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Who Determines Fault in a Motor Vehicle Accident in North Carolina?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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Motor vehicle accidents are an expensive problem. Even just a slight fender bender is going to leave a driver with a number of bills to pay on their vehicle repairs. More serious accidents can cause significant physical injuries as well, which will incur expenses like medical bills, lost wages, and psychological costs. These costs are the responsibility of those at fault for the accident, but it can often take the help of a Charlotte car accident lawyer to establish who is at fault.

Who Determines Fault in an Accident in North Carolina?

Why Fault Matters in a Car Accident

Determining fault is an important part of a car accident because it establishes who is financially liable in the situation. However, it is not always the liable party who pays, but rather their insurance company. This is why drivers in North Carolina are required to have care insurance. The determination of fault can be especially important in North Carolina because of the doctrine of contributory negligence that is involved with any personal injury claims, including car accidents.

Contributory negligence is a concept for determining if the plaintiff in a case was at fault. In most states, when the plaintiff is the minority “at-fault” party, they will have their compensation reduced proportionately to their fault. In North Carolina, on the other hand, if a plaintiff is found to be at all to blame for an accident can mean they are prevented from collecting any damages at all. This makes determining fault a point of particular importance in a North Carolina car accident.

Determining Fault in a North Carolina Accident

An initial determination of fault will usually be made by the law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene of an accident. While their assessment is not often considered definitive, it can be important as it will provide critical details about what they discovered at the scene of the accident.

The next party that will attempt to assess fault is the insurance companies. They will look at things like the police report, talk with those directly involved and other witnesses, and gather any other helpful evidence. Using all of this information, they determine who they believe to be at fault and use that to decide who they will compensate for the claim.

Insurance companies have a clear conflict of interest with regard to determining fault in an accident. It’s not uncommon for someone involved in an accident to have a dispute with the insurance company on how fault should have been assessed. If that’s the case, civil law allows for a personal injury claim to be brought, which will give the court the final say in determining fault.

In these cases, the plaintiff, who is seeking compensation for their injuries, will need to show negligence on the part of the defendant in order for the defendant to be at fault and thus liable for the plaintiff’s costs.


Q: Is it Better to Settle a Case Instead of Going to Court?

A: Whether or not settling a case is better than going to court will depend on the specific case, but there are generally some advantages to settling. One of these advantages is that it can often mean receiving your compensation in much less time than you would have otherwise. Once a settlement is agreed to, the funds are usually delivered within 30 days, whereas a court case could go on for months and even years.

A settlement also has the advantage of a guaranteed amount rather than the uncertainty and risk that come with letting a case be decided by the court.

Q: If Another Party Is at Fault in My Car Accident, What Compensation Could I Receive?

A: If your lawyers are able to show that another driver was at fault in a car accident, compensatory damages could be awarded in two forms:

  • Economic Damages. This covers the clear financial costs that are associated with the accident and your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and damage to your property, primarily your vehicle. Also addressed are future costs that you could expect to incur in the case of serious injuries, such as future medical bills and lost earning capacity.
  • Non-Economic Damages. There are many costs associated with an injury that are more psychological in nature, such as pain and suffering, and those will be given a value and compensated through non-economic damages.

Q: What Is the Difference Between a Collision Claim and a Liability Claim?

A: A collision claim is one made against your own insurance policy when you sustain some damage to your vehicle, regardless of who was at fault. Most policies involve a deductible that you will be responsible for paying before insurance kicks in and will cover the rest.

A liability claim is made against either your insurance when someone else believes you are at fault or against someone else’s insurance when you believe they are at fault. The insurance companies will investigate these claims, and any disputes could end up in court.

Q: Why Should I Work With a Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer After an Accident?

A: Working with a Charlotte car accident lawyer may give you the strongest chance at getting fair compensation after a car accident. They can investigate the accident and make a case for what you’re owed. Whether by settlement or going through the court process, they can represent you and argue why you deserve to have the costs associated with your accident covered.

A Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Can be Helpful in Seeking Restitution

Getting into a car accident can leave someone facing a number of challenges. Many of them may be financial, particularly when serious injuries lead to significant medical bills and lost wages from missing work. In most car accidents, there is damage to the vehicle that needs to be fixed or possibly the vehicle being replaced altogether. Injuries often result in psychological and emotional damage as well. Pain and suffering and other negative impacts deserve compensation, the same as other injuries.

A Charlotte car accident lawyer and law firm, like Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler, can be critical to getting proper compensation for these costs. To discuss your car accident and options, contact us today.