The answer will depend on what an independent investigation into your accident shows. While, technically, police, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers in North Carolina must include fault information in their crash reports, the official conclusion is not always cut-and-dried. In such a case, partnering with an experienced and knowledgeable North Carolina car accident attorney will help the injured person find details that law enforcement officials may have overlooked or considered unimportant.
- What Types of Damages Can I Be Compensated for in a Personal Injury Case?
- How Fault Is Determined in a North Carolina Car Crash
- A North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Discusses Contributory and Comparative Negligence
The first thing to understand here is that North Carolina law requires a law enforcement investigation of every “reportable accident.” That term appears in quotes because it has a legal definition as any collision that occurs on a public road or highway and results in property damage, injuries or deaths.
The report an investigator must prepare is required to include the
- Name, address and driver’s license number of each driver involved;
- License plate number and vehicle registration information for each vehicle involved;
- Weather, road and traffic conditions at the time of the crash;
- Names of injured or killed passengers;
- Identities of any vehicles impounded as evidence;
- Insurance information for the driver believed to be at fault for the crash; and
- Suspected cause of the crash.
Officers may not be able to collect and report all of this information, such as when the accident is a hit-and- run collision or when the at-fault driver lacks insurance coverage. More often, and to get directly to answering the question posed in the title, an investigator will note that the cause could not be clearly determined or that more than one driver appeared to have acted negligently or recklessly.
When no fault is assigned, an injured victim will likely have coverage under his or own auto insurance policy. Collecting on claims filed with one’s own insurance provider may still require consulting with or hiring a North Carolina personal injury lawyer. The company will not welcome the opportunity to pay a claim to its policyholder any more than it would appreciate being made to pay a settlement to a third party.
Should a crash report indicate that an injured driver may have some responsibility for causing the collision, filing and collecting on insurance claims will be very difficult. Not always impossible, but definitely tough.
North Carolina and its neighbor Virginia are two of the only four states that still enforce the outdated and unjust legal concept of contributory negligence. What this means for crash victims is that an insurance company can automatically reject a claim from a driver, passenger, pedestrian or bike rider who can be found even minimally responsible for causing the accident in which he or she got hurt.
Contributory negligence is such a powerful argument that insurers often raise it when it should not apply at all. My North Carolina personal injury law firm colleagues and I have grown very accustomed to seeing our car accident clients accused of contributory negligence. In response, we conduct independent reviews of crash reports, crash scenes and physical evidence to more clearly determine fault and hold the drivers who harmed our clients accountable.