As a result of “stay at home” instructions and other social distancing guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19, North Carolinians drive fewer.

In fact, recent news reports that some auto insurance companies are cutting premiums because fewer drivers are on the road and fewer accidents occur. Some people still need to drive because of essential business or other obligations. And at some point life will return to normal. Unfortunately, accidents can happen when drivers are on the move. A car accident can be an incredibly scary situation even if there are no injuries. In the event of serious personal injury, it becomes even more important to take steps to ensure you are getting the medical care you need and protecting your legal rights. Here is a list of the first things to do if you are injured in a car accident due to someone else’s fault:

1. Get the medical care you need.

If you are injured in a car accident, the most important thing to do is to see a doctor right away. This includes emergency and emergency care immediately after the wreck. If the emergency room doctors recommend contacting your primary care doctor or another doctor, do so as soon as possible. Insurance companies are notorious for refusing to pay compensation for injuries when medical care has been “delayed” or there is a “gap” in treatment. Also, be sure to seek other medical help for any other injury or symptom that may later appear or not go away. It is very common that some injuries do not occur immediately after the wreck, amid adrenaline and shock. After all, certain types of injuries – especially head injuries – often go undetected and untreated. It is important to share all of your symptoms with your doctors and stand up for your own medical care. The most important goal when a car accident causes injury is to make sure you get better whenever possible – no matter how long it takes.

2. When you get medical coverage, use your health insurance.

Some people are confused thinking they shouldn’t get their own health insurance because the car accident was someone else’s fault. Or they try to give their medical service providers the information on car insurance for the culpable driver. We always recommend our customers to take out their personal health insurance. This prevents medical bills from piling up. This is especially true if it can take months (or in extreme cases years) for a personal injury case to be resolved with the culpable insurance company and for all damages to be paid. Health insurance opens the doors to treatment and ensures that you have access to all the medical services you need. Again, the most important thing is to get the necessary medical treatment and get better. Health insurance will help.

3. Report the accident to the responsible motor vehicle insurance company.

The first step, of course, is to report a car accident to law enforcement. (North Carolina law requires wrecks with injuries or deaths to be reported to law enforcement.) This will ensure that the accident is investigated and documented (in the form of an accident report) and additional first responders can provide assistance. In addition to reporting the accident to law enforcement, report it to the relevant insurance company as soon as it is safe to do so. An injured driver should report the accident to both his insurance company and the insurance company of the driver at fault. While the driver’s liability insurance (if insured) is responsible for any damage, your insurance company may be responsible for certain types of insurance payments, such as: B. for insurance coverage for medical payments (if you have this benefit in your policy) or uninsured / underinsured car insurance (if the driver at fault had no insurance or only had minimal insurance). You may also be able to get your own auto insurance to pay for your property damage (i.e. you have to pay the fair market value for your car (if summed up) or to have the car repaired) if the other party’s insurance company is slow or unresponsive. This shouldn’t affect your own insurance premiums as your insurance company will ask for a reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company.

What is usually important is that you typically do not agree to provide insurance companies with a “recorded statement” of the history of the accident or details of your injuries or medical treatment. Limit discussions to reporting the accident and starting the process to resolve the claim. If you hire an attorney, they can help the insurance company provide other necessary information. This will prevent parts of your statement from being taken out of context later.

Note that other insurance companies may also be involved, e.g. B. if the culpable driver has taken care of another person or if he has driven in the course and scope of his employment. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can assist you with this process. The potential of finding other sources of insurance (including underinsured car / UIM coverage) is one of the greatest benefits a skilled personal injury attorney can offer.

4. Start processing your claim for damages.

If your injuries are severe enough to be driving again soon, you need a vehicle. If your car is whole, you will need a new car. If the vehicle can be repaired for less than 75% of its market value, liability insurance will cover the repair costs. In the meantime, you’ll need a rental car. If your vehicle suffers significant damage but is still being repaired, it may be of less value if you sell or trade your vehicle later (decreased value), and insurance could be responsible for that element of the damage as well. It is important to report the accident to the insurance company and claim the property damage as soon as possible after the wreck. It is usually okay for individuals to process the property damage claim themselves (without a lawyer). A property damage claim can be asserted without affecting the personal injury (or personal injury). Still, most personal injury attorneys should offer free property damage assistance.

5. Document the process.

Make sure to keep track of all information and documents related to the wreck, as well as all of your damage. If you can, take pictures of your injuries and your vehicle. Keep all documents related to the claim for damages and your medical treatment (invoices and initial records). Keep track of the working hours and expenses of the wreck. All of this should be compensated as part of your entitlement. A lawyer can also help with this process. But the more you can maintain the basic documentation about it and what you’re going through, the better.

6. Speak to a lawyer early on.

These can be complex cases. Medical issues, insurance coverage, anticipation and response to legal defenses – all of these are the roles of a skilled attorney. If litigation is required, an experienced personal injury attorney can file your case and fight for you – all the way through to legal proceedings if necessary. An insurance company will also take a claim much more seriously if it is assisted by a qualified attorney who will file a lawsuit if the insurance company does not pay adequate compensation. Put simply, having an experienced, dedicated attorney on hand will ensure that you protect your rights and receive guidance even in a challenging and often complex situation.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, North Carolinians are injured in car accidents through no fault of their own. In this case, it is important to know what to do to ensure you are getting the best medical care possible and to protect your legal rights. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney right away is the best approach. However, the above list ensures that you are doing everything possible to protect your right to fair compensation under our legal system.

© 2020 Ward and Smith, PA. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 134