Differences in Virginia and North Carolina Car Accident Laws | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Both Virginia and North Carolina are “fault” states (legally referred to as tort-based), which means that if a victim was hurt in a car accident caused by another party, they can recover damages from that party.

It is not uncommon for a Virginia driver to be involved in a car accident while visiting North Carolina or for a North Carolina driver to be involved in a crash while visiting Virginia. However, it is important for victims to be aware of the differences in each states’ injury laws in order to be successful in a car accident injury claim.

Although both states allow victims to seek financial compensation for the losses their injuries have caused them, it is important to note that each state does have its own criteria that may differ. The following is a brief overview of Virginia and North Carolina injury law. Contact a Virginia and North Carolina car accident attorney for more details.

Statute of Limitations

Each state has set a statute of limitations for how long a victim has to file a car accident claim against the at-fault party. It is critical to be aware of how long you have to file because once that time has expired, so too has your opportunity to pursue damages.




In Virginia, a victim has two years from the accident to file a lawsuit against the party who is at fault for the crash. If the victim dies because of their injuries, their family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death case is two years from the day the victim died.

In North Carolina, a victim has three years from the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. However, the amount of time for survivors to file a wrongful death lawsuit if the victim dies is different – and less time – than for a personal injury lawsuit. North Carolina law only allows a two-year window from the day the victim dies for the family to file their lawsuit.   

Where to File

Regardless of which state you live in, any lawsuit you file will need to be filed in the state you had the accident in. A Virginia and North Carolina car accident attorney will be able to determine which civil court will have jurisdiction of your lawsuit and file with the appropriate court.

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately, both Virginia and North Carolina still follow the contributory negligence doctrine. This means that if a victim is found to be partially at fault for the accident, they will be barred from any recovery of damages.

Medical Bills

Depending on the extent of the injuries a victim suffers, the cost of medical treatment can run into thousands of dollars and more. Both state’s injury laws state that the at-fault driver is deemed liable for those medical costs, but it can take months for the claim process to resolve and even longer if the case ends up in litigation because of the failure of the insurance company to offer a fair settlement amount.

In the meantime, these medical bills could pile up. It is recommended that victims use their private health insurance to cover these expenses until their accident claim is settled. It is not uncommon for a private health insurance company to file a right of reimbursement (also referred to as subrogation) to recover the funds they paid out against the final settlement or award the victim receives.

Both Virginia and North Carolina have specific rules about the way this process works, as well as when subrogation is allowed. This is another important reason why a victim should have a Virginia and Carolinas accident attorney representing them, to ensure they receive the amount of compensation they are entitled to.

There are some differences in recovering medical expenses between VA and NC. Virginia still allows a personal injury victim to recover the face amount of their medical expenses in court. However, North Carolina changed some of the pertinent rules and if the personal injury victim has health insurance, normally the victim can only recover the amount of medical bills actually paid and covered by health insurance together with any out-of-pocket money paid by the victim. In other words, if there is insurance, less than the face amount of the bills can be recovered.

Lost Wages

Both North Carolina and Virginia have similar rules that allow for recovery of lost earnings or lost wages. They are typically recoverable to the extent that they are proven to result from injuries arising from the car wreck and assuming the at-fault driver is negligent. If the lost wages will continue for some considerable period of time, we may decide to retain an economist to help with establishing our client’s lost wages into the future.

Have You Been Injured?

The legal team at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp has offices in both Virginia and North Carolina. Our personal injury attorneys are well versed in the laws of both states and aggressively advocate for injured victims from both states to obtain the financial compensation they deserve. To find out how our firm can help you, contact our office today at (833) 997-1774 for a free and confidential case evaluation.