So you just experienced a major car accident caused by another, at-fault, driver. Your back aches, your neck is sore and you have a stinging headache. To make matters worse you just learned that the clown who just smashed into your car has no insurance. What do you do?
If you can safely do so, leave your vehicle in the location where it stopped following the accident and ask the driver who hit you do the same with their vehicle. Call 911 and request an ambulance if you believe that you or anyone else may need immediate medical care and report the accident and request that a police officer arrive on scene so that they can investigate the accident scene and generate a police report. (It’s very important that you obtain a police report to assist you in filing an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance carrier.)
Take pictures of any visible injuries that you may have incurred from the accident and the damage to your vehicle and the at-fault driver’s vehicle if you’re able to get out of your car and walk. Also take pictures of the accident scene and pictures to demonstrate the present weather conditions, tire marks and any other visible evidence of the accident. Ask to see the at-fault driver’s license and take a picture of it and ask them for additional contact information. Do the same for any passengers involved as well. If anyone stopped to assist you or witnessed the accident, record their names and contact information too, including their address and a good phone number to reach them at. They may be able to assist you in processing an uninsured motorist insurance claim or testifying in litigation initiated to reach your policy coverage if necessary.
We recommend that if you’re hurt, or would like to be checked out for any potential injuries that you seek treatment at a hospital or get examined at an urgent care facility as soon as possible after your accident. As you know, auto accidents can frequently be traumatic experiences that cause a slight adrenaline rush in accident victims. As such, many victims don’t feel pain or the full extend of their injuries until after their post-accident adrenaline subsides. For more information, check out our (Adrenaline May Mask Your Injuries and Pain After a Car Accident Blog.)
Contact your personal injury attorney, Biazzo & Panchenko law, or your insurance company if you choose to proceed on your own (we highly advise against pursuing your claim on your own) and start an uninsured motorist claim at the earliest stage possible. Should you choose to take on the insurance company on your own, we recommend not providing too many details regarding your injuries but that you inform the insurance company that you are currently seeking treatment, if you find it necessary to receive medical and/or chiropractic care. Don’t go into details with your adjuster about your level of pain, the extent of your injuries or the treatment you sought or intend to seek. We recommend that you retain the services of a licensed North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney at the earliest stage after your accident before divulging any information to your insurance company regarding your injuries, pain or treatment following an accident to preserve your case for the maximum potential recovery given the facts, circumstances and the application of the law to your case. You can also have your Personal Injury Attorney initiate your uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company. Remember, once you initiate an uninsured motorist claim with your policy, your insurance company will likely be primarily concerned with protecting its bottom line to avoid shelling out any of the proceeds of the premiums it collects.
We recommend that you, a family member or a close friend bring your vehicle to a collision repair shop to receive a repair estimate for your car in addition to seeking medical treatment. This may require vehicle towing if your car is not drivable after the accident. Once acquired, you can use the estimate to negotiate a property damage settlement with your insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage, because insurance companies frequently and unsurprisingly offer you less money to repair your vehicle than is actually necessary to effectuate necessary repairs or replacement. This frequently happens even after an insurance adjuster inspects your vehicle in person. You can also generally settle your property claim with an insurance company much sooner than your bodily injury claim. Finally, ask your insurance company about rental car coverage for the duration of time that you will be without a vehicle whether you need a rental for the duration of time that your vehicle is in a collision repair shop for repairs or if your vehicle is determined to be a total loss and you need a vehicle while you are negotiating a property settlement and looking for a replacement car.
North Carolina General Statute § 20-279.21 provides that motorists driving in North Carolina must carry an active insurance policy that covers each motorist: (1) up to $30,000 for bodily injuries to one person or the death of one person in any single auto collision; (2) up to $60,000 for bodily injuries to two or more persons or the death of two or more persons in any single auto collision and; (3) coverage for the policy holder for bodily injury, sickness or disease and death resulting from the liability of uninsured motorists and hit-and-run motorists. However, the uninsured and hit-and-run coverage limits shall be equal to the highest of bodily injury liability coverage from any one vehicle insured under the policy, but this coverage may not exceed $1,000,000 per person and $1,000,000 per accident. So while the driver who hit you may have failed to comply with the law, you are still covered by your own insurance policy if you complied with the law. Another added bonus in this situation is that your insurance premium generally won’t be increased when using your uninsured motorist coverage.
If you haven’t already, retain a licensed North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney. Once you retain an attorney, your attorney will inform your insurance company that they represent you in regards to your uninsured motorist accident claim, typically through a Letter of Representation signed by you. At this point, your insurance company will only be permitted to directly contact your attorney. When you retain Biazzo & Panchenko Law, we will typically compile all of your treatment records and medical bills and send them off to your insurance company as part of a demand package, upon completion of your treatment where we will request that your insurance carrier pay out a reasonable amount to cover your medical bills, a fair amount for the pain and suffering that you incurred at the time of the accident and following the accident and any other compensable damages. (We can also assist you with obtaining a settlement for any property damages your vehicle incurs and rental car coverage upon your request as well). Once the demand is reviewed, we typically negotiate a resolution of your case and obtain the aforementioned damages as part of a settlement.
It’s important to understand that there is a strong possibility that your insurance company will act within their best interest instead of your own when you attempt to reach your uninsured motorist coverage. Remember, their goal is to either pay you nothing or as little as possible in the hopes that you will just go away and that they will be able to retain the majority of the premium payments that you paid them over the years when you didn’t need their coverage. As a result, your insurance carrier may only offer you an inadequate settlement offer or deny coverage all together. This is where it may become necessary to file a lawsuit to pressure your insurance company to increase their settlement offer to one that is acceptable or to try to seek a favorable verdict from a jury in court.
We strongly encourage you to seek the advice of a licensed North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured motorist, where you could potentially recover damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, future disability, property damage and other compensable damages. At Biazzo & Panchenko Law, we are prepared to negotiate a settlement for you or pursue your case through a jury verdict in court if warranted. Contact Biazzo & Panchenko Law today to schedule your free Personal Injury consultation. This blog is not to be construed as legal advice.