Tips to Secure the Most Compensation after a North Carolina Car Wreck
Car wrecks happen. They happen multiple times every day in our own town of Charlotte, NC. Sometimes there are injuries, and sometimes there aren’t. Whatever the case, no matter how big or small, if you weren’t at fault, then you want to recover whatever you can. The following tips aren’t hollow points instructing you to do simple tasks that you can check-off, but real information to get you where you want to go. Throughout the article, though, you’ll begin to feel how meticulous and complex the process can be if you want to recover all that the law will allow. Pay attention, and read on because what you do after the car wreck matters. There are certain steps that can help you prepare for your claim, and potentially, your lawsuit. The following is a basic summary.
THE CAR ACCIDENT
So, the collision just happened, and that’s probably why you are reading this article. You can’t go back in time and do it over again so you may not have been able to utilize all the following tips, but that’s ok, at least you’ll know what’s missing and you can try to fill the gaps later.
At the scene of the auto collision, you may or may not be conscious. If you are not conscious, then you can’t do anything, including exchange information and collect evidence. You are dependent on whatever evidence the police gather.
If you are conscious, you should (or should have) attempt(ed) to fulfill the following actions:
- Assess your surroundings. Are you ok? How are your passengers? Are they injured? What about the car and surrounding environment? If there are any hazards, respond appropriately and immediately. In North Carolina, you have a duty (1) to help anyone injured (but do not move an injured person unless a vehicle is on fire); and/or (2) to take precautions to prevent further accidents.
- Call 911 to report the accident. According to North Carolina law, you are not required to contact law enforcement unless a person is injured or there’s more than $1,000 worth of damage to the cars and personal property. Regardless, it is best to call the police so at least there is a record of it for purposes of an insurance claim or potential lawsuit. To note, sometimes the police will not come to the scene, depending on how minor the accident is, and if that’s the case, then it is even more important to follow the next steps.
- Exchange Information. In North Carolina, if you are in a motor vehicle accident, you are required to exchange (1) contact information, including name, address and phone number; (2) insurance information; (3) driver license numbers; and (4) license plate numbers of all involved vehicles. It is also important to get the driver’s license and plate number of the other driver and the car, if possible. If you have a smartphone, simply take a quick photograph of the license plate number.
- Collect evidence. Take photographs, make small talk to see if the other party exposes anything (e.g., maybe he was texting when he hit you). Look to see if there were any witnesses and take their contact information and statement. (Try to get a statement on the scene, even if you contact them later, because the accident is fresh in the mind). Take note if law enforcement cites anyone for traffic violations.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ACCIDENT
- Preserve evidence. If you are injured but were not taken to the hospital by ambulance, then you want to seek medical attention. Go to the ER or Urgent Care. There, a medical professional will check your injuries and record it in the chart that you sought medical attention due to a motor vehicle collision.
After you seek medical attention, follow-up exactly as the medical practitioner suggests. Also, be certain to advise the medical practitioners exactly of the pain and suffering you are feeling. In doing so, it also becomes part of the medical record. An insurance company is more likely to believe the medical record than you stating the same.
Maintain all records and billing statements. You also want to preserve any physical evidence from the scene, e.g., a bloody shirt (save as-is, do not wash).
- Report to your auto insurance. After the auto collision, usually within a 24-hour time limit requirement, you need to report the accident to your insurance company. This act starts the claims process.
Note: At this point, if you have only property damage to your car, then the insurance company will likely work out the details for you. You may elect to get reimbursed for property damage, or have the repairs done through your own insurance company, rather than the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Keep in mind if you elect to use your own insurance company than you will have a deductible to satisfy. Your insurance company will attempt to recover this deductible payment for you from the at-fault driver’s insurance. Also note that in North Carolina, you may have a right to the diminished value of your vehicle
If you have personal injuries, continue to read on.
- Maintain evidence. Keep all photographs, bloody clothes, witness information and statements, ER reports, etc. in a location no one will tamper with them. Also, keep copies for an attorney.
- Gather more evidence. Go back to the scene and take more pictures. Request video footage. Request copies of any police report, MVC report, and/or incident report. You can also request your driving record to show your history of good driving/lack of traffic violations. Write your own narrative of the accident, and include details such as the weather, road conditions, wearing a seatbelt and following traffic rules. Research the law and local statutes.
- Organize evidence. Once you have all the evidence you can find, start to organize it. Put the pieces together and build your argument.
- Interpret evidence. What does the evidence mean? What story does it tell? You, or more likely your attorney, will begin to draft the demand letter for negotiations to resolve your claim. The demand letter will be almost always be sent to the third party insurance company. You must provide legal argument and proof to support all claims.
As you see, your right to compensation revolves around the evidence. You must be able to collect hard and soft evidence and then organize and analyze it in the best and most persuasive way. An experienced attorney can do just that for you.
DO IT ALONE OR HIRE AN ATTORNEY
Clearly, collecting and putting the evidence together is a long and arduous process. You must have the following qualifications to conduct the above successfully:
- Investigative skills;
- Legal analysis skills;
- Writing skills;
- Creative skills; and
- Critical thinking skills.
Most of us don’t possess all of these qualifications. And most of us don’t know where to begin to gather the various reports and other evidence that is needed to succeed. But lawyers do. That’s their job.
Some insurance claims are simple and are dealt with rather quickly, therefore, you do not need to worry about finding an attorney. In simple cases, an insurance company will likely compensate full costs without any issue. These claims are usually fender benders with no personal injury attached to the car accident.
But when the accident is complicated by circumstance and injury, problems arise and outcomes are not necessarily predictable. If you know the latter to be true, then you should seriously consider hiring a personal injury attorney. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner you can be represented by a qualified and experienced individual. When you hire an attorney, you should be able to expect the following:
- Knowledge of the insurance industry and insurance law;
- Knowledge of the claims process;
- Negotiation skills;
- Expertise to write demand letters;
- Investigative skills;
- Legal research and analysis; and, among other things,
- Persuasive writing skills;
When you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, you no longer must worry about conducting and maintaining all the evidence yourself and compiling it in such a way that it best persuades the insurance company to pay the demand or fear a lawsuit. In other words, hiring an experienced Charlotte, NC car accident attorney is your greatest security to attaining the most compensation. Contact Brown Moore & Associates, LLC, in Charlotte, NC, if you want optimal compensation.