When Should I Contact a Personal Injury Firm After An Accident?
As soon as possible. We recommend getting a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer before you talk with the insurance company, for several reasons:
- The insurance company representative is working to minimize the amount of money they payout for your claim. They usually mention that they’re recording the call, then start asking questions in a very friendly manner. Unfortunately, many people relax and start talking, and sometimes the insurance company later uses their words against them. Even if you don’t think you’re saying anything problematic, you’d be surprised at how an insurance adjuster can twist your words to mean something you never intended to say.
- North Carolina is a pure contributory negligence state for personal injury claims. What does that mean and how does it affect you? Contributory negligence statutes state that if the victim of an accident contributed in any way, even being so much as one percent at fault, then they aren’t entitled to collect damages from the at-fault party. Remember what we said about the insurance company recording your calls and potentially misinterpreting what you might say? If they can argue that something you said implies you were even a tiny bit at fault, they can then refuse to pay your claim on those grounds. (Whether or not they can prove you were at fault in court is another issue, but most people would rather avoid the stress, expense, and time it takes to go to trial.)
- The insurance company might make you an offer. What’s wrong with that? Naturally, you want to get your claim settled as soon as possible, so this sounds like good news. But often the insurance carrier’s first offer is not enough to cover all your damages. (We’ll talk more about that later.) You may not have received all your hospital bills yet, and you might not know how much follow-up care you will need. (In general, the more serious your injuries, the more treatment you will need.) You may also have other damages besides your medical bills that you haven’t thought about yet. Additionally, it’s difficult to figure out what all your damages are worth without the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. We highly recommend that you seek legal help before agreeing to any offer made by the insurance company.
- If you haven’t yet made a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, an attorney can help ensure you don’t miss anything and don’t have to make and keep track of multiple claims. They can also give you the peace of mind that your forms are filled out correctly, so your claim has the best chance of being approved.
What Kind Of Damages Should I Seek In My Personal Injury Claim?
This varies depending on what your actual injuries were, but many people don’t realize how many different damages they may have suffered in an accident. Here are some things you and your attorney should consider:
- A comprehensive list of medical expenses. This would be all the bills you are responsible for after your health insurance has covered whatever they’re going to. It includes things like doctor visits, hospital bills, surgeries, various tests (X-rays, MRIs, etc.), follow-up visits, physical or occupational therapy, any kind of outpatient care, inpatient care in a rehabilitation facility, etc. Don’t forget to include the costs of mobility aids or accommodations to help you after an injury – crutches, a wheelchair, a walker, any exercise equipment you need to do physical therapy exercises at home, etc.
- You should also consider future medical expenses if you’re still in treatment. Your lawyer will talk with you about whether your treatment is complete or if you are still recovering. In some cases, your attorney may suggest waiting until you and your doctor have a timeline for the completion of your recovery, or until you know how long you will need to be in treatment. If it appears that you may need ongoing care, you will need to seek more damages for that.
- Lost income. When you miss work because you’ve been hurt in an accident, you’re missing out on income. Even if you have sick days or paid time off, you’re still using paid days you could have taken at another time – like that vacation you wanted to go on. Make a list of how much time and income you had to forgo due to your accident so your attorney can include it in your list of damages.
- Loss of earning capacity. Unfortunately, if you were seriously injured, you may develop a permanent disability or chronic pain issue that prevents you from ever returning to your job. If this appears to be the case, you may need to talk with your doctor about the documentation of your disability. Your lawyer will then calculate your earning potential had you been able to continue working.
- Pain and suffering. The physical and mental effects of your injuries may continue long after the accident. For some, the physical pain can last weeks or months, or become chronic. Your emotional and mental health shouldn’t be overlooked, either. It’s common for people to suffer from anxiety, depression, insomnia, or PTSD following the trauma of an accident. All of these difficulties are considered damages that should be included in your claim.
- Loss of enjoyment. If you’re no longer able to do the things you enjoy, whether it’s working at your job, pursuing your hobbies, or even doing activities with your children, be sure to let your attorney know about this negative impact on your life.
- Property damage. Usually, this means damage to a vehicle in a car accident, but if any other property was damaged, you may include that as well.
What If I Already Filed An Insurance Claim And It Was Rejected?
This happens a lot, for various reasons. Because of the pure contributory negligence laws in North Carolina, there are often situations where the insurance company claims the victim contributed to the accident and therefore they don’t have to pay. In other cases, they may say this particular type of accident isn’t covered by the policy for some reason.
If your claim has been denied for any reason, don’t try to contact the insurance company yourself. It can be tempting, but this may not work out well for you. As we mentioned earlier, it’s easy to say something innocent that the insurer decides is proof of wrongdoing on your part, and you could inadvertently make the situation worse. Instead, take the letter and call a personal injury lawyer right away. In many cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the insurance carrier and convince them to reconsider. If these efforts don’t work out, your lawyer can help you take the matter to court and argue your case.
Am I Out Of Luck If The Motorist Who Hit Me Was Uninsured?
No. North Carolina requires uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on all auto insurance policies, so as long as you are insured, your policy should at least cover your medical bills up to the policy limit. (It will not cover vehicle damage though.) Specifically, your policy will cover the difference between what the at-fault driver’s policy covers and your own policy limit.
Not sure what your policy limit is? It’s not unusual not to know exactly what’s covered. Many drivers don’t know what their insurance does or doesn’t cover until they get in an accident. North Carolina requires at least $30,000 in bodily injury liability insurance for drivers, so it should pay at least that much. If you also have a “med pay” policy, you may have additional coverage for your medical bills. (Med pay is not required by the state, so not everyone has it.) You may also have purchased more than the minimum coverage. Your insurance policy should tell you exactly what’s covered and in what amount.
Unfortunately, sometimes people have extensive injuries that cost far more than the typical insurance will payout. If this is the case, your attorney may be able to help you identify other potentially liable parties, such as the driver who hit you, or third parties – like manufacturers of a defective car part that led to the accident, or a bar that overserved an already intoxicated patron who hit your car while drunk. If there is another avenue for securing compensation for your injuries, your lawyer will work to find it for you.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured, don’t wait – contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for a free consultation right now by calling (800) 529-0804. When dealing with this stressful situation, you need a knowledgeable team that will support you through your road to recovery. Call Tatum & Atkinson today! For personal injury cases in North Carolina, you only have three years (sometimes less) from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. There is no obligation, and it won’t cost you anything to find out what your options are for seeking compensation.