Personal Injury FAQ

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Personal Injury FAQ
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What type of cases do you handle?

Biazzo & Panchenko, PLLC primarily handles all types of personal injury and workers’ compensation cases as well as Family Law and Business/Contract related matters.

How much do you charge?

Biazzo & Panchenko, PLLC works on a contingency basis on all personal injury matters and on an hourly basis on all other cases. That is, in a personal injury matter, we do not charge you anything at the outset, however, upon settlement of the case we charge a fee of 33% of the final settlement amount. Fees for all other services vary. Please call us today to find out more.

1. Call 911 and maintain safety

Move the car, if necessary, to protect against damage and avoid blocking traffic. Don’t let the other driver talk you out of calling 911. Don’t agree to any arrangements that don’t involve making an official accident report. Wait for the police officer to show up at the scene.

2. Comfort the injured

While waiting for the paramedics and police to arrive, make a reasonable effort to comfort others who may have been injured. Avoid making any statements that imply your own negligence, such as, “I’m sorry” or “it was my fault.”

3. Exchange information with the other driver

Some people may have outstanding traffic warrants, lack auto insurance, or have other reasons for not wanting you to know who they are. Get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, license plate number, driver’s license and insurance information. Also request the names of friends or relatives you can contact if you’re unable to reach the driver.

4. Take photographs and videos

You can never have too many pictures. If you don’t have a camera handy, use your cell phone. Don’t move anything. Record the scene exactly as it is right after the accident. If possible, have someone take pictures of your injuries.

5. Look for witnesses and get their statements

Witnesses can be passengers in your car, or independent third-parties who saw the collision from their own cars, or from where they were standing. If witnesses stop, make every attempt to get their full contact information. In addition to their contact info, ask the witnesses to write down a detailed statement of what they saw dated and signed.

6. Record your own statement

Although you may be shaken up after the accident, try to describe what happened. Make your statement as detailed as possible, without editorializing. Just include the facts. If you can’t write your statement at the scene, do it as soon as possible afterward.

7. Meet with an attorney

Call our office immediately for a consultation (704) 900-7675. <small>

Do I have a duty to report an accident?

In North Carolina, your first duty, after stopping your car, is to check for injured persons. North Carolina law requires that you render reasonable assistance to any injured person. If someone is seriously injured, try to get a doctor or call an ambulance—whichever is quicker.

Comfort the injured persons, but do not move the person unless you are skilled in said practice. Even good intentions on your part could result in further injury to the person. You may need to transport such a person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or requested by the injured person.

Generally, anyone who renders first aid or emergency assistance at the scene shall not be liable in civil damages for any acts of omissions unless such services amount to reckless, wanton, or intentional wrongdoing. If the accident occurred in a city or town, the appropriate agency is the police department of the city or town.

If the accident occurred outside a city or town, the appropriate agency is the State Highway Patrol or the sheriff’s office or other qualified rural police of the county where the accident occurred.

Should I handle my own auto accident claim? Absolutely NOT!

Today more than ever, you need effective counsel in order to recover the full value of your claim. Good faith claims handling and outstanding customer service are pledges often made by insurance companies and insurance adjusters. Unfortunately, the reality is often sadly different. Insurance companies will even promise to pay for your medical expenses, and even if by some miracle they make a full payment, which rarely happens, you will still miss out on other types of damages that you may be unaware of.

Today, most insurance companies are publicly held entities with the overriding mandate to their stakeholders to constantly and continuously improve the bottom line at the expense of the injured. More often than not, adjusters will offer low settlements, as they are aware that you do not have recourse and will likely accept it. In doing so, they improve their bottom line and maximize profits.

Can I be liable for a Negligent act of my spouse?

Not in North Carolina, where spouses have complete immunity for torts and negligence of each other.

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 52‑12, no married person can be held liable for damages accruing from any tort committed by his or her spouse, or for any costs or fines incurred in any criminal proceeding against such spouse.

Likewise, marriage does not affect tort liability incurred by one spouse before marriage.

On the other hand, a husband and wife can have a cause of action against each other to recover damages sustained to their person or property as if they were unmarried.

How will an insurance company determine who is at-fault in an accident?

The insurance adjuster investigating the accident will attempt to determine who is negligent or at-fault. He or she will consider a number of factors, which generally include: police report, pictures of the accident and property damages, witness statements, statements from both drivers, traffic signals sequence reports and other factors.

North Carolina Contributory Negligence Law (See our Blogs for more details) completely bars a driver from collecting any damages if determined to be even 1% at fault. Thus, in essence, if you contribute to an accident in any way, you may not be able to collect on a liability claim. Any disagreement will ultimately have to be resolved in a court of law, which can be extremely costly.

As such, the insurance adjuster will focus hard on finding fault on your part or for any other reason to deny your claim.

Do I have a duty to stop after the accident?

In North Carolina the driver of any vehicle who knows or reasonably should know:

1. That the vehicle which he or she is operating is involved in a crash; and

2. That the crash has resulted in serious bodily injury or death to any person,

shall immediately stop his or her vehicle at the scene of the crash. The driver shall remain with the vehicle at the scene of the crash until a law-enforcement officer completes the investigation of the crash or authorizes the driver to leave and the vehicle to be removed unless remaining at the scene places the driver or others at significant risk of injury.

A willful violation of this subsection shall be punished as a Class F felony.

In addition, the driver shall give his or her name, address, driver’s license number and the license plate number of the vehicle to the person struck or the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, provided that the person or persons are physically and mentally capable of receiving such information, and shall render to any person injured in such crash reasonable assistance, including the calling for medical assistance if it is apparent that such assistance is necessary or is requested by the injured person.

A violation of this subsection is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

In addition, the Division of Motor Vehicles will revoke the drivers license of a person convicted of violating these requirements.

What is the difference between collision coverage and comprehensive coverage ?

Collision means physical damage to your covered vehicle caused by an impact with another vehicle or object. This coverage pays the cost of repair or actual cash value of your automobile, whichever is smaller.

Comprehensive coverage pays the cost of repair or an actual cash value of your automobile less any deductible. The following list of losses falls under comprehensive coverage:

  • Missiles or falling objects;
  • Fire;
  • Theft or larceny;
  • Explosion or earthquake;
  • Windstorm;
  • Hail, water or flood;
  • Malicious mischief or vandalism;
  • Riot or civil commotion;
  • Contact with a bird or animal; or
  • Breakage of glass.
Do I have to disclose prior car damage before selling it?

Yes, absolutely. For used cars less than five years old, the seller must disclose damage of more that 25 % of the car’s fair market value to the buyer in writing.

If a car has been salvaged, that information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered salvaged if it has been damaged to the extent that repairs to make it safe enough to drive would exceed 75 percent of its fair market value. This applies whether or not the car has been declared totaled by an insurer.

If a car has been damaged during a flood, this information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A flood vehicle is one that has been submerged or partially submerged in water causing damage to the body, engine or transmission.

If a car has been rebuilt, this must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered reconstructed if essential parts have been removed, added or substituted.

What is medical payments and do I need it?

Medical payment coverage or MedPay is a relatively inexpensive coverage that pays for reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses due to an automobile accident. It is a no-fault coverage, which means that irrespective of whether you caused the accident or the other party, you will get reimbursed for reasonable medical expenses. Moreover, though MedPay is provided by your own insurance company, since it is a no-fault coverage your premiums will not go up. As such, MedPay is one of the ways to remedy the harsh North Carolina rule of Contributory Negligence.

Individuals covered under this coverage include:

  • You or any family member while occupying any automobile, or as a pedestrian when struck by a motor vehicle; or
  • Any other person while occupying your covered automobile or any vehicle (private passenger automobile or trailer licensed for road use) driven by you or a family member.

The standard auto insurance policy will pay up to the limits listed in your policy for each individual injured. The Medical Payments coverage will not provide coverage for any expenses if the injuries occur while occupying a motorized vehicle with less than four wheels.

How is distracted driving defined?

Distracted driving can be defined as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.

These types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

What is uninsured motorist (UM) coverage?

Uninsured Motorist coverage will provide protection when an uninsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual. It also provides property damage coverage. Since 2009 this type of coverage is mandatory in North Carolina.

Though this may never have crossed your mind, there are millions of people in your state that drive daily without having motor vehicle insurance coverage.

All told, about 29.7 million people were uninsured during that year with these states having the greatest percentages of uninsured drivers:

  • Florida — 26.7%
  • Mississippi — 23.7 %
  • New Mexico — 20.8%
  • Michigan — 20.3%
  • Tennessee — 20%
  • Alabama — 18.4%
  • Washington — 17.4%
  • Indiana — 16.7%
  • Arkansas — 16.6%
  • District of Columbia — 15.6%
What is underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage?

This coverage will provide protection when an underinsured driver, who is at-fault, causes injury to you. An underinsured driver is one whose limits of liability are less than your UIM limits, and not sufficient to cover the losses and injures you have sustained.

UIM coverage does not provide protection against property damage. The UIM coverage will pay a maximum of the difference between the other driver’s Liability limits and your UIM limits.

You definitely need an advice from an experienced attorney in this situation. The insurance company will not provide coverage if you or your attorney settles the bodily injury or property damage without the your company’s written consent. Calling an attorney here is a must in order to preserve your right under the UIM policy provisions.

I was involved in an accident. Will my insurance premium go up?

No insurance points following an accident will be charged when:

  • There is property damage only;
  • The amount of damage is $ 1,800 or less;
  • There is no conviction for a moving violation in connection with the accident; and
  • No licensed operators in the household have convictions or at-fault accidents during the experience period (three years).
What is negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle?

YOU CAN BE HELD LIABLE IN AN ACTION FOR DAMAGES FOR NEGLIGENT ENTRUSTMENT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE TO ANOTHER PERSON IF:

  1. you were the owner or the person legally in control of the vehicle alleged to have caused injuries to another person;
  2. you gave control of the vehicle to a driver the you knew, or ought in the exercise of reasonable care to have known, was incompetent or reckless;
  3. the driver to whom you gave control was negligent; and
  4. it was this negligence that caused the accident.

Under the negligent entrustment theory the owner of the vehicle is held liable, not for any imputed negligence, but by reason of his own independent and wrongful breach of duty in entrusting his automobile to one he knows or should know is likely to cause injury; proof of negligence of the driver merely furnishes the causal connection between the primary negligence of the owner and the injury or damage.

I was involved in an auto accident. How much time do I have to file a lawsuit.

In North Carolina, the statutory period in which you can bring an action for personal injuries is three (3) years.

The North Carolina statute also states that ”no cause of action shall accrue more than 10 years from the last act or omission of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.” Presumably, an action could be brought no more than ten years after the last act of the defendant, so long as the injury was discovered within ten years of that act and the action is brought within three years of discovery.

Am I required to report prior damages to my vehicle?

THESE DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS APPLY TO ANYONE SELLING A CAR, INCLUDING INDIVIDUAL SELLERS AS WELL AS DEALERSHIPS:

If a car has been rebuilt, this must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered reconstructed if essential parts have been removed, added or substituted.

If a car has been damaged during a flood, this information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A flood vehicle is one that has been submerged or partially submerged in water causing damage to the body, engine or transmission.

If a car has been salvaged, that information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered salvaged if it has been damaged to the extent that repairs to make it safe enough to drive would exceed 75 percent of its fair market value. This applies whether or not the car has been declared totaled by an insurer.

As to the vehicles less than five years old, the seller must disclose damage of more that 25 percent of the car’s fair market value to the buyer in writing.

I was not wearing my seatbelt during the accident. Will I be held responsible?

In North Carolina, the fact that you were not wearing a seat belt may not be introduced in an action for damages. In other words, you cannot be accused of contributory negligence in an automobile accident lawsuit if you did not have your seatbelt on.

I was a passenger involved in an auto accident? Can I recover from my injuries?

Yes. North Carolina has no automobile guest statute. As such, a driver will be liable for injuries to his guest if they result from the driver was negligent. In other words, if the driver has not exercised ordinary care under the circumstances

What is a “reservation of rights” letter?

When you make file a claim against your own insurance policy, it can do one of three things:

  • It can accept you claim without reservation, accepting full responsibility up to the limits of coverage;
  • It can reject the claim, or
  • An insurer can seize the middle ground by issuing a reservation of rights letter.

As a general rule, when an insurer issues a reservation of rights letter, it is telling you that it is reserving the right to disclaim coverage in the future. For example, a letter may state the following: “We are investigating this claim but preserve our right to later deny coverage if investigation shows that it is not a covered loss.”

What is Res Ipsa Loquitur?

Res ipsa loquitur (From Latin: “the thing speaks for itself”) is an evidentiary rule which in a proper factual setting permits a party to prove the existence of negligence by merely establishing the circumstance of an occurrence that produces injury or damage.

In other words, res ipsa loquitur means that the occurrence itself warrants an inference that the defendant was negligent, as otherwise the negligent action would not and most likely could not have occurred.

What is Respondeat Superior?

Respondeat Superior (“let the master answer”) is a doctrine that is raised when the driver of a motor vehicle commits a tort while operating someone else’s motor vehicle. As a result, the vehicle owner can also be held liable for the harm caused through use of his motor vehicle.

One of the theories of such liability is generally referred to as Respondeat Superior (vicarious liability), where the negligent acts of the driver (an agent) are imputed to his principal. This most commonly arises in the employer/employee situations. Therefore, all employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance or they risk being personally liable for the injuries.

What is vicarious liability?

The term “Vicarious Liability” (also referred to as “imputed negligence”) refers to the doctrine that makes one person responsible for the negligent actions of another.

Vicarious liability is an exception to the normal principle of individualized fault and enables an injured person to seek redress from another who is not the party primarily responsible.

In a case involving imputed negligence, liability will be imposed on one person for the negligence of another based on the relationship between the parties, or arising from a positive rule of common or statutory law, or contract.

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