Car accidents can be extremely frightening. Car accident victims may have to deal with injuries and losses associated with an accident for years to come. In severe crashes, they might also receive a permanent impairment that affects their ability to work, interact with loved ones, and engage in their favorite pastimes.
North Carolina is in the top 10 states with fatal car accidents so far in 2022. When an accident happens, a North Carolina car accident lawyer can help. They can guide you through the process and provide helpful insights and legal advice.
North Carolina Overview
On average, North Carolina sees roughly 271,307 reportable accidents each year. Of these accidents, just under 1,500 are fatal. Most accidents cause property damage. These accidents also result in, on average, just under 125,000 injuries.
All of these accidents add up. Besides causing serious injuries, they cost nearly $32 billion in damages (over a 3-year average).
In 2019, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety reported that there were investigations on 968 fatal accidents. Unfortunately, that number increased in 2020 to 1,658 fatalities, a 12% increase.
North Carolina also saw 105,382 injuries from traffic accidents, a 15.9% decrease from 2019. In total, there were 247,214 crashes reported in 2020.
Fatal crashes only got worse in 2021. North Carolina saw a record number of traffic fatalities in 2021—1,755. This was the highest number in two decades. It was also 5% higher than in 2020.
Information from the North Carolina Governor’s Office indicates that certain common types of accidents were down, such as crashes involving pedestrians, cyclists, and work zones. However, other types were up, including accidents due to speeding, not wearing seat belts, and distracted driving.
The most common contributing cause of accidents that resulted in fatalities in North Carolina in 2020 was that one or more people involved in the crash were driving their vehicles in an erratic, reckless, careless, negligent, or aggressive manner. The second most common cause was that one driver crossed the center line or went the wrong way.
The most common contributing factor for crashes that led to injuries was a failure to reduce speed. Failure to yield the right of way was also a common contributing factor in crashes leading to injury. Inattention was also a top contender for factors contributing to crashes in North Carolina in 2020.
According to a recent report, the most dangerous road in North Carolina is in Fayetteville. Cliffdale Road from Beverly Drive to Lansdowne Road had ten fatal accidents between 2018 and 2020. Because this stretch of road is less than five miles long, that translates to about two fatal crashes per mile.
When car accidents occur, victims can turn to a North Carolina car accident lawyer to discuss their rights and legal options.
To win a legal case after a car accident, you must show that the other driver was negligent in some way. Negligence is a legal expression that generally means being careless or reckless.
To prove negligence, you must establish certain facts in North Carolina. Although every personal injury case is different, cases will generally have the same essential elements. The victim in a car accident has a burden to prove that they should get money for damages, including injuries and losses.
Proving your case can be difficult, especially because you are working against insurance companies. Having an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney by your side can help prove the elements of your case.
In a claim based on ordinary negligence, your North Carolina car accident lawyer will work with you to show the following:
- Duty of care. You must show that the other side had a duty to you. In some cases, this can be a challenge. In others, like car accidents, for example, this element is easier to prove. When someone drives a car, they have a duty to drive in a way that will not harm others. They must be safe and drive according to the applicable laws in North Carolina. In fact, violating laws in North Carolina can result in a legal finding of “negligence per se,” which is essentially a finding of negligence automatically.
- Breach of the duty. A car accident victim must show that the duty not only exists but must have been violated or breached as well. In most cases, this is a negligent act, such as inattention. However, it can also be a deliberate action or a reckless act. Not watching the road or speeding are good examples of deliberate acts that can lead to car accidents.
- Causation. The breach of the duty of care must have also caused your damages. For example, if the other driver was driving too fast for road conditions, then speed must have been a factor that led to the accident. The resulting injuries or losses must have also been caused by the accident. That is, you have to show a connection between whatever the other person did wrong and the injuries you suffered.
- Damages. You must have also suffered injuries (called damages) from the accident as well. In a car accident case, some injuries are very clear. For example, if you broke your arm from the crash, that type of damage is easy to see. However, mental or emotional damages are harder to spot but are equally important. Regardless, you must be harmed or damaged in some way to recover any money from a personal injury case. In general, personal injury cases are designed to put you back in the place you would have been as if the accident had never happened. If you were not harmed, then there is nothing to fix.
The best way to find out if you have a personal injury claim is to talk to a North Carolina car accident attorney about your situation.
A North Carolina car accident attorney will examine your case to determine if you can meet all four of the required elements outlined above. They will also help you understand your options after an accident.
Collateral Source Rule
The collateral source rule in North Carolina is covered under the General Assembly’s 2011 tort reform law, Tort Reform for Citizens and Business Act, 2011 N.C. Sess. Laws 283. The Tort Reform law developed Rule 414. Rule 414 is a rule of evidence that applies to all civil lawsuits in North Carolina.
Rule 414 provides that evidence of medical expenses must be limited to the amount of money actually paid to satisfy the bills, regardless of where those funds originated. In fact, the only evidence that is permitted under Rule 414 is the total amount of the bills that were paid or are required to be paid to fully satisfy the charges.
Before Rule 414 came about, the full amount of the charges billed by the provider could be submitted into evidence. At the same time, however, any evidence about how those bills were paid could not be admitted. Evidence about bill reductions, such as from insurance companies negotiating bills or Medicare reducing bills, was also not admissible.
When that happened, insurance companies would sometimes claim the full amount billed, even though they did not pay that much to the medical providers. The ultimate result in those cases was sometimes a windfall for insurance companies before Rule 414 was put into place. They would occasionally insist on receiving the full amount of the bills even though that was not what they paid medical providers.
In other situations, the car accident victim might be able to keep some funds over and above what the insurance company paid, but not often.
The collateral source rule also benefits car accident victims in another way. It does not permit any information about the source of the payments for medical bills to be provided to a jury. That way, the jury does not assume that someone else paid those bills and award less in money damages.
Insurance companies or any other entity that pays medical bills will usually expect to be reimbursed for those payments, so it makes sense that car accident victims would be permitted to show the full value of the amount paid, regardless of where that money originated.
A North Carolina car accident attorney can help car accident victims provide the right evidence to a jury or an insurance company to get the full value of the medical expenses that they had to pay.
Dram Shop Laws
In North Carolina, the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABC), which is part of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, oversees virtually every aspect of the sale, manufacture, and possession of alcohol. The ABC issues permits to restaurants, bars, and other establishments so they can serve alcohol to patrons.
As part of a condition to receive a permit, every business in North Carolina agrees to abide by certain rules. For example, they cannot serve minors. They also cannot knowingly serve alcohol to anyone who is intoxicated.
In addition to getting in trouble with the ABC, the business will often also face civil liability as well. That is, the business will have to pay for any damages or losses that the intoxicated person caused because the business overserved that person.
The same liability can sometimes be imposed on social hosts as well. If someone is intoxicated at a party, for example, and the social host continues to serve that person, liability might result. If that person gets in a car and causes an accident, the social host might be partially responsible.
Proving that someone was over served can be difficult, but a North Carolina car accident lawyer can help gather evidence and prove a dram shop case.
Negligence Per Se
“Negligence per se” means that an action is automatically negligent, or the fact that it happened alone proves negligence. The Latin term “per se” means “of itself” or “by itself.”
The most common example of negligence per se is breaking laws regarding the rules of the road. Specific examples might include:
- Running a stop light or a stop sign
- Crossing the centerline
- Driving recklessly
The rules of the road are specifically for driver safety. When someone violates these rules, then they are presumed to have been careless or reckless. In essence, they are negligent.
The only other thing a car accident victim must prove if someone in North Carolina broke the law was that the wrongdoer caused the accident.
Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence in North Carolina
Most states use the term “comparative fault” to attribute blame between the parties in an accident. This term essentially means that if a car accident victim is partially at fault for a crash, their damages will be reduced based on that percentage of fault.
North Carolina is one of the few states that uses a system of “contributory negligence” instead. This system is a lot stricter than comparative fault.
North Carolina is a pure contributory negligence state. This means that if you have been found even 1%ault for an accident, then you cannot recover damages from the other party. North Carolina takes the duty of care to others very seriously and has consistently stated that if that duty is violated, then someone cannot benefit from that violation.
While North Carolina’s negligence rules may seem harsh, there are exceptions to the rules. For example, North Carolina uses a common law doctrine called “last clear chance.” This doctrine states that if one person had the last opportunity to avoid the accident but did not, they are at fault for the crash. The doctrine of “last clear chance” will often trump any slight fault a car accident victim might have.
Do not assume you have no legal options when you are partially at fault. Talk to a North Carolina car accident attorney to get information about your rights after a car accident.
Finding the Right North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer for You
Working with a North Carolina car accident attorney is to ensure you gather all the facts and information you need to prove your case. For example, a North Carolina car accident lawyer knows the law that applies to your situation, the type of information you need to gather, and the best way to present it to a judge or jury.
In any personal injury claim, you will work with your lawyer to prove your case. Your North Carolina car accident attorney will walk you through the process and provide practical legal advice about your unique situation.
A North Carolina car accident lawyer will act as a go-between on behalf of a car accident victim when working with the insurance company involved in the case. Insurance companies rarely have accident victims’ best interests in mind, and a North Carolina car accident lawyer can help protect those interests.
Car Accident Statistics in North Carolina’s Biggest Cities
Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina. It is home to roughly 873,570 people (as of the 2020 census). It has the highest number of reported accidents in North Carolina. It had roughly 27,000 reported accidents in 2020.
Charlotte also had the highest number of fatal accidents of any one city. It had 116 traffic accident fatalities in 2020.
Interstate 85 runs a total of 666 miles. One of the most dangerous stretches of this interstate runs right through Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2021, Interstate 85 saw 408 fatalities over the 666 miles of road, which mean that the fatality rate was .631, making it tenth in the country for the most fatalities per mile. Charlotte, North Carolina, is considered the “most deadly” city on Interstate 85.
Raleigh is the second-largest city in North Carolina. It has the largest population in both Wake County and Durham County, where it sits. Just under 470,000 people call Raleigh home.
Raleigh was also second in the number of reported crashes in 2020. It had roughly 13,000 accidents. It also saw 40 fatalities in that year.
Greensboro, with a population of 298,263 based on 2021 estimates, is the third-largest city in North Carolina. It is also the 70th largest city by population in the United States. It is the biggest city in Guilford County as well.
Greensboro saw a total of 8,073 accidents in 2020. Of these, there were 36 fatalities and 5,017 injuries. According to traffic statistics, just under 350 of these crashes were alcohol-related.
Durham, North Carolina, comes in fourth in population size in the state, with a total population of 285,527 based on 2021 estimates. Interestingly, Durham actually sits in three counties, Wake, Orange, and Durham. It is the largest city in Orange County but is the second-largest in both Durham and Wake counties.
Durham experienced 7,073 accidents, which caused 29 fatalities and 2,902 injuries in 2020. It also had a high number of accidents involving pedestrians, with 106 crashes causing 122 injuries. Furthermore, there were nine fatalities related to the vehicle–bicycle crashes.
Winston-Salem is the fifth-most populated city in North Carolina. It has a population of just over 250,000. It is the largest city in Forsyth County. It is very close to Greensboro but densely populated on its own account.
There were 7,683 accidents in Winston-Salem in 2020. These resulted in 3,060 injuries and 23 fatalities. The causes of these accidents vary, but 347 of them involved alcohol. The accidents that involved alcohol led to 4 fatalities.
For more information, contact Accident.com today.