Car Accident FAQs

Although car accidents are commonplace, the victim of a collision is often confused about how to handle the situation and what to do next. In North Carolina there were more than 213,500 car accidents reported in 2012, according to the Department of Transportation. More than 700 led to unnecessary deaths.

Whether you have never been involved in a car crash or you’ve been in several, shock and confusion are common after a collision, and you’re bound to have some questions.

Have a question about car accidents that you don’t see here? Fill out our form to the right to ask your question now!

Car Accident

What is negligence?

Every personal injury case can be boiled down into two major components; liability and damages. Basically, liability is whether the Defendant is legally responsible for the incident and any losses which may arise from the accident. For the party to be legally responsible, he must first be found to have been negligent. Negligence is the failure of an individual or party to use reasonable care. Negligence is defined in the instructions a judge would give to a jury as follows:

“Negligence refers to a person’s failure to follow a duty of conduct imposed by law. Every person is under a duty to use ordinary care to protect himself and others from injury or damage. Ordinary care means that degree of care which a reasonable and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstance to protect himself and others from injury or damage. A person’s failure to use ordinary care is negligence”

Negligence must be proven in order for a personal injury claim to be successful and you, the injured party, has the burden to prove the other party was negligent.

Why should I receive medical attention after an accident even if I don’t feel hurt?

Receiving medical assistance is important after an accident as some injuries may not be visible, such as head trauma and internal organ injuries. Furthermore, some injury symptoms may not appear for up to 24 hours after the collision.

What damages may be recovered in an auto accident claim?

If the party who caused your injury is found to be negligent, and therefore liable, then the extent of the damages that party is responsible for must be determined. Damages are the amount necessary to compensate you for your loss and put you back in the same position, or as close as possible, to where you were before the accident. In other words, damages represent the monetary extent of your loss. Damages may take many forms including, but not limited to, past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, permanent injury, disability, scarring, pain and suffering, emotional distress, punitive damages and in some cases, loss of consortium (the deprivation of the benefits of a familial relationship – for example, a spouse). While some of these damages can be calculated objectively, many are subjective. An attorney can help present your objective damages, and most importantly, subjective damages to an insurance company or jury in the most favorable light possible in an effort to maximize your recovery.

What should I do if an insurance company approaches me to settle my personal injury claim?

It is important that you do not sign anything you do not understand, nor agree to a settlement that you are not comfortable with. Insurance companies will often try to settle claims as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Remember, the insurance company has its own interest in mind, not yours – which means you may be receiving inadequate or unfair compensation. Request a free consultation with Riddle & Brantley, LLP if you are concerned that you may not be getting a fair deal.

What do I do if I was involved in a hit-and-run collision?

It is important for a driver to try to remember as much as possible about the other vehicle such as the color, make and model, or any description of the driver. If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, you will need to turn to your own insurance company to try to cover your expenses, which can sometimes prove to be a difficult process if you do not have enough coverage.

What can I do if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

If you elected for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, then your insurance company should provide coverage; however, this can prove difficult as some companies may not provide adequate compensation.

If I was the passenger in a car accident, can I still make a claim?

Yes, passengers may be entitled to make a claim. A passenger, just like the driver, would have a claim against the other driver if they were hit due to the negligence of another driver. A passenger may also have a claim against the driver of the vehicle they were in if that driver caused the accident.

What is Medpay?

Medical payments coverage, also known as med pay, is coverage that may be available to help pay or reimburse you for medical bills or funeral expenses if you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an automobile accident. Under Med Pay, the insurance company agrees to pay “reasonable” expenses incurred for “necessary” medical bills and funeral expenses because of the bodily injury or death caused in the auto accident. In some situations, the adjuster handling your claim for the insurance company determines what is “reasonable” and “necessary”, not you or your Doctor. Most clients believe that their insurance premiums will go up if they use their medpay. This is not true. Generally, medical payments coverage provides protection for the named insured or any family member while occupying, or as a pedestrian when struck by, a motor vehicle designed for use mainly on public roads or a trailer of any type. Coverage is also provided to any other person while occupying the covered vehicle or any other motor vehicle operated by the named insured or by a family member thereof if the motor vehicle is a private passenger automobile or trailer. In other words, whether you are entitled to medical payments coverage from one or more policies will depend on the coverage available for the vehicle you were occupying, your own automobile policy, and any household relative’s policy. In other words, you may be able to “stack” the coverages of multiple med pay policies in some circumstances.

Medical payments coverage generally ranges from $500.00 to $10,000.00, but can be greater in some circumstances. We have even handled cases where there is up to $25,000.00 in medpay available. However, we usually find that the coverage tends to be $1000, $2,000 or $5,000. The actual limit of liability for each person covered under your med pay policy will be shown on the Declarations Page of your policy or renewal form. In addition, your policy most likely provides a standard provision that if there is a dispute regarding benefits or med pay coverage, you may demand arbitration. Obviously, this may benefit you greatly if you have been injured in an accident because your med pay money will help you get your medical bills paid prior to settlement of your case; therefore, it is important for you to discuss your case with a licensed North Carolina attorney who understands how medical payments coverage works. In addition, there are certain exclusions that could bar coverage under med pay. Most importantly, there are time limitations on med pay claims. The expenses must be incurred within three years from the date of the accident and you are required to give notice of the accident to the insurance company as soon as practical or within a reasonable period of time. What is a reasonable period of time may depend on the facts and circumstances. At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, we are happy to discuss how this coverage may apply to your case. If any medical payments coverage is available for you, we will help you get it.

Statute of Limitations – How long do I have to file an auto accident claim?

“Statute of Limitations” is a common phrase and very important legal term. In North Carolina the period of limitation is determined by a statute created by our legislature. It prescribes a period of time within which a claim or cause of action (otherwise your case) must be resolved by settlement or suit must be filed. Once the period has expired any lawsuit filed may be dismissed for failing to comply with the statute of limitations; therefore, it is important that your case be settled or for a lawsuit to be filed within the appropriate statutory time frame. Losing your right to pursue a civil action due to the statute of limitations can be unfair, but most North Carolina attorneys that handle personal injury cases ranging from auto, trucking, pedestrian and motorcycle accidents are familiar with the prescribed statutory time periods.

Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the accident. Whether your case involves an auto accident, tractor trailer accident, dog bite, slip fall in a store, or any other injury caused by someone else’s negligence, the time period to file suit in NC is three years. The actual wording of this law can be found at NCGS section 1-52(16). http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_1/GS_1… Please note that if your case settles before the expiration of this time period then this period of limitation will not impact your claim.

Some common causes of action that have a 3 year period of limitation are as follows:

  1. Actions for injury caused by the negligence of someone else (auto accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle or motorcycle accidents, dog bites, slip and falls)
  2. Intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress
  3. Malicious prosecution
  4. Actions for excessive force against an officer or actions against an officer for a trespass under color of his title, 42 USC sections 1981, 1983, and 1985.
  5. Actions for fraud or mistake
  6. Assault, battery and false imprisonment. http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_1/GS_1…

Other important time periods for other types of actions that are less than 3 years are as follows:

  1. Wrongful Death 2 years ( this means that even if the case is an auto case, you have 2 years following the date of the accident to settle or file suit) http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_1/GS…
  2. Libel, slander (defamation) 1 year http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_1/GS…
  3. Retaliatory discharge or demotion in violation of the Workers’ Comp Act 6 months http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_1/GS…

There is one main exception to a Statute of Limitation. The limitation does not begin to run against a person who is under a disability when the cause of action accrues. NC recognizes disabilities based on minority (being under the age of 18) and incompetency. The statute is tolled until the disability is removed or expires. These situations can be very complicated and you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling injury cases as to whether a true disability tolls the statute. In a lot of our cases, the disability involves a person who is under the age of 18. Even in these cases, we recommend consulting with an attorney as soon as possible, but definitely prior to the expiration of the 3 year statute of limitations, because the cause of action for medical bills incurred during the minor’s period of minority may expire and bar recovery for some medical expenses.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss any question you have concerning the Statute of Limitations or any other question concerning your case. We look forward to hearing from you.

When should I contact a lawyer about my auto accident?

It is important to contact an attorney to discuss your claim as soon as possible. Insurance companies will be working to settle your claim, so it is important you learn what your legal rights are before you decide to settle. Furthermore, speaking with an attorney when the accident is still fresh in your memory can help build a strong case.


If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver, the victim may be entitled to compensation for property damage, medical expenses, lost wages and more. An experienced North Carolina car accident attorney can help you determine what your legal rights are, and if the details of your claim warrant filing a lawsuit.

Fill out the form at the top right-hand corner to ask a question or to receive a no-cost, no-obligation review of your auto accident claim – it’s strictly confidential.