The likelihood of being involved in a car accident on any given day in the United States is high. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 5 million car accidents occur every day in the United States. That equates to approximately one accident every 60 seconds.
If you have been injured in a car accident it can be hard to think clearly immediately following the crash. The last thing you will likely be thinking about is whether you will have a legal claim against the driver of the other car and what you need to do to help build a successful case. However, after making sure that everyone is safe and dealing with immediate injuries, that is something you need to think about.
North Carolina, like many states, is an “at-fault” state. In an at-fault state, the person who caused the car accident is considered to be at-fault and will be responsible to pay for the injuries and damages caused to the injured party and his/her vehicle.
Unlike most states, North Carolina is also a state that follows the contributory negligence doctrine. Under the contributory negligence doctrine, if the injured driver is even partly at fault for an accident then the injured driver will not be able to recover damages. This can be a particularly harsh rule because if the injured driver is found to be even 1% at-fault, that driver may be precluded from recovering any damages. In the majority of states, which do not follow the contributory negligence doctrine, damages might be reduced by the percentage of fault found, but not completely precluded.
Since North Carolina follows the contributory negligence doctrine, it is important that you avoid taking certain missteps after a car accident to ensure that you preserve any personal injury claim that you may have and recover damages. Some of the biggest thing to avoid after a car accident are:
Admitting You Were At Fault
For many of us, our first instinct is to apologize after something happens, regardless of whether we were at fault or not. If you apologize at the scene of a car accident in North Carolina, that could be taken as an admission that you did something wrong, that you were partially at-fault. As discussed above, that could prove fatal to a personal injury claim in North Carolina because of the contributory negligence doctrine. Any statements or comments you make at the scene of the accident can later be used as evidence against you.
You should of course make sure that anyone involved in the accident is okay, but it is important not to apologize or admit any wrongdoing.
Refusing to Seek Medical Treatment or Follow Medical Advice
Obviously if you are seriously injured or if there is a clear injury, like a broken bone, then you would not refuse medical treatment. However, if you don’t see any immediate injuries or you just feel a little soreness you might be tempted to refuse treatment and move on with your day. This could be a serious mistake.
Not all injuries manifest themselves immediately. This is particularly true in the case of back, neck or soft tissue injuries. Often these types of injuries take a few hours to a few weeks to really present symptoms, or worsen over a few hours and days. If you fail to seek, or accept, medical treatment then the other party, or his/her insurance company, might argue that the injury was not severe or that it was caused by another event, not the car accident.
In addition, failing to follow a medical professional's advice could hurt your claim. If a doctor tells you that you have a slight neck injury and should take two days off from work to let it heal, and you fail to follow that advice and your injury gets worse, that is additional ammunition for the other side. The other side might try to argue that the severity of your condition was caused by you failing to follow medical advice, not by the car accident. This could limit your damages significantly.
Not Calling the Police
You may decide that it is not necessary to call the police after an accident. This could prove to be a mistake. Police are neutral third-parties who will document what happened which could be important down the road, particularly if there is a dispute.
Giving a Statement Before Talking to an Attorney
After a car accident, it is normal for the other side’s car insurance to contact you seeking a statement. As stated above, North Carolina is a contributory negligence state and if you admit fault during your conversation with the other side’s insurance company it can preclude you from recovering damages.
If you speak with a Charlotte, North Carolina attorney before speaking to the insurance company, he/she can advise you about what questions you should expect to be asked and how to best answer them so that your statement is truthful and correct.
Failing to Contact an Attorney
Talking to an experienced car accident attorney can be invaluable. An attorney can advise you about the law and discuss with you in depth the concepts of at-fault and contributory negligence.
In addition, a car accident attorney understands what is necessary to bring a successful claim. He/she will take charge of gathering information about the accident, talk to any possible witnesses that were at the scene and make sure that everything is documented.
An attorney can also handle dealings with the insurance company, which could be particularly valuable if you are seriously injured. You can focus on your recovery while your attorney focuses on your case.
Discuss Your Car Accident Case With Our Charlotte North Carolina Law Firm
Car accidents happen daily. The Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced car accident attorneys who can help you understand your rights and whether or not you have damages and should proceed with a claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.