When you leave the driveway in the morning, you never expect that the day will include a car crash—much less an accident involving an uninsured driver. But car accidents and injuries are an everyday occurrence in North Carolina. Even the safest drivers can sustain severe injuries in collisions caused by careless drivers, jeopardizing their financial security.
If another driver is responsible for the collision, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance should pay for your injuries and vehicle damages to the limits of their insurance policy. North Carolina Motor Vehicle Law requires all vehicle owners to maintain liability insurance as long as the car or other vehicle has a valid license plate. Unfortunately, not all drivers obey the law or act financially responsible.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 10 percent of all motorists in North Carolina are uninsured. There are a lot of uninsured motorists driving around Raleigh, Fayetteville and Wilmington.
The costs associated with an accident can add up quickly. It is important to understand your rights if you have been in a wreck involving an uninsured driver or a driver who does not have enough liability insurances to cover your damages.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in North Carolina
If you have automobile insurance in North Carolina, it includes several types of protection including uninsured motorist coverage and often underinsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) is mandatory. It will pay for medical bills for you, your family members or anyone occupying your car, if an uninsured driver causes an accident and injures you or anyone in your car.
Your uninsured motorist policy also pays for repairs to your car caused by an uninsured driver.
Accidents Caused by Underinsured Drivers in N.C.
While motorists may purchase varying amounts of vehicle liability insurance, North Carolina law requires vehicle owners to have at least the following mandatory minimum insurance levels:
- Bodily Injury: $30,000 for one person, $60,000 for two or more people;
- Property Damage: $25,000.
Some drivers have only the required minimum amounts of insurance coverage. Unfortunately, the minimum amounts of insurance may not cover all of the medical bills or other damages incurred in a serious accident.
If you are hit by an underinsured driver, your own underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) policy should provide protection when an at fault driver’s auto insurance is not enough to cover your injuries. Polices with limits greater than the minimums must include combined UM/UIM coverage. UIM will pay the difference between the other driver’s liability limits and your UIM limits in medical benefits.
You may also find some additional coverage under the Medical Payments section of your insurance policy.
UIM coverage does not pay for your vehicle damage however. If your car repair expenses exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, your collision coverage may cover the difference.
If an at-fault driver’s insurance company is denying your claim or your refusing to pay the full extent of your injuries, you may have a UIM claim. You should discuss the situation with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer.
Penalties for Being Uninsured in North Carolina
Uninsured drivers put their own health and financial security in jeopardy, as well as that of other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the road.
Common reasons why drivers opt not to get insurance include the following:
- High insurance costs due to past accidents or traffic violations, such as speeding tickets;
- Inability to get insurance due to a poor driving record;
- Motorists who are unlicensed and those who have lost their driving privileges due to DUI, yet continue to drive anyway.
In some situations, lack of insurance is due to a simple mistake on the part of the driver. They may have inadvertently allowed their insurance coverage to lapse, or they neglected to review their policy documents.
Even if you have been previously covered and have maintained a good driving record, you could face serious penalties for being uninsured in North Carolina. In addition to being personally liable for any accidents or injuries that occur, drivers who fail to maintain continuous motor vehicle insurance coverage face penalties and the forfeiture of their vehicle registration and the license plate. The civil penalties for a lapse in liability insurance range from $50 for a first lapse to $150 for a third or subsequent lapse in coverage.
It is important to review your policy periodically and discuss with your insurance agent whether you have adequate UM/UIM coverage or other types of coverage.
Additional Insurance Options to Consider
When it comes to insurance, the adage of better safe than sorry holds true. In addition to mandatory insurance requirements, there are optional coverages available, which drivers may wish to consider. While the following may not be required by law, they may be required by your auto loan lender if you are leasing or making payments on a vehicle:
- Collision coverage: This specifically covers damage to your vehicle caused by a collision with another vehicle or object.
- Comprehensive coverage: This covers damages to your vehicle due to theft, vandalism, or acts of nature.
Other optional insurance coverages include death and disability benefits, rental car and towing coverage, and coverage for custom equipment to your vehicle. Again, these are optional types of insurance, which you are not required to purchase by the state.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
If you or someone you care about is injured as the result of a car accident, contact Hardison & Cochran today. Our experienced North Carolina car accident attorneys can advise you on how to hold responsible parties accountable for the damages you have suffered, and assist you in seeking compensation to recover from the accident. We serve Raleigh, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and areas throughout North Carolina; call or contact us online today for a free consultation.