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Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident?
Thursday, February 1, 2024

North Carolina car accident rates are above average compared to the previous five years, with more than 273,000 accidents occurring in 2022.1 These accidents resulted in 110,544 injuries;2 many of which were passenger injuries. Despite the fact that these innocent passengers did not cause the accident, they now face serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries.

When you find yourself in a car accident because of another party's negligence, what happens next? Most importantly, you should seek all necessary medical care and treatment. Speaking to an attorney as early as possible will also help you navigate the situation. Whether it be answering questions about insurance coverage, evaluating potential claims against other parties involved in the wreck, negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf, or filing a lawsuit, car accident attorneys can help you with your case.

North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers – Why Do I Need One?

Navigating a car wreck can be difficult. Our local accident attorneys have extensive experience with North Carolina auto accident laws. Hiring a car accident lawyer to handle your claim also allows you to focus on your or your loved one's recovery. 

At first blush, navigating a car wreck may not seem difficult. However, these cases are complex. A car accident lawyer will help you navigate the intricacies of North Carolina law and will work to maximize your recovery.

Statute of Limitations. In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for car accidents and other personal injury cases typically is three years. In a wrongful death claim, surviving family members must file a claim within two years. A car accident lawyer can ensure you bring your claim at an appropriate time.

Navigating Sources of Insurance. In some car wrecks, more than one party may be at fault. If, for example, someone else owns the vehicle that the at-fault driver is operating, both the owner's and driver's insurance policies may be triggered. Further, if the at-fault driver is an employee operating a company vehicle or is an employee engaged in the course and scope of employment at the time of the wreck, the at-fault driver's employer may be liable. An at-fault driver's family member may also be liable through the "family purpose doctrine," if the at-fault driver was using the vehicle with the family member's express or implied consent. These are just a few examples of how a car accident may trigger multiple liability policies. Having a car accident lawyer help you find and exhaust all policies is important.

Policies providing Underinsured Motorist coverage (UIM) and Uninsured Motorist coverage (UM) may also apply. UIM coverage applies when the at-fault party does not have enough liability insurance to cover the damages of your injuries. North Carolina law does not require UIM coverage, but many North Carolinians purchase this coverage. If you have UIM coverage, it will cover the gap that is left between the at-fault party's liability insurance and your damages. For example, if the at-fault driver's liability insurance is $30,000 and your UIM policy is set at $250,000, you could recover $30,000 from the at-fault driver's insurance, and if needed, recover up to the remaining $220,000 from your UIM policy.3 UM coverage applies in the same way; however, it is for situations in which the at-fault driver is illegally driving without insurance. In this case, if you carry a UM policy, your own insurance policy will compensate you rather than receiving any amount from the at-fault, uninsured driver. 

An Injured Passenger. If you were a passenger involved in a car accident, different liability policies may be triggered depending on the circumstances. For example, if both the driver of the vehicle you were traveling in and the driver of the other vehicle were partially at-fault, both drivers' liability policies will apply if your damages are higher than one of the policies alone. UIM coverage may also be "stacked" in these situations, permitting the UIM coverage of the driver of the vehicle you were traveling in and your UIM coverage to "stack" on top of each other to maximize your recovery.

If you were in an Uber or a Lyft when the accident occurred, both companies offer their own third-party liability insurance, which has much higher limits than the North Carolina minimum limits. If injured during an Uber or Lyft ride, both companies' insurance typically provides up to $1 million in third-party liability coverage. This $1 million includes UM and UIM coverage if the at-fault driver does not carry adequate insurance coverage. Therefore, if you are a passenger in a car accident, it is important to contact a car accident lawyer to help determine all available insurance policies.

Investigating the At-Fault Driver. A car accident lawyer can help you investigate an at-fault party to determine additional points of liability or sources of compensation. The sooner a car accident lawyer is involved, the sooner they can request information from the DMV, systems/tracking data, alcohol and drug testing results, inspection reports, employment documents and records, background checks, and asset checks. This is important for any car wreck but particularly important if you are involved in a collision with a large commercial vehicle. 

Evaluating All Compensable Damages in a Car Accident. A car wreck victim may be entitled to compensation for a host of injuries—both economic and non-economic:

  • Medical care and expenses
  • Lost wages and diminished earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanency, scarring, and disfigurement
  • Property damage

In some cases, you may be entitled to punitive damages. This arises when the at-fault driver engages in egregious behavior, such as driving at unsafe speeds or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is rare to receive punitive damages, as you must prove fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct. However, a seasoned North Carolina accident law attorney can evaluate all potential damages you may be entitled to receive after a car wreck.


Following a car accident, time is of the essence. If you or a loved one are in a car accident at no fault of your own, it is imperative to contact a North Carolina car accident attorney. Our attorneys can help you navigate the situation and recover all compensation you are entitled to receive, and you can focus on your recovery.

ND:4867-4533-3655, v. 3

12022.pdf (ncdot.gov)
22022.pdf (ncdot.gov)
3In 2023, North Carolina's legislative changes also impacted UIM policies. For policies and renewals issued on or after January 1, 2025, there is no longer a setoff. Therefore, those who carry a UIM policy can expect to collect the full amount of their policy in addition to the at-fault driver's full liability policy.  Using the example above, you could recover $250,000 from your UIM policy and $30,000 from the at-fault driver, totaling a maximum recovery of $280,000.

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