Wilmington Car Accident Lawyers
Legal Representation for Injuries from Vehicle Accidents
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you need to protect yourself. You need someone who is obligated to protect your interests. You must understand that the other driver’s insurance company, in many ways, must act antagonistically to you and protect others, such as their insured, their company, and its owners. Your insurance company will owe you certain duties, but it also must protect its own interests and that of its owners. These insurance companies cannot lawfully be fully on your side. They are required to protect the interests of people other than you. These statements are not meant to belittle the insurance companies; it is just a fact that they cannot concentrate solely on what is best for you, and often must fight you in order to comply with their duties to others. This is why you should hire a lawyer to protect your interests and only your interests.
Once you understand these basic concepts, you will not be as surprised when insurance representatives appear unconcerned about your well-being - denying claims, minimizing your injuries, or making lowball offers. You will also understand why it is important to have someone with a countervailing obligation to fight back, and fight only for you.
To get compensation that is worthy of your injuries and losses, you’ll need the representation of an experienced North Carolina auto accident attorney. Joel Rhine and his team at Rhine Law Firm, P.C., have 30 years of experience standing up to large insurance companies. We’ve won hundreds of millions of dollars for clients. We can’t be intimidated, and we will fight for you.
To get the compensation you deserve, call (866) 772-9960 for a free consultation.
Experience with a Wide Variety of Motor Vehicle Accidents
Rhine Law Firm, P.C., represents those injured in any type of car wreck; from rear-end collisions to multi-vehicle highway collisions. Making a claim while recovering from serious injury can be challenging to do on your own. Our Wilmington car accident attorneys have represented many clients who have been hurt in vehicle crashes resulting from:
- Speeding by a truck, car, or motorcycle
- Failure of a car, truck, or motorcycle driver to yield
- Dangerous lane changing, passing, merging, or turning
- Distracted driving: texting or talking on a mobile device
- Inadequate or improper vehicle maintenance
- Drunk, impaired, or tired drivers
- Teenage drivers
- Unlicensed and uninsured or underinsured drivers
- Recreational vehicles
- Collisions with bicyclists
- Collisions involving tractor-trailers and commercial vehicles
- Semi-truck accidents caused by driver fatigue, negligence, overloaded trailers, or mechanical failures
- Truck underride accidents, which often cause catastrophic injuries or death
- Construction zone accidents
What You Should Do After an Accident
When you are involved in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, the first thing to consider is your physical safety and well-being. If you are injured, prioritize your health and seek medical attention immediately. If others are injured, you should assist in contacting medical assistance if possible. If the crash results in injury or death, you must leave your car stationary unless it is not safe to do so; this allows law enforcement to assess the scene and interpret what transpired in the accident. If no one is injured and your car is drivable, North Carolina’s “fender-bender” law requires that you move your car to the shoulder or another safe place as soon as possible to increase highway safety. Failure to do so could result in a fine.
Contact the Police
North Carolina law requires those involved in a vehicle collision to immediately contact the police if injury or death occurs, or if property damage exceeds $1,000. Law enforcement may assign fault in the accident and/or issue tickets. They usually gather insurance and identification details from all those involved and provide this information at the scene to the drivers in a Driver Exchange Report. The officer will also prepare a police report that you should be able to access online or in person within a few days. The police report may contain details that end up being influential in settlement negotiations or a civil lawsuit.
Gather and Document Information
Be sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses, especially if the witness does not speak with law enforcement. Take photos of all important details - the vehicles, any injuries, and the scene. Make notes of accident specifics while they are still fresh in your mind. Keep all documentation related to the incident stored in one location.
Know Your Rights
Do not give any recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company or sign insurance company documents until your accident attorney has reviewed them. Any preliminary personal injury settlement offers from a driver’s insurance company should be redirected to your attorney also.
Accident Claims and Adjusters
If you did not cause the crash, you should generally file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Most insurance companies will assign an adjuster to handle the property damage claim and a different adjuster to handle the bodily injury claim. But do NOT provide a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company unless agreed to by your attorney. You are not providing a recorded statement if you hear a recording say that the call may be recorded for quality assurance. Adjusters normally specifically request a recorded statement and schedule a time for it.
If you carry collision coverage, you have the option to file a claim for your vehicle damage with your own insurance company, which has a duty to act in good faith toward you. You will have to pay any deductible, but if you were not at fault, your insurance company will usually try to get reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company. When they do, they must refund your deductible. You are generally required to provide a recorded statement to your own insurance company if they request it, but always check with your attorney first.
Your attorney will investigate and pursue this claim against the at-fault driver. You should only let your attorney communicate with the bodily injury adjuster, and once your attorney sends a letter of representation to the bodily injury adjuster, they should not attempt to contact you further.
Several factors influence an insurance adjuster’s assessment of bodily injury claims, such as:
- The significance of vehicle damage and whether airbags were deployed;
- Results of medical examinations and if supporting evidence illustrates the injury, such as through X-rays or MRIs;
- If emergency medical services were necessary;
- The limits of liability under the insurance policy, and many more.
Rental Car Coverage and Loss of Use
Generally, if the at-fault driver renders your vehicle inoperable, that person’s insurance must compensate you for the loss of use of your vehicle. They may provide you with a rental, but they are permitted to pay you a reasonable rental rate for a reasonable time for the loss of use of your vehicle, even if you do not actually get a rental. If your vehicle is not totaled and is able to be repaired, they will owe you for loss of use for the reasonable repair time. If your vehicle is safely drivable, you will be expected to drive it while parts are being delivered to the repair shop, etc., and will be compensated or provided a rental car for the time when the car must be in the shop.
If your vehicle is totaled, North Carolina provides that you should be provided a rental or otherwise compensated if a substitute vehicle is not immediately available. You may recover for loss of use for the time it takes to reasonably acquire a substitute (usually this means buying a new car). The law does not define how long this is, but typically you can get about two weeks of rental time, depending on the circumstances. Again, you do not have to actually rent a vehicle to receive compensation for loss of use of your vehicle.
When to Settle a Claim
If you incur very minor injuries that do not require medical attention, it is probably not worthwhile to pursue the matter further with an attorney. Your best course of action is to focus on having your car repaired. In accidents resulting in moderate or severe injuries, you should always consult with an attorney.
If you were at fault and caused the wreck, you do not have a claim against the other drivers’ insurance company for injuries or vehicle damage. If you carry collision coverage on your insurance policy, you can file a claim on your own insurance to repair your vehicle. If the other driver is injured and ends up filing a lawsuit against you, your insurance company is usually required to provide a lawyer to represent you. Our attorneys do not represent drivers who caused the wreck.
Auto Accident Liability Laws in North Carolina
The insurance company of the driver that is "at fault" for a crash must compensate the accident victim for damage to the victim’s vehicle, medical bills, pain and suffering, and more, up to the policy limits. However, North Carolina is one of the few states that adheres to "pure contributory negligence." This means that if the victim is in any way responsible for the accident, he or she can collect no damages from the other driver.
For example, imagine you are stopped at a red light. Your light turns green, so you move into the intersection without looking both ways and making sure the intersection is clear. A driver coming the opposite direction runs the red light and slams into you. The other driver would be at fault for the crash. But you were required to keep a proper lookout, so you were partially at fault when you went into the intersection without looking and could be ineligible for any compensation from the driver who hit you.
Under the concept of pure contributory negligence, being even 1% responsible for an accident prevents you from collecting any compensation from the other party. Our attorneys are highly experienced at analyzing car accidents to determine whether you have grounds for a legal case.
North Carolina Auto Liability Insurance Requirements
The state requires all motorists to maintain auto liability insurance coverage. The minimum requirements are $30,000 per person for bodily injury, $60,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 for damage to property. In addition, uninsured motorist coverage is required, and many drivers opt to purchase underinsured motorist coverage.
- Liability for bodily injury: This coverage pays for damages to others in an accident. Examples include expenses for medical treatment, rehabilitation, funeral costs, pain and suffering, and more.
- Liability for damage to property: Covers damages to property of others, including repairs to a damaged vehicle or replacement of totaled vehicle.
- Uninsured motorist: Used when the at-fault driver in an accident does not have insurance.
- Underinsured motorist: Used when the at-fault driver in the accident has insufficient insurance to cover the damages.
North Carolina law allows passengers to bring claims for damages against all at-fault drivers involved in an accident. Passengers who are in a vehicle that is involved in an accident are prohibited from leaving the scene until cleared to do so by law enforcement.
Accidents Caused by Defective Products
There may be times when an accident is caused by a poorly-designed or manufactured vehicle or vehicle part. In these cases, the defective part's maker may be liable for any damage it caused. There have been numerous cases in the past where defective tires, airbags, brakes, and other parts have caused injury and death.
Hire Us for Your Car Accident, We'll Handle All Your Injury Claims
Any injury resulting from a car wreck is unexpected and inconvenient, to say the least. However, the lasting effects of a catastrophic injury or wrongful death require justice.
Our firm can help you hold negligent or careless drivers and their insurance companies financially responsible for your medical expenses, rehabilitative costs, income loss, home modifications (if necessary) and most importantly, the pain and suffering you have endured.
If you have been injured in a car accident, we invite you to contact Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 772-9960 or toll-free (866) 772-9960 for a free initial consultation with one of our Wilmington personal injury attorneys regarding your legal needs. Our law office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request. We offer Spanish interpretation and translation services.
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