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Dealing with Car Accidents: A Charlotte Attorney's Advice

Like many other large cities, car accidents are unfortunately quite common in Charlotte, NC. The high volume of traffic, combined with factors such as distracted driving, speeding, and driving under the influence can often lead to serious accidents. The NCDOT reported 118,588  accidents in Charlotte in 2022, almost double that of any other city in North Carolina. Over 28,000 of those crashes involved nonfatal injuries, and tragically 351 of those crashes in 2022 resulted in a fatality. Drivers must do what they can to avoid being involved in a car accident, especially remaining focused while on the road.

Every person with a driver’s license should learn what to do in the event of a car accident before they are involved in one. Car accidents can be traumatic, disorienting, and chaotic, so in the moments after it happens, it can be challenging to think clearly or know precisely what to do. However, the steps you take following a collision can significantly impact the care people receive, the safety of the scene, and the ability to receive fair compensation for any injuries or damages incurred.

The First Steps to Take After an Accident 

Knowing how to respond involves several key components: ensuring the safety of all parties involved, contacting the authorities, documenting the scene and details of the accident, seeking necessary medical attention, and reaching out to a knowledgeable car accident attorney. Each of these steps plays a crucial role in preserving your rights and interests after an accident.

According to the NC Department of Insurance’s website, here are the very first steps you should take when you are in an accident: 

  • Stop your car in a safe place.
  • Move your car, if needed, to protect against further damage and keep from blocking traffic.
  • Call the police, especially when there are injuries or hit and run accidents.
  • Get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, license plate number, driver’s license number and insurance information.
  • Record the name of the insurance company and policy number exactly as it appears on the other driver’s proof of insurance card.
  • Get the names of any witnesses as well as their address and telephone number.
  • Don’t agree to forget about the accident. You may have hidden damages, unknown injuries or later find that a lawsuit has been filed against you.
  • Call your agent if you have any questions or concerns with the claims process. Your agent could be of assistance when filling out forms and documents required to proceed with your claim.

We suggest that you contact a reputable personal injury law firm before you even contact your insurance agent and let them guide you through the process.

Understanding North Carolina’s Car Accident Laws

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident also requires a fundamental understanding of the laws that govern personal injury law in North Carolina. North Carolina is one of the few states that operates under what's called a "contributory negligence" rule. In simple terms, this means that if you're found to be even 1% at fault for the accident, you could be barred from recovering any damages. 

For example, if you were speeding when another driver ran a red light and hit your car, you might be found partially at fault for speeding, and thus unable to receive compensation. This rule can make it incredibly challenging to receive compensation after an accident, and it emphasizes the importance of careful and thorough investigations to establish fault.

You also have to be aware of the statute of limitations around personal injury claims. In North Carolina, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit and three years to file a property damage lawsuit. If you fail to file your lawsuit within this time frame, you may lose your right to seek compensation for your damages. 

The Importance of Establishing Liability

Establishing liability, or determining who was at fault in the accident, is a crucial part of any car accident case. This is particularly important due to North Carolina's contributory negligence rule, as mentioned above. 

Identifying the at-fault party requires you to gather evidence, get witness statements, and sometimes consult with experts. The party at fault could be another driver, but it could also be another entity, such as a car manufacturer in cases of vehicle defects, or a city government if hazardous road conditions contributed to the accident. 

Understanding these legal principles can greatly impact the outcome of your case. Therefore, it's generally recommended to work with an experienced car accident law firm who can navigate these complexities on your behalf.

The Role of a Charlotte Car Accident Attorney

Having a Charlotte car accident attorney who can assist you after the accident can make the all difference between you feeling overwhelmed and clueless about what to do and who to turn to and you feeling confident that professionals are doing the best job possible with your case. They can offer guidance, represent your interests, and help you navigate the legal pathways associated with car accidents. 

When they agree to take on your case, a car accident attorney will begin an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident. They will collect evidence like police reports, medical records, photographs of the accident scene, witness testimonies, and more. In some cases, they may also work with accident reconstruction experts or other professionals to strengthen your case. Gathering comprehensive evidence is crucial to establish liability and to demonstrate the extent of your damages.

After compiling all necessary evidence and information, the attorney will help estimate the worth of your claim. This involves not only quantifying your financial losses, like medical bills and lost wages, but also assessing intangible losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Having a professional estimate the value of your claim can ensure that you seek appropriate compensation for all your damages.

One of the key roles of a car accident attorney is dealing with the insurance companies involved. Insurance adjusters are skilled at minimizing payouts to protect the company's bottom line. Your attorney will use their negotiation skills and the evidence gathered to fight for a fair settlement on your behalf. They'll handle all communication with the insurance company, safeguarding you from potentially damaging statements and ensuring your rights are protected.

If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, your attorney will be prepared to take your case to court. They will represent you throughout the trial process, presenting your case, examining and cross-examining witnesses, and challenging the defense's claims. Their objective is to convince the judge or jury of the validity of your claim and the extent of your damages, in pursuit of a favorable verdict.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid After a Car Accident

After a car accident, the actions you take can significantly impact your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries and losses. Unfortunately, many people make certain common mistakes that can jeopardize their claims. 

Admitting Fault Prematurely

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, it's natural to want to apologize or express regret. However, even a simple "I'm sorry" can be construed as an admission of fault. In the eyes of the law and insurance companies, acknowledging fault prematurely can complicate your claim and may even lead to a denial of compensation, particularly in a contributory negligence state like North Carolina. It's crucial to remember that determining fault involves a complex assessment of the accident circumstances, which should be left to the professionals.

Failing to Seek Medical Attention Immediately

Sometimes, after an accident, the adrenaline and shock can mask the symptoms of an injury. Therefore, you might feel fine initially, but the symptoms may appear hours or even days later. Failing to seek immediate medical attention can not only exacerbate your injuries but also harm your claim. Insurance companies might argue that your injuries are not as severe as you claim or even that they were not caused by the accident. It's important to seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you feel fine, and to follow all your doctor's recommendations.

Accepting the Initial Insurance Settlement Offer without Legal Advice

Insurance adjusters often aim to close cases quickly and with the least amount of payout possible. As a result, the first settlement offer from an insurance company is often far lower than the actual worth of your claim. Accepting this initial offer without consulting a car accident attorney can result in receiving less compensation than you deserve. An experienced attorney can assess the offer in the context of your damages and negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you receive fair compensation.

By being aware of these common mistakes, you can help protect your rights and improve your chances of securing the maximum possible compensation for your losses following a car accident.

How to Choose a Charlotte Car Accident Attorney

Selecting the right attorney to represent you after a car accident is a significant decision. You want someone who can effectively advocate for your rights and interests. Here are some key factors to consider:

Not all lawyers are the same. When dealing with a car accident claim, you want an attorney who understands personal injury law, specifically car accidents. They should have substantial experience dealing with insurance companies and understand how to negotiate effectively. Don't hesitate to ask about their experience and areas of expertise during your initial consultation.

The attorney's track record on cases like yours can give you a sense of their competence and effectiveness. You want an attorney with a history of securing favorable settlements and verdicts for their clients. While past performance is not a guarantee of future results, it does indicate their level of dedication and skill. You can often find information about an attorney's past cases on their website or by asking them directly.

Clear and consistent communication is key in an attorney-client relationship. You want an attorney who keeps you informed about the progress of your case, explains complex legal jargon in understandable terms, and answers your questions promptly. Their accessibility is also important; you should be able to reach them or their office when you need them. Pay attention to how they communicate with you from your very first interaction and whether they're responsive to your inquiries.

Choosing the right attorney can greatly impact your experience and the outcome of your case. Take the time to research and consult with different attorneys before making your decision. Remember, this is someone you'll be working closely with and entrusting with your case, so you want to feel comfortable and confident in your choice. At Rosensteel Fleishman Car Accident & Injury Lawyers, we strive to make each of our clients feel comfortable with our team and confident in our abilities. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident in North Carolina, call us today at 704-714-1450 for a free consultation about your case. Our staff is here to help you get the compensation you deserve.

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