What is the statute of limitation for a North Carolina automobile accident claim?
Assuming that you are a resident of North Carolina, the defendant is a resident, and your accident occurred in North Carolina, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of collision. This means that you have up to three years resolve your claim or file suit. You should note, though, that if a loved on was killed as a result of the accident, the wrongful death statute of limitations in North Carolina is only two years. If you have any doubt as to what your statute of limitations may be, you should contact an attorney. A failure to file within the statute will act as a complete bar to your claim.
What is contributory negligence and how does it affect my claim?
Contributory negligence is an antiquated rule that only North Carolina and three other states still follow. It holds that even if a jury finds you only 1% at-fault for your injuries, you may not be able to recover from the far more at-fault defendant. Other states apportion fault, such that if you were, for example, 25% at-fault, you would be entitled to recover 75% of your damages. There are some exceptions that can prevent the harsh result of contributory negligence, such as the "last clear chance" doctrine. Last clear chance is particularly important in cases involving pedestrians and passengers of drunk drivers. If an adjuster is telling you that your claim is barred by contributory negligence, you should immediately speak with a licensed North Carolina attorney. Adjusters consistently try to deny claims on the basis of contributory negligence when their argument have little to no merit.
What types of compensation am I allowed to recover?
The goal of personal injury law is to make you "whole," that is, to put you back in the position you would have been in had you not been injured. Your settlement should ultimately be based upon a projection of what a jury might award. Types of damages commonly recoverable include medical and pharmaceutical expenses; lost wages and diminished earning capacity; physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering; loss of enjoyment of life; and permanent disability or scarring.
I was hit by a drunk driver. Am I entitled to any special damages?
Yes! The law takes a tough stance against those who drink and drive. Under state statutes, you are likely entitled to recover "punitive damages." These are damages a jury can award to teach the defendant a lesson and to make an example of him or her. The amount recoverable depends upon a number of factors. For example, if this was the drunk driver's third or fourth DUI, then a jury is more likely to award significant compensation than if it was his or her first. The jury is capped by statute and can award no more than $250,000.00 or three times your compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
How can I pay for an attorney to handle my claim?
Nearly all personal injury attorneys handle auto accident claims on a contingency fee basis. This means that they do not charge unless the case is settled or a verdict recovered. Then, they will receive a set percentage of the recovery. Most also offer free consultations so that there's no risk to you of meeting and discussing the claim. If your attorney recommends suit, it is also likely that his or her firm will "advance" the costs of litigation. This means that the firm will pay for expenses such as the filing fee for initiating a lawsuit, serving the defendant, and taking depositions. Those expenses will usually be deducted from your settlement or verdict when the time comes. It makes it possible for you to hire an attorney without paying nearly anything until your case is resolved.
Additional resources provided by the author
For additional information on North Carolina automobile accidents, see the Maginnis Law "Protect Your Rights Blog" on our website.