FAQs: Auto, Truck, & Motorcycle Accidents
Who do I talk to?
If you’ve been injured, or have questions about a workers’ compensation or Social Security disability claim, call us. We’ll help you determine whether you need a lawyer and whether you have a right to monetary damages. The decisions that must be made after an accident or injury are very important, and must be addressed quickly. We will be happy to talk to you about your case.
The driver of the car I was riding in was at fault for the accident. Can I file a claim?
Yes, you may file a claim against the responsible driver’s insurance. It doesn’t matter if you were a passenger in their car or another car involved in the accident. Remember that people have insurance for a reason. The insurance company is ultimately liable for paying your medical bills and other expenses.
The accident wasn’t my fault. But I did get a traffic ticket for having an expired plate. Do I still have a claim against the other driver’s insurance?
As long as you didn’t cause the accident or play a role in causing it, you still have a claim. This applies even if you get a traffic citation for not wearing a seatbelt, for having expired plates or an expired license or other similar violations.
Why is the insurance company saying my car is a total loss when I know it can be repaired?
In the insurance industry, any repair that amounts to more than 75% of the value of the car is defined as a total loss. The insurance company will pay you the insurance value for the car. It then owns your damaged vehicle, which it typically will sell for scrap. If you want to keep your car, or if you believe you can’t get a similar value for the money, you may be able to get the insurance firm to sell you the wrecked car for its salvage value. You then can get it repaired and pocket any difference.
My new car was totaled just days after I bought it. But the insurance adjuster is offering me thousands less than I paid. What can I do?
Unfortunately, new cars immediately lose value when you drive them off the lot. The adjuster is required to pay the current value of the car – not what you paid for it.
You may also challenge the insurance company on whether the car is actually “totaled.” For example, if your car is damaged, but not “totaled,” you may have a claim for loss of value. If you try to sell your car after you fix it up, you will not be able to sell it at the standard used-car rate because it was in an accident. You may be able to receive compensation for this “loss of value.”
The same is true if you owe more on your car than it is currently worth. Let’s say your car was totaled, and the fair market value was $10,000. But you still owe $12,000 on your car loan. After insurance reimburses you and you pay off your loan, you’ll still be $2,000 in the hole and without a car to drive. Your only recourse may be to file a lawsuit.
I need a rental car. Will I be reimbursed?
In most instances, insurance companies will provide a rental car for you to use while your own car is being repaired. Even if the driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may be able to get a rental through your own policy. Even if you have coverage, though, rental car issues can become a real headache. The most common complaints? The insurance company may want you to return the car before your repair is completed, or they may want you to pay for a rental and submit the expense for reimbursement later. Your attorney or paralegal can advise you on your options.
The driver who hit me is uninsured. Does that mean I have to foot the bill?
Every auto insurance policy in N.C. contains coverage that protects you if you are hit by an uninsured motorist. The provision kicks in and protects you if the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance at all.
The same coverage applies if you are the victim of a hit-and-run. As long as you can prove there was a collision, and you notify your insurance company immediately (24-hour requirement), the uninsured motorist provision of your own policy will cover you. So if the driver flees the scene, get the names and numbers of people who saw what happened so you can document your claim.
We also recommend that people add underinsured motorist coverage to their insurance polices. Sometimes an at-fault driver doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover all your damages. In that situation, you could be left holding the bag on the expenses unless you’re protected by underinsured motorist coverage. Check with your agent to be sure you carry this valuable coverage.
I wasn’t able to work after my car accident. Can I get paid for the time I missed from work?
If your injuries prevented you from working after your car accident, you may be able to collect for lost wages. However, you must have documentation from your doctor and employer before the insurance company will consider reimbursing you for lost wages. Your doctor must specify, in writing, that you are unable to return to work for a certain period of time because of your injuries. In addition, your employer will need to complete a form certifying the dates you missed work and your wages.
An attorney can help make sure all the proper forms and paperwork have been completed for a lost wages claim. Even so, the insurance company may deny your claim, so we encourage our clients to return to work as soon as they’re able and medically cleared after an auto accident.
What if I don’t have healthcare coverage and can’t afford to see a physician?
Even if you don’t have healthcare coverage, you may still have treatment options. Most hospital emergency rooms won’t withhold treatment for the uninsured. There also are low-cost or no-cost clinics in most communities around the state. Some medical providers may even be willing to hold their bills until your settlement arrives and you are able to pay. Consult your attorney for advice on how to proceed.
Will the insurance company pay for me to see a chiropractor?
Seeing a chiropractor instead of a physician may actually weaken your claim and cause you to lose compensation that you otherwise might have received, if you had received the same treatment from a medical doctor. That’s because chiropractors are not considered medical doctors.
The documentation by a chiropractor may not carry as much weight in court or with the insurance company. Even if insurance pays for your chiropractic treatments, there will most likely be limits on the amount paid. That means you could be left holding the bag for the rest.
However, for people who don’t have health insurance, seeing a chiropractor – who doesn’t require payment up front – may be the only option. What’s most important is that you seek medical treatment for your injuries. If you must see a chiropractor, it’s a good idea to regularly check in with your medical doctor, who can provide additional documentation of your injuries and treatment.
The insurance adjuster is pressuring me to sign a release. Should I do it?
DON’T SIGN ANYTHING, no matter how insistent the insurance adjuster appears to be. Many people have unwittingly settled their claim by trusting an adjuster and signing a “medical release” or some other document they didn’t fully understand. While it can be tempting to get a check in hand, remember that you might not know the full extent of your injuries and costs right away. You might have future pain and suffering or lost wages that simply won’t be covered if you release the insurance company from further obligation. So sit tight and GET ADVICE BEFORE you sign your name.
How will my medical expenses be paid?
It can take a long while for most accident claims to be settled, but your medical treatment can’t wait. So you’ll need interim resources to help with those expenses until a settlement is negotiated. While an attorney can help you explore the many avenues open to you, the most common resources are below:
- Your own Medicare, Medicaid and private healthcare coverage
One of the hardest things for many accident victims to understand is why their own insurance has to pay if they were injured in an accident that wasn’t their fault. But in fact, your own health insurance can be a valuable resource for covering your medical bills – whether you’re covered by Medicare, Medicaid or a private healthcare plan. So don’t delay in getting to a doctor and protecting your health. We will help you deal with paying your insurance company back, if necessary.
- Medical Payments (Med Pay)
Most people do not realize they even have medical payments as a benefit in their auto insurance policy.Medical Payments (Med Pay) is a type of auto insurance that covers medical expenses for the policyholder, family members and passengers riding in the policyholder’s car, regardless of who is at fault. In order to collect, you simply need to prove that you’ve been injured and that the treatments you’ve received are reasonable.The typical Medical Payments coverage ranges from $1,000 to $10,000.You can collect Med Pay coverage even if you are covered by Medicare, Medicaid or a private healthcare plan.
How long do I have to file my claim?
For property damage, you’ll want to fine your claim right away. If you plan to sue the driver who hit you for negligence for injuries suffered in the crash, state statutes say you must file within three years, or within two if a death is involved.
How long will it take to settle my claim?
Settling an accident case is a complex process that can take time. But ultimately the slow and steady pace can be to your benefit. The size of your claim depends on the seriousness of your injury, and it’s impossible to know that right away. For example, what looks to be simple bruising could actually be a sign of a painful nerve condition or other lingering injuries.
If your case cannot be settled and goes to trial, it will take longer.
What is my claim worth?
The answer depends on a number of different factors. You should be compensated for your medical bills and lost wages related to your injuries, both past and future. You also should recover something for the pain and suffering the accident has caused you. If your injuries are serious enough, they may affect you for the rest of your life, and so you should be able to recover your lost earning capacity.
How much will it cost to get legal help?
Most attorneys who handle personal injury lawsuits do so on a contingency basis. That means the attorney representing you in your accident case earns no fee unless you win. It also means you won’t need to pay anything out of pocket. You can have expert representation even if you have no job, no savings, no home or no car. Your attorney takes care of all the upfront costs and then takes applicable fees and costs out of your final settlement. Generally, people who are represented by an attorney in an accident case will end up better off financially than those who are not represented.
Should I give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster? Do I have to?
Insurance carriers request recorded statements in a variety of situations. Sometimes their insured gave a different version of how the accident happened and the adjuster wants to hear the victim’s version. Other times liability may not be clear from the accident report due to multiple vehicles involved. But one thing about recorded statements is clear:
recorded statements are conducted by insurance companies to get as much information as they can regardless of whether that information is relevant to your claim or not. The information could, and most likely will, be used against you.
If the adjuster is calling on behalf of any other driver involved in your wreck, you are not required to give a recorded statement and shouldn’t without consulting an attorney first.
However, if the adjuster represents your own insurance carrier, then under the terms of your policy, you may have a duty to cooperate with the company’s investigation. However, a duty to cooperate doesn’t mean that you have to give a statement without consulting an attorney first.
Do I need an attorney to help with my property damage claim?
If there were no injuries, you probably don’t need an attorney. You can work directly with the insurance company on your property claim. However, if we are representing you in an injury claim, we are happy to consult and advise you of your rights regarding property damage.
Why should I work with an attorney?
Working with an attorney can result in significantly more compensation. In fact, statistics from the national insurance bureau show that claimants represented by an attorney average an award that is more than three times the size of those who represent themselves. Attorneys uncover benefits to which you may not know you’re entitled, deal with rude or nonresponsive adjusters and take a significant burden off your shoulders so you can concentrate on getting better and getting on with your life. They also can help you negotiate with health care providers and others to defer billing until your settlement check is in hand.
Do I need an attorney?
If you were not hurt, or the only damage suffered is property damage, you probably will not need an attorney. However, if you have been injured or have missed work, you should contact us immediately to help you get your fair compensation due from the insurance companies involved. Unfortunately, many insurance companies make it difficult to recover for certain kinds of injuries (such as whiplash) without a lawyer’s help.
What if I’m injured?
As with property damage, if the other driver is responsible for the accident, he or she is also responsible for your medical bills. If you have been injured, it is important to see an emergency room or urgent care facility doctor – or your family doctor – as soon as possible. If you’re hurt, don’t refuse medical attention at the scene of an accident. It may be advisable to take an ambulance to the emergency room to get checked out. Remember, an injury may not appear until long after the accident.