to would be driving a vehicle when they left.