If you are in a car accident for the first time, you may have a lot of questions about what your insurance pays for, how insurance adjusters evaluate damage and whether or not your premiums will go up.
If you live in North Carolina and register a car, you are required to carry at least minimum amounts of auto liability insurance in case of accident. It is good to be informed about the process so that you can get the coverage you are entitled to after an accident.
1. What Does My Insurance Cover?
The amount of insurance coverage is specific to each policy. Because it can vary, check your policy to see the specific coverage amounts you have.
In North Carolina, the Motor Vehicle Law requires motorists to carry liability insurance.
The minimum coverage requirements are:
- $30,000 Bodily Injury for each person
- $60,000 total Bodily Injury for all persons in an accident
- $25,000 for Property Damage.
The law also requires uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage, known as UM, protects you if you are in an accident with someone who is at-fault and who does not carry insurance.
Underinsured coverage may also be required depending on what the limits are of your policy. Underinsured motorist coverage can cover the gap between what the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay and what your total damages are.
These are just the minimum amounts required under North Carolina law. Many motorists have automobile insurance policies with higher amounts of coverage and supplemental types of coverage such as collision and comprehensive coverage, which pay for repair of your car in various circumstances. In North Carolina, if you are found to be at fault in a crash, and the damage is greater than what your policy covers, you may be personally responsible for paying the difference.
2. Will This Accident Affect My Insurance Rates?
If another driver is at-fault in an accident, it should not affect your insurance rates.
If you are found to be at-fault in a car accident or partially at-fault, your insurance premiums may go up.
If the damage from the accident is only property damage of $1,850 or less, and you do not receive a moving violation conviction as a result of the accident, then you will probably not get any points on your driver’s license. Your insurance premium may stay the same.
Insurance rates are determined by your driving record, the type of car you drive, what you use your car for (you are charged less if you drive less), and where you live.
3. What Should I Do Next?
There are certain circumstances that require you, under law, to call the police. If anyone involved in the accident is injured or dies, or if there is total property damage of $500 or more, you must report the accident to the police. Repair costs of $500 or more are common in any kind of collision, so it is always best to contact the police after a collision.
Make sure to seek proper medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. You may need to return for follow-up visits to make sure that your injuries are properly attended to. Even if you do not need emergency medical treatment, you should still have a doctor examine you. Some injuries may only be noticeable in the days or weeks following your accident. Inform the doctor that you have been in a recent car crash.
If you ask your insurance agent about the next steps, the agent will be able to provide you with a rough timetable and let you know what to expect. There may be a number of details that they want you to provide about the accident. They will connect you with an insurance adjuster to evaluate the vehicle.
The insurance company may have a specific body shop for you to take your vehicle to, and they may provide you with a rental car while your vehicle is undergoing repairs. They can explain all of this to you when you call to report your accident.
Be careful during this process that you do not offer opinions about fault or your own injuries. See the tips below about what to avoid saying to insurance company.
Meeting with an experienced personal injury lawyer soon after your accident is a good idea. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the claims process, explain how fault and compensation are determined, and help you seek fair compensation for your injuries.
What Not to Say to an Insurance Company After a Car Accident
You need to be careful with what you tell an insurance company. Your comments could be used against you when it comes to paying your claim.
Here are things that you should not say to an insurance company after a car accident:
- Don’t make any statements right after an accident. You may be in shock, confused, or stressed.
- Don’t admit fault. Describe what happened without giving your opinion as to who caused the accident.
- Don’t say you are uninjured. Some injuries do not show up until later.
- Don’t give an official statement or recorded statement. Unless you have been counseled to do so by a personal injury attorney.
- Don’t accept a settlement without consulting an attorney. The at-fault driver’s insurance company may make a low-ball settlement offer, especially if you do not have a personal injury lawyer representing you. Do not accept a settlement offer without having a personal injury lawyer review it to determine whether it is a reasonable settlement based on the facts of the accident.
- Stick to the facts. If you don’t know the answer to a question, do not try to estimate or otherwise give your opinion.
- Medical records. Do not sign a release permitting an insurance adjuster to have access to your medical records. The insurance company may look through your medical file looking for pre-existing conditions to deny your claim.
- Preserve the privacy of others. Don’t provide the names of family members, or of doctors that you have talked to or consulted about the accident.
We Can Help
Hardison & Cochran has served the communities of Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Wilmington, North Carolina for more 30 years. Our personal injury attorneys are committed to providing responsive legal representation to our clients.
If you have been in a car accident, do not wait to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Call us today and schedule your free consultation.