This page discusses types of personal injury cases and an overview of the process that an injured victim may have to go through to attain recovery. If you are looking for a Personal Injury Lawyer in Raleigh, NC and surrounding areas, give us a call today for a free case review, 919-615-3095.
Jack Keener, Attorney at Law, handles Personal Injury cases for The Bishop Law Firm. He enjoys protecting the rights of the injured and understands how difficult navigating injury claims can be.
Do I have a NC Personal Injury Case?
Anyone who is injured due to the negligence of another through no fault of their own can potentially have a personal injury case in North Carolina. NC is a contributory negligence state, meaning if the injured person is even 1% at fault, they can not recover on a personal injury case (but see Last Clear Chance Doctrine).
For car accident cases, the officer will sometimes issue a citation to the at-fault party, but not always. In other types of cases, it can be difficult to determine who is at fault and if you have a personal injury claim.
Though work injuries are usually governed under NC Workers’ Compensation, there are specific circumstances under which you can have a personal injury case for injuries you sustained on the job. For example, if you are a delivery driver and get into a motor vehicle collision while performing your job duties (through no fault of your own), you may be eligible for Worker’s Compensation through your employer and may also be entitled to compensation through a injury case against the at-fault driver.
Also, please remember that if there are passengers in your car (including minors) that are injured during an accident, they can also have personal injury claims against the at-fault driver.
How long do I have to file a NC Personal Injury Case?
According to N.C.G.S.§1-52 (16), the general rule for filing a personal injury court case in North Carolina is three (3) years from the date of the accident. Filing a claim with the insurance company is not the same thing as filing a court case. If you do not file your case in the appropriate court within the applicable statute of limitations, you will be barred from recovery. See below Litigation-Starting the Lawsuit.
There are some exceptions to the three (3) year time limit. If a minor is injured as the result of another’s negligence, the three (3) year statute of limitation does not begin to run until the minor’s 18th birthday. In contrast, if someone dies as the result of the negligence of the at-fault party, the deceased’s representative, usually the executor or administrator of the estate, has only two (2) years from the date of the individual’s death to file a wrongful death action in the appropriate court.
How long will it take to settle my NC Personal Injury Case?
The answer to this question depends on many factors. The more severe your injuries, the longer you will need to receive medical treatment for them. It is unwise to settle your case without including the cost of all your medical treatment: past, present and future. On average, NC Personal Injury Cases can take a year to settle without the need of going to trial. Trial will extend the time necessary to settle your case. The decision to pursue litigation should be discussed with a Raleigh Personal Injury Lawyer.
What can I be compensated for?
A victim can assert a claim against the at-fault party for losing time from work because of his/her injuries. In order to seek recovery for lost wages, an injured person must document the actual days he/she missed due to their serious injury and this must be verified by their employer. The employer should provide payroll records stating how many days were missed from work and the injured victim’s rate of pay. Self employed individuals should read Lost Wages and Earning Capacity.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and Suffering in NC personal injury cases covers the physical pain and mental suffering that a victim has to endure due to the injury they have sustained. If you break your leg, you will experience not only physical pain but also mental and emotional distress. Unfortunately, injuries can leave us with scars that affect our self-esteem. You could develop depression, anxiety, vehophobia or post-traumatic stress disorder after your injury. This is what pain and suffering damages attempt to compensate you for.
Medical Expenses- Past, Present and Future
In North Carolina, the at-fault party is responsible for paying accident-related medical expenses that resulted from the at-fault party’s negligent actions. However, receiving compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company can be a lengthy process, and medical providers want to be paid immediately for their rendered services. Many victims file their accident-related medical treatment on their private or government issued health insurance.
There are no laws in North Carolina that prevent people who have been injured in an automobile accident from filing their accident-related medical treatment with their own health insurance company. In many cases an accident victim’s health insurance company will pay some, if not all of their accident-related medical expense. However, certain victim’s health insurance companies can, and do, expect reimbursement of those expenses when a NC Personal Injury case settles. Read Medical Bills After a NC Car Accident.
Unfortunately, chronic conditions from accident injuries can arise and result in life-long disability (i.e. spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury). The cost of past, current and future medical expenses should be taken into consideration when thinking of settling a personal injury claim.
Scarring and Disfigurement
Unfortunately, injury can result in permanent scarring or disfigurement. Damages for personal injury includes fair compensation for the scarring or disfigurement which a victim suffers as a proximate result of the at-fault party’s negligence. Much like pain and suffering compensation, the amount of compensation for permanent scarring or disfigurement is determined by the extent of the alteration of the claimant’s physical appearance, and the embarrassment and mental suffering the individual will endure as a proximate result of the wrongful conduct.
Punitive Damages (in very specific cases)
In North Carolina, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant and deter others from egregiously wrongful acts. To be awarded punitive damages, your attorney must first prove the defendant is liable for compensatory damages and at least one aggravating factor was present and related to your injuries for which you were awarded damages. The aggravating factor(s) must be proved by clear and convincing evidence.
Hiring a NC Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are reading this page, you may be wondering why or when you should hire a NC Personal Injury Lawyer. Everyone does not need to hire a personal injury attorney to settle their case. The circumstances of your accident, the type and severity of injuries, and the compensation sought are factors to think about when deciding whether you should hire a Injury Attorney.
Why should I hire a NC Personal Injury Lawyer?
A NC personal injury attorney can set the tone for how the insurance company handles your claim. An attorney can help prevent your case from gathering dust on an insurance adjuster’s desk. Unfortunately, some insurance adjusters will try to hold cases until the statute of limitations run out.
After gathering all your medical records, bills, lost wage information, etc., a personal injury attorney will calculate your total expenses and send a demand package to the insurance adjuster ensuring that all your financial losses have been accounted for. This includes future expenses and pain & suffering. In complicated cases, expert opinions may be needed. A personal injury lawyer will find the right expert and ask the right questions to maximize your compensation.
An accident attorney may be able to obtain a higher financial recovery for you simply because the insurance company wants to avoid the cost of litigation. Litigation is expensive and most insurance companies want to avoid it. In addition, attorneys can investigate and add facts into evidence that a jury would appreciate when deciding your case. Lastly, and most importantly, a personal injury lawyer in Raleigh, NC can work on your claim while you focus on your health.
When should I hire a Personal Injury Lawyer in NC?
Deciding when to hire a personal injury lawyer is also an important question. Some clients like to try to negotiate with the insurance company before hiring an attorney and others obtain representation immediately after their accident. The answer to this question really depends on how comfortable the victim feels dealing with the insurance company. It should be noted that the insurance company can use your statements against you, but if you do not communicate with them at all there is no way that they are going to pay your claim. This can be tricky to say the least.
How much does it cost to hire a NC Personal Injury Attorney?
Attorney fees for a NC Personal Injury Lawyer vary, depending on who you hire. Generally, personal injury lawyers charge the client a percentage of the money they are able to recover. If no recovery is made, most attorneys do not charge a fee for the legal services they provided.
The Bishop Law Firm charges a flat rate of 33.33% of the settlement amount, whether that comes from the insurance company before filing a lawsuit, or whether it comes from taking your case to trial and getting a jury award.
Many at-fault party’s insurance companies will deny claims based on pre-existing conditions, even those that have nothing to do with your current injury. As is well known, at-fault insurance companies make every effort to minimize or deny a case and will spend much of their time reviewing your medical records to identify pre-existing conditions.
Contrary to what an insurance adjuster’s denial may say, simply having a pre-existing condition is not a bar to compensation. Only a doctor’s opinion regarding what caused your injury will be accepted as evidence that your injury occurred as a result of the accident. If your doctor cannot determine that the accident did, in fact, cause your injury, it is unlikely you will be able to prove your case.
A NC Personal Injury Lawyer can ask your treating physician the right questions to help demonstrate that your injury was caused by the at-fault party’s negligence.
Overview of a NC Personal Injury Case
Your personal injury case can settle at any stage of the process. Some cases are settled during the claim stage while other claims have to go all the way to trial for resolution.
After your injury, you should seek medical treatment and continue to follow your doctor’s advice. If the injured party dies because of the injury, it is classified as a wrongful death case.
In order to have an actionable personal injury case in NC, you must sustain an injury through no fault of your own. In some cases, it is clear who is at-fault for the accident. In other cases, the at-fault party can be harder to identify. Fault is a serious impediment to NC Personal Injury Cases because NC is a contributory negligence state.
After the injury, you need to inform the at-fault party or their insurance about your injury. Sometimes this can be a difficult task if you are dealing with an individual or business who doesn’t want to give you their insurance information. If you successfully contact the insurance company, they will open a claim for you. Your claim will be assigned to an adjuster who will contact you by phone or mail. The adjuster will want to communicate with you about the accident, your injuries, and your medical treatment. This communication can be informal or it can be handled during a recorded statement.
The question of how much information to give the adjuster depends on the circumstances of your case. Adjusters can use the information you give them against you, but not giving them any information will result in a denial of your claim. This can be tricky. Your medical treatment, accident-related expenses, missed time from work, and travel expenses should be reported to the adjuster.
If you are unsure what information, if any, you should provide to the adjuster, contact a personal injury lawyer in Raleigh, NC who can help you navigate the process.
After you have completed medical treatment, the insurance adjuster will usually make a first low-ball offer in an attempt to get your claim off their desk. Sometimes, adjusters make offers before you are finished treating because they are trying to avoid having to pay for all the medical treatment that you need.
If you are willing to accept the insurance adjuster’s offer, you are done. But proceed with caution. You need to ensure that all your expenses will be paid by the settlement they are offering. Many do-it-your-selfers find that medical bills continue to roll in long after the settlement, which actually means you are going to have to pay twice for someone else’s negligence.
Litigation – Starting the Lawsuit
If you are unwilling to accept the insurance adjuster’s offer, your next move is to file a court case. This is accomplished by filing a complaint in the NC county court in which the accident occurred. Superior courts handle matters in excess of $25,000. Any lower dollar amounts are held in District Court. You do not have to know the exact dollar amount to know where to file. You simply have to allege what is in your best belief. In this case, you are the plaintiff and the at-fault party is the defendant.
In addition to a complaint, you need a civil summons and discovery to get your court case going. After you file your Complaint and pay the $200 filing fee to the Clerk of Court and $30 service fee to the county Sheriff’s office, the sheriffs will attempt to achieve service on your defendant. They have 30 days to serve the Complaint on your defendant. If service is not completed in 30 days, you will have to find a new address, refile the civil summons, and pay the $15 service fee in order to direct the sheriffs to the correct place to attempt to serve your defendant with the Complaint.
After the defendant has been served (essentially meaning that they have been informed that you are suing them) they have 30 days to reply with their defenses to your complaint. Depending on what is in the defendant’s responses you may have to reply to their responses in 30 days.
Deciding to file a court case is not a simple or straightforward matter. A NC Personal Injury Lawyer can help you decide if settling or going to court is right move in your county. Counties in NC can have extremely different demographics, political affiliations and economic classes. These and other factors will affect how a jury will view your claim in your county.
Litigation – Discovery
In the Discovery phase, both sides share information before trial. There are four main ways to pass this information: Request for Admission, Interrogatories, Request for Production of Documents and Depositions. You must respond to the defendant’s requests and they must respond to yours. You are allowed to ask for clarifications of their answers if their meaning is not clear.
Litigation – Mediation
For District court cases, mediation is voluntary. If your case is filed in Superior court, mediation is mandatory. The mediation is called a “mediated settlement conference.” Hopefully, you and the defendant can agree on a mediator (a neutral attorney). If you cannot, the court will assign one to your case. If your case settles or does not settle at mediation, the mediator files a report with the court. If you settle, you are done…if not you have to proceed to trial.
Ligation- Jury Trial
We have all seen jury trials on television. Fortunately, real life trials are not full of angry judges, attorneys, jurors and clients but trials are complex none the less. Jury selection, motions and postponements are all important aspects of your case that should be discussed with a lawyer.
NC Personal Injury cases can be difficult to win. Contributory negligence often results in unfair results for injury victims, but it is the law in our state. Even in cases where fault is clear attaining fair compensation can be tough, especially if a accident victim tries to do it alone. The Bishop Law Firm represents victims in personal injury claims in Raleigh, Cary, Fayetteville, Durham, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids, and surrounding areas in North Carolina. We do not get paid unless we win your case and we offer free case reviews. Contact us today, (919) 615-3095 ! We wish you or your loved one a speedy recovery.