Frequently Asked Questions About North Carolina Personal Injury Law

We have compiled some of the most frequently asked NC personal injury law questions and answers on a broad range of personal injury and wrongful death topics. Take some time to get informed on personal injury law, railroad worker injury law, and more by browsing our FAQs.
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  • What Is Negligence in a North Carolina Personal Injury Lawsuit?

    If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another party, North Carolina law allows you to take legal action against that party or parties in order to obtain financial compensation for losses that your injuries have caused you. Some of these losses can include medical expenses for treatment of your injuries, as well as any ongoing medical care you may need, lost wages if you were unable to work while you recovered, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and more. In order to be successful in a personal injury lawsuit, a victim must prove negligence by the party they allege is responsible for the accident and their injuries.

    This is one reason why victims should consult with a North Carolina personal injury attorney to represent them. The legal definition of negligence that is required to be successful in a personal injury claim may be different than what a layperson thinks the definition is.

    In order to prove negligence in an accident lawsuit, there are four elements that must be proven. These elements are:

    1. The alleged at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care. This means they had a legal obligation to act in a certain way towards the victim. For example, a landlord has a duty of care to keep their property free of any hazards that are preventable. A driver has a duty of care to other drivers to operate in a safe manner and obey all traffic laws. A doctor has a duty of care to provide their patients with professional medical care.
    2. The alleged at-fault party breached that duty of care. This means that whatever obligation the at-fault party had to the victim, they failed to uphold.
    3. The breach of that duty of care caused the victim’s injuries. There are two types of causation that can be cited in this element. The first, cause-in-fact, means that if it weren’t for the at-fault party’s actions or behavior, the victim would not have been injured. The second type, proximate cause, means that the injury is related to the event in such a way that the court rules the injury would not have occurred if not for the event.
    4. The victim suffered damages (losses) as a result of the alleged at-fault party’s actions. In order to receive financial compensation for losses, there must be an actual loss.

    Let Our Personal Injury Law Firm Help

    If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident caused by another party, contact a North Carolina personal injury attorney to find out what type of legal recourse you may have. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and more.

    The Carolinas personal injury lawyers at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have successfully advocated for many clients who suffered brain injuries in obtaining the financial compensation they deserved for their injuries, including a record-setting mild brain injury verdict for $60 million, which was settled while on appeal. Call us today for a free case evaluation.




  • What Is Loss of Consortium in a Personal Injury Case?

    If your loved one is seriously injured or killed in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, your life and your family’s life will be changed forever. The love and support – both emotional and financial – that your loved one provided will be missed by you and your family. In legal terms, this is referred to as loss of consortium.

    If your family is facing this issue, the legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn can help you pursue for financial justice for the loss of consortium. Although the law understands that nothing will ever replace that love and support your loved one provided, it provides a vehicle where the at-fault party is liable for that loss and must compensate victims’ families.

    History of Loss of Consortium

    For centuries, women were not considered individuals, but instead considered the property of their husbands. If something happened to the wife and she was unable to perform her domestic duties, perform her “wifely duties” in the bedroom, or was otherwise left permanently disabled, her husband could collect financial compensation for the loss of consortium he was suffering. As society began to recognize that women and men were equal, the laws were expanded to now allow wives to collect loss of consortium if their husbands were injured and killed. However, there are still some states (Virginia, for example) that do not recognize loss of consortium at all, no matter which spouse tries to collect.

    An example of a possible loss of consortium claim is as follows: A husband is left paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. The accident was caused by another driver running a red light and hitting the victim’s bike. Even more tragic, the husband was a construction worker and is now unable to work at his profession any longer. The husband can file a motorcycle accident claim against the driver to collect compensation for all the losses he is suffering because of the accident.

    However, his wife can also pursue damages for loss of consortium because of the impact the husband’s injury has on their marriage. The husband is unable to do many of the household and childcare chores he could before the accident because of the limitations his paralysis has put on his life. The couple’s intimate life has also been severely impacted because of the husband’s injuries.

    Some of the damages a spouse can be awarded for loss of consortium include:

    • Loss of the injured spouse’s income
    • Loss of the injured spouse’s affection and sexual relationship
    • Loss of the services the injured spouse provided, such as childcare, meal preparation, cleaning, home maintenance
    • Emotional distress

    Proving Loss of Consortium

    When a person files a personal injury case, proving what the economic losses are can be easier than proving what non-economic losses are. Economic damages – such as medical expenses and lost wages – have a specific dollar amount attached to them. Non-economic damages do not have specific dollar amounts. Instead, the attorney representing the victim and their family must use several factors to calculate what dollar amount the noneconomic damages are worth.

    Loss of consortium falls under the non-economic damage category. In order to prove loss of consortium, a spouse must be ready to share personal aspects of their marriage in order to prove how the victim spouse’s injuries have affected their relationship. This is why it is critical to work with an attorney who you trust and feel comfortable with sharing this information with.

    Some of the factors a judge or jury will consider when deciding whether the spouse has suffered loss of consortium include:

    • Whether the marriage was a loving and stable one
    • What the living arrangements of the couple were
    • How much companionship and care the injured spouse provided to the spouse claiming loss of consortium
    • The life expectancy of the spouse filing the claim of loss of consortium

    Contact a Carolina Injury Attorney Today

    If you have been injured in an incident caused by the negligence of another party, a North Carolina personal injury attorney can evaluate your case to see what damages you may be entitled to and what the best course of action is to obtain those damages.

    At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we have been fighting for injured victims and their families for more than three decades and will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve. Call our office today for a free consultation.


  • Can I change attorneys if I am not happy with the job they are doing?

    One of the most important factors to the success of a personal injury case is that the client and attorney are able to work together. A client that is unhappy with the way their attorney is handling – or not handling – their case has the legal right to terminate that relationship. Many of the clients come to Shapiro & Appleton for help when they realize that the attorney they hired lacks the skill, experience, and expertise to successfully represent them.

  • How do I know what type of attorney I should hire?

    It is critical to the success of your personal injury case to hire an attorney who specializes in injury law. Just like doctors who have specialties (i.e. neurologists, orthopedists, etc.) or trade workers who have specialties (i.e. finish carpenters, electricians, plumbers), there are also attorneys who specialize in one area of the law. For example, there are attorneys who only handle family law cases or criminal cases. This usually means that these attorneys have extensive experience in these types of cases, compared to a general practitioner has just enough experience in several areas of law to get by.

    At our firm, we have more than three decades representing personal injury victims. It is the only type of law we practice.

  • How will I pay legal fees for my personal injury case?

    If our law firm takes your personal injury case, we will charge you on a contingency basis. Contingency basis means that if we are unable to recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered because of your injuries, we do not charge you legal fees. We only get paid if we are able to recover damages for you. Litigation costs associated with your case are separate from attorney fees. These costs may include filing fees, expert witness fees, accident reconstruction fees, and more. In many cases, our firm will pay these expenses and then be reimbursed from the final award or settlement you receive. We can discuss these details during your free and confidential case evaluation.

  • What are the consequences for not disclosing prior injuries?

    Failure to disclose a prior injury can greatly jeopardize a victim’s case. Not only can it result in the court dismissing a claim, but a victim could also face possible court sanctions because of this omission.

  • Is it important to disclose prior injuries?

    When a victim has been injured in an accident, it is critical they be completely honest with their personal injury attorney about any medical conditions they may have had prior to the incident. This is particularly vital if the prior condition is in the same area as the new injury. It is better for an injury case to disclose the prior injury and work with their doctor to show how the incident aggravated the prior condition than not to disclose the condition.

  • What is the eggshell doctrine?

    In a legal case, the eggshell doctrine means “taking the victim as you find them.” This means if a victim had a prior injury or medical condition prior to the accident, the at-fault party may still be liable for any losses the victim has suffered and that their medical history cannot be used against them.

  • How will my attorney prove loss of future income?

    It is more difficult than proving lost income in the past, of course. You may have some amount of recovery that could allow you to go back to work in a different occupation or part time. So, the job of your lawyer is to prove loss of future earning power if you had not been injured and had been able to keep working in your current job until you retired.

  • How can I win a future income recovery under North Carolina personal injury law?

    Your personal injury attorney in North Carolina has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that your serious injuries mean you should receive future income recovery. If both sides of the case are able to settle before the lawsuit begins, the lost future income will be part of your final settlement.