If you happen to be among the more than 250,000 drivers in North Carolina each year who get into a car accident, you need to understand that there are steps you must take after a car crash because of state law and because of how auto insurance companies work.
North Carolina law requires you to stop and call police if you are involved in a car accident that causes personal injury, death or property damage. While there is no deadline for reporting a car accident to your insurance company, you should do so as soon as possible. However, you need to be careful in any communication with insurance companies that you do not say anything that indicates your responsibility for an accident or downplays harm you have suffered.
The lawyers of Hardison & Cochran in Raleigh can help if you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in North Carolina. An experienced auto accident attorney, like ours, can ensure you receive a proper and fair insurance settlement after being badly injured in a car crash.
In the meantime, these are the steps to take for reporting a car accident in North Carolina:
Report a Car Accident to Police in NC
Immediately after a car accident, you should determine whether you have been injured, as well as whether others have been hurt. If someone is seriously injured, immediately call for medical assistance. You may provide reasonable assistance to the injured and cannot be held liable for damages resulting from your efforts unless you are guilty of intentional wrongdoing or wanton (reckless, violent) conduct.
If you are injured and in need of medical care, cooperate with emergency medical responders and go to the hospital with them if they say you need to. You or someone acting in your behalf may then report the car accident to police as soon as it is practical to do so.
At the crash scene, if you are able, you must report the accident as soon as possible to local police or, if you are not within city limits, to the N.C. Highway Patrol or county sheriff’s department is it caused injury, death or property damage. This includes accidents that cause damage to unattended vehicles. Failure to properly report a car accident to police could result in a fine of up to $100.
In most places in North Carolina, you can dial 911 locally or *HP (*47) outside of cities to summon emergency medical and law enforcement responders after a car crash.
There is no requirement to report an accident that does not involve personal injury, death or property damage. But, if the other driver is at fault for such a crash and there may be some damages claim, it may be helpful to have a police report to create an unbiased record of what happened.
North Carolina law also requires drivers to exchange names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers and the registration number on their vehicles. You are required to provide the information if requested to the driver and/or occupants of another vehicle or a person struck by your vehicle. It is not required, but it is also good to exchange the names of your insurance companies and policy numbers.
In practice, the responding police officer, deputy or trooper will likely collect this information from each of you, including your auto insurance card, and complete the exchange, but you should have it ready in case it is requested.
Cooperate with police when they arrive, but as you answer questions, just provide the basic facts. Don’t say or agree to anything about who was at fault.
Get a Copy of Your North Carolina Car Accident Report
You will need to get a copy of the car accident police report to make a claim. To get one, submit a completed Crash Report Request Form (TR-67A) and $5 to the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. Get a copy by mail at:
NCDOT-DMV Traffic Records Section
3106 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27697-3106
Or get the report in person at DMV Headquarters at 1100 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh. (Note that DMV Headquarters is to move to Rocky Mount in the summer of 2020.)
A car accident report filed by police may be used as evidence if a lawsuit results from the accident. North Carolina law (G.S. 20-166.1(i)) specifically says “a report of an accident made … by a person who is not a law enforcement officer … shall not be used in any manner as evidence, or for any other purpose in any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of the accident.”
Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company
You should stay at an accident scene until dismissed by the responding law enforcement officer. As soon as it is practical afterward, you should make a complete report to your auto liability insurance carrier. You may have the option of filing an initial report online.
You may be asked to provide:
- The insured driver’s full name.
- Insurance policy number.
- Start and expiration date of the policy.
- Date, time and location of the accident.
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers for all drivers.
- General description of the accident.
Again, just provide the facts without judgment as to who caused the accident. Tell insurers that you have been injured by naming the injury — a broken arm, head injury, ruptured disc, etc. — but don’t go into details or offer a prognosis.
It is important that whenever you deal with any insurance company you avoid downplaying your injuries or property damage and make sure you do not admit or accept blame for an accident.
Turn Down a Quick Settlement Offer After a Car Accident
Do not agree to provide or sign a written statement for an auto insurance company. Be very wary of a quick settlement offer. A check may look like a nice amount of money, but a settlement offered soon after a car accident is based on prior accidents like yours and not your actual injuries, costs and losses.
Once you accept a check from an insurer, you will be unable to seek more compensation, regardless of what you deserve. Unless you have fully recovered and have a full accounting of everything a car accident has cost you, you don’t yet know what a proper insurance settlement looks like.
A car accident attorney can investigate your accident, determine the full extent of your injuries and losses, and press insurance companies for the settlement you deserve. Before settling a car accident claim, contact a car accident attorney like ours in Raleigh, N.C., for a free review of your case. We do not charge our clients fees unless and until we recover compensation for them.