The Difference Between Fault Vs. No Fault Car Accidents
There’s no greater freedom than the open road. It’s one of the reasons cars are so beloved in America—they’re a symbol of independence, adventure, and possibility. Driving isn’t all fun and games, however. At Mulligan Epstein Attorneys, our criminal and traffic defense lawyers have represented many clients whose dreams of the open road took an unexpected detour. If you’ve been the victim of a personal injury or damaged vehicle as a result of a car accident, there are a few things to consider, remember, and do.
Auto Insurance: It’s the Law
While the specifics vary from state to state, one law in American is universal—if you’re driving a car on the road, you must have automobile insurance. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over 6 million car accidents per year. Insurance is a way to protect yourself in case one of those accidents happens to you, by helping to cover damages to your vehicle as well as personal injuries you may have sustained in the crash.
At-Fault vs. No-Fault Insurance
While we’re all required to have car insurance, these laws vary from state to state when it comes to who has the right to sue in the case of a car accident. There are three main categories your state may fall into:
- No Fault Car Insurance: This is intended to lower the cost of auto insurance by keeping small claims out of the courts. If you live in a state that allows no fault insurance, then each insurance company compensates its own policy holders for the cost of minor injuries, regardless of who is to blame for the accident. Only twelve states currently have no fault insurance, and it just so happens that North Carolina isn’t one of them.
- At Fault Car Insurance: North Carolina is a “fault” car insurance state. Also known as a tort-based system, the person who was legally at-fault for the accident bears the liability, usually through their insurance carrier, for damages and injuries caused by the crash.
- Comparative Fault: In some cases, more than one party is to blame for causing an accident. North Carolina is one of the few states that still follows the idea of “contributory negligence,” which means that if you share any of the blame for the accident, you’re not eligible for compensation. Also, since there’s no way to allocate fault in an objective or scientific way, it often comes down to who can best convince judge, jury, and insurance companies of their innocent.
What to Do After an Accident
In order to ensure your case is treated fairly, and to avoid the mess of comparative fault, it’s important to cover your bases and make sure things are handled correctly. There are a few ways to do this:
- Call the police and get an official report of the accident. The police are viewed by insurance companies as more reliable than bystanders, and their version of events will carry more weight.
- Gather evidence that can help your insurer determine the other driver was at fault. This can include photographs of the damage each vehicle incurred, testimonies from witnesses, photographs of skid marks on the street, and a report from your doctor about your own injuries.
- Never admit fault at the scene of the accident. You’re required to cooperate with the officers and exchange your information with the other driver—that’s it. Now is the not the time for apologies or assumptions. Even if you feel responsible, remember that there may be extenuating circumstances of which you’re unaware. It’s not your job to assign blame—leave that to the authorities and the insurance company.
How to Seek Compensation
If you’re involved in a car accident in the state of North Carolina and you are not at fault, there are a few ways to seek compensation for damages or injuries you may have incurred.
- You can file a claim with your own car insurance carrier, who will then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurer.
- You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
- You can pursue a third party car insurance claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Do You Need an Attorney?
In North Carolina, as in most states, there is a statue of limitations on how long after an accident you’re able to file a lawsuit. In the case of car accidents, you have three years to file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage. Three years is not as long as it sounds, which is why it’s important to ensure action is taken in a timely manner.
This can be overwhelming, especially when you’re the victim and depending on the severity of the accident. No matter what kind of accident you were in or who was at fault, it’s always a good idea to seek the counsel of an experienced lawyer, such as those at Mulligan Epstein Attorneys. We’ll fight for your rights and make sure your car accident impacts your finances and health as little as possible. Contact us today for a consultation and learn what we can do for you.