Get Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Injury Claims, Workers Compensation Claims, and Divorce & Custody Cases.
Questions about an injury claim, workers compensation claim or a divorce or custody issue? We want you to call us and ask your questions at (910) 341-7570. There is almost always a lawyer available to speak with you. The call is free and there is no obligation. If you prefer, you can gather more information on this site before you call. We answer many of the most frequently asked questions here. The site is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. It is designed to give you the information you need to get started and to be knowledgable about the process as you search for the best injury lawyer, the best workers compensation lawyer, or the best divorce lawyer for you.
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WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER AN ACCIDENT?
After an accident, you should first take inventory of those involved, including yourself, your passengers, other drivers, their passengers, and pedestrians. If anyone is injured, you must contact law enforcement. Safety is your first priority. Nothing is more important than that.
You can move your vehicle only if necessary to obtain assistance or to remove yourself or others from danger. If you leave the area for one of these reasons, you must return within a reasonable period of time. If assistance is necessary or requested, you must render it if you are capable of doing so. This includes calling for medical assistance. No person who renders emergency assistance at the scene of an accident is responsible for any damages caused by their efforts to help.
If someone is injured or if the property damage appears to exceed
$1,000, you must report the accident to law enforcement. They must then report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles. If no one is injured and property damage appears to be less than $1,000, law enforcement recommends that you report it, but you are not required to do so. Reporting the accident is important because law enforcement officers are capable of performing a thorough investigation and recording their findings in a reliable format.
DO I NEED A LAWYER?
You are not legally required to use an attorney to settle an auto injury claim. And, after an auto injury, you have more bills and less income. The last thing you want is to pay for something you don’t need. If you can get the same result without an attorney, it would be foolish to employ one.
I will never forget an experience I once had with my son. He was about a year old. He had been crying all night. At about 2:30 a.m., it got worse. My wife and I took turns picking him up, patting him on the back, and reassuring him that he was all right. The truth is, we were beginning to wonder. All babies cry, but this was ridiculous.
His crying was intensifying and we had run out of ideas. He would not eat. We had already changed his diaper. It was too late to call anyone. We decided that we needed professional help. We got in the car, feeling guilty that we had not made this decision sooner.
On the way to the hospital, we were both really scared. We pulled up to the emergency room door. We had been trying to think of possible causes. Had he swallowed a piece of a toy? Was he having an allergic reaction? Had something bitten him? I ran inside with my insurance information and put my name on the list. Again, we held and patted our son.Suddenly and without warning, I heard a sound. It was a sound I never thought a one-year-old was capable of producing. It was loud, it was long, and it was welcome. Our fear melted away and we laughed so hard we cried.His gas pains gone, our baby fell fast asleep. Since we were there, we went in for confirmation that everything was okay, and it was. We all went home happy and relieved.
As it turned out, my wife and I could have handled that situation all by ourselves. We did not need professional help. But, the problem is that we did not know whether we needed it or not, and it was too important for us to take a chance. If we had waited, it may have been too late. The doctor may not have been able to undo the resulting damage.
Not every injured person needs an attorney. If your case is smalland uncomplicated, you may be able to represent yourself effectively. If you are careful, organized, and diligent, you might be able to settle your case on your own. If you do, you will have to be very careful with how you handle your health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and Med-pay. Insurance companies and providers can have liens on your case, and failure to properly address these liens can cost you a lot more money than a competent attorney would cost. For another example, imagine that you are having trouble with your car. If you have a headlight that has burned out, you might be able to change it yourself. If you are good with cars, you could probably change the headlight as easily as a mechanic could. At the same time, if you are less familiar with cars, you could cause more damage in the process of trying to change the damaged headlight. You might consider consulting with the mechanic before you get started, especially if the consultation is free. If you are having more serious problems, for example, with your brakes or a transmission, you may need professional assistance.
Like everything else, injury settlements have grown increasingly more complicated. We see a lot of people who are not able to recover a fair settlement because they tried to do it themselves but lacked the experience and training to proceed effectively. Sometimes the damage cannot be undone.
Here is a common example of how you can get into trouble by trying to do it yourself. Sally is rear-ended at a stoplight. The accident is clearly the other driver’s fault, and the collision report is accurate. Sally is in pain. She is tough and has worked through pain in the past. Sally does not like to go to the doctor, and she does not think she needs a lawyer. Sally goes home. She is sore, but thinks she’ll feel better in a few days. She takes ibuprofen and suffers through work for a while. It is a little better, then a little worse. Three months pass. She speaks with the insurance adjuster throughout this process, consistently describing her experiences and her efforts to obtain relief. One night the pain becomes unbearable. She goes to the emergency room. There, the doctors diagnose an injury that will cause her to have chronic pain and limited mobility for the rest of her life. The insurance company refuses to pay for the injury, citing causation, intervening cause, and failure to mitigate damages.
The insurance company is perfectly justified in maintaining this position. They should never pay full value for this case. They have a duty to their shareholders to pay valid claims, and valid claims are those that can be proven. This case gives the insur-ance company several opportunities for defense. First, as we said earlier, an injured person has a legal duty to mitigate (lessen) damages. In this case, that means obtaining medical treatment quickly. Quick medical treatment could have prevented the injury from becoming permanent.
Second, the delay in treatment will make it difficult to prove causation, a necessary component of any successful injury claim. In order to prove legal causation, the treating physician must be able to say with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the accident caused Sally’s injury. The burden of proof is on the injured person to show that her injury resulted from the accident. How do we know that it wasn’t something that happened at work that caused it, or at least made it worse? This is a good example of how a good, hard-working person can ruin their injury claim by doing what we are all taught to do from the time we are children: just tough it out. An injury lawyer can help you address these issues responsibly as they arise.
After an accident, what should I look for in a lawyer?
Choosing a professional can be difficult. For example, before an NFL team selects a quarterback, they gather reliable information. They watch hours of film. They conduct interviews. They ask the player to submit to rigorous physical and psychological evaluations. They talk to former coaches, teammates, teachers, and friends. And still, lots of times they get it wrong.
Choosing a legal professional can be even more difficult because we have much less information upon which to base our decisions. Should we choose the one with the biggest office? He looks like he is successful. That could be because he does a good job for people. Ms. Jones said that ABC Law Firm did a good job on her case. Attorney Smith looks distinguished on his billboard advertisements. Maybe he has a lot of experience.
Trying to make a good decision with limited information is very difficult, and that is why I wrote this book. I want you to have more information so that you can make better decisions. I also want you to have a chance to get to know me and what is important to me. I want you to know how I approach cases and how I deal with clients.
I have devoted much of my professional life to helping injured people. I like to see people treated fairly. It bothers me to see big companies take advantage of ordinary people like my mother, an elementary-school teacher for thirty-five years, or my father, a commercial fisherman. I don’t like to see injured people suffer a second time simply because they lack familiarity with the rules and with the process.
In 1997 I started a law firm. The goal was to help people who needed help. My motto ever since then has been, “Every client is our most important client!” I got that from a federal judge I greatly admire. The judge was old, wise, and tough. He had learned all he knew through experience and the school of hard knocks. He was hardened by battle but softened with time. I had worked for him in law school. When it was time for me to leave and get a “real” job, he asked me for which firm I was going to work. I told him I was not going to go to work for any firm. I told him that I was going to start my own law firm. He smiled and reflected for a moment. That is what he had done.
A second later he snapped out of it and said, in a gruff voice, “You have to be like the guy in that movie, Jerry Maguire. You have to take care of each client that walks in your door like they are the only client that you are ever going to have.” I have tried to live by that advice every day. I try to make sure that the people who work with me share in that commitment.
SHOULD I GO TO THE DOCTOR OR “WAIT AND SEE”?
There are two reasons why you should seek immediate medical attention after an auto accident if you think there is any possibility that you are injured. First, we should all do everything we can to protect and preserve our health. Second, the insurance company, through its claims adjuster, will exploit every opportunity to pay less money for your claim. If you do not seek medical attention, your case may be weakened.
My kids love sports. My daughter’s favorite is soccer. She is pretty good at it. One day, I took her to buy new soccer cleats. She picked out a pair that she really liked. They were black, white, and pink, and I could tell she felt like Mia Hamm walking around the store.
I paid for them, and we went home. After a few days, I noticed she had not been wearing them to practice. “Where are your new cleats?” I asked. “In my closet,” she said. “Why aren’t you wearing them?” I asked. She replied, “I want them to last forever.”
Now, that might be going too far, but we should be almost as protective of our bodies as she was of those shoes. We want them to last “forever.” Your health is your greatest gift, and taking care of your health is more important than almost anything else. I have never had a client who would voluntarily trade money for their health. If you have any doubt about whether or not you are injured, I recommend that you get a thorough medical examination.
Also, as an accident victim, you have a legal duty to mitigate (reduce) your damages. That means you cannot ignore injuries and leave them untreated. The insurance adjusterwill immediately reduce the settlement value of your claim. Even if you have kept him informed of your ongoing pain, he will argue that (1) you did not mitigate your damages and (2) after the accident and before the treatment something else could have occurred that caused your injuries or made them worse. This is not a dirty trick, and it does not make him a bad person. It is what he is obligated to do to effectively do his job.
Although they are generally nice people, insurance adjusters are not objective. Some people think that adjusters are like schoolteachers or doctors who give an objective evaluation based upon all available information. Performing an objective evaluation is not the job of an insurance adjuster. Insurance adjusters work for the insurance company. Their job is to pay less for each claim, not more. Two of the biggest mistakes people make in injury cases occur when they (1) “wait and see” and (2) misunderstand the insurance adjuster’s role.
I JUST WANT TO SETTLE MY CASE. WHY DO I CARE IF MY ATTORNEY GOES TO COURT?
If you have been injured, you want a fair settlement, quickly. The last thing you want is to go to court. Most cases never go to court. If you don’t want to go to court, why should you want a lawyer who does go to court?
My kids take karate. The take it for several reasons. They take it for exercise, flexibility, and self-confidence. Also, they take it for self-defense. It is not that I want them to fight. In fact, they take it because I don’t want them to have to fight. The idea is that if they know how to defend themselves, they will never have to defend themselves. This is called the principle of deterrence. Bullies will leave my kids alone.
The same is true for lawyers. You want your injury lawyer to know how to fight so that you don’t have to fight. Trials are expensive, time-consuming, and risky. No injury lawyer wants to go to trial. But, sometimes you have to go to court because it is the only way to achieve fair compensation.
Also, think about it from the insurance company’s point of view. Imagine the following exchange between two insurance adjusters at the same insurance company:
Joe: "Hey, Mike. We just got in a new claim.”
Mike: “Who is the lawyer involved?”
Joe: It is Smith from XYZ Law Firm.”
Mike: “Smith? He never goes to court. He couldn’t find the courthouse with a map. What is he going to do if we don’t pay? Offer half of what we offered last time.”
For these reasons, you want a lawyer who can and does go to court. Otherwise, why would an insurance company ever agree to a fair settlement? After all, if they do not give you a fair settlement, what is your lawyer going to do about it? You can find out How to Find the Right Injury Lawyer in 10 Easy Steps and more right here on this site.
SHOULD I USE A FIRM THAT HANDLES PERSONAL INJURY CASES EXCLUSIVELY?
Your lawyer’s skill can have a direct impact on the amount of your settlement. Skills necessary for effective representation in injury cases include listening, organizing, negotiating, arguing, and communicating. There is no better place to develop those particular skills than in the courtroom. Constant courtroom experience is crucial. In the courtroom we listen to evidence, organize facts, negotiate with other lawyers, argue for our clients, and communicate with judges. We identify, examine, and solve problems. These skills improve with practice and deteriorate without it.
The lawyers at the Speaks Law Firm are in court daily. Just as inyour business, the only way to maintain your skills is to use them every day. We are all either getting better at what we do, or getting worse. We consciously choose to get better every day.
Also, your lawyer must have the legal knowledge to present your case. Most injury cases have some connection to criminal court. The other driver may have been charged with Driving While Impaired, Following Too Closely, or Unsafe Movement. Those charges are resolved in criminal court. If the other driver has admitted responsibility in criminal court, your lawyer will want to have that information when he is communicating with the insurance company. A working knowledge of the people and process involved in criminal court can be important in achieving a fair settlement.
In addition, even though traffic accidents may start in criminal court, your claim is civil in nature. Your lawyer must also have comprehensive knowledge of civil procedure and the local rules of court. He must be familiar with the judges and their preferences. He must consider the demographic composition of the area in order to select the best venue for your case.
Moreover, experience is critical in determining the value of your case. For example, imagine you are a contestant on The Price Is Right. Drew Carey (or Bob Barker if you are my age) asks for your bid on an automatic dishwasher. If you are closest, you win the dishwasher and get to compete for more prizes. Would it be helpful if you had bought a similar dishwasher last week? Would it be helpful if you had bought slightly different dishwashers every day for the last fifteen years? If you had, you would have a pretty good idea of how much this particular dishwasher is worth.
Most injury lawyers don’t go to court. We do. And because we do go to court, the chances are that you will not have to go to court when you are with us. We believe that this daily courtroom experience gives our lawyers a decided advantage in every case.
I’M READY TO CONSULT A LAWYER— WHAT’S MY NEXT STEP?
This is an opportunity for you to address your problem directly, immediately, and with confidence. You don’t have to guess anymore. You don’t have to depend on appearance, opinion, or speculation. You can call and speak to an experienced professional who is dedicated to achieving your goal: a fair settlement within a reasonable period of time. You can get the information you need to make informed decisions and develop a legal strategy that will produce the best possible result for you and your family by calling us now at (910) 341-7570. The call and the consultation are absolutely free.
We cannot take every case. We take only those cases for which we can make a meaningful difference. If we review your case and feel that we cannot make a real difference for you, we will tell you that we cannot help, and we will tell you why. The next step toward accomplishing your objective is a phonecall. When you call, you will speak to our firm’s receptionist. She will connect you with the appropriate paralegal for your case.
You might say, “I was in a wreck and I have some questions.” You might have read this book and have a specific question. The paralegal will gather some information so that we can answer your question efficiently. We will speak right then or she will set a time for us to talk later that day.
If it appears that we can make a difference in your case, we will agree on a mutually convenient time for our conference. We will ask you to bring or send all the documents connected with your accident and injury. If you don’t have them, we will obtain them prior to our conversation. We will ask you, “What happened?”
We will ask you to describe the nature, extent, and effect of your injuries. We will determine what additional information or evidence we need, such as photographs, video recordings, audio recordings, witness statements, police reports, or medical opinions. We will collect that information and evidence. Together we will put together a plan designed to address the problems that have resulted from the accident.
We will go over paperwork that will authorize us to operate on your behalf. The paperwork will include a fee agreement, which will spell out clearly that you do not have to pay any fee for our services unless we recover money on your behalf. It will spell out exactly what percentage of your recovery will be paid to our law firm. The paperwork will also include medical releases that will allow us to request and receive medical bills and medical records that we will need to obtain a fair settlement for you.
AFTER THE CONSULTATION
After the meeting, you focus on following the instructions of your medical providers and recovering physically, and we go to work. We gather the evidence, statements, photographs, documents, bills, and medical records necessary to present your most effec-tive case. We develop the legal arguments necessary to securea fair settlement. We anticipate counterarguments the insurance company may advance. We prepare a damage calculation. We put this information together into an information package that demonstrates (1) that they owe you money and (2) how much money they owe.
We identify everyone who was at fault. All those who were atfault may share the legal responsibility to pay for the damage that they have caused. We contact each of those responsible parties and ask that they contribute to the settlement. We also look for insurance coverage to make sure that there is enough money available to fund the settlement.
We send the package to all of the responsible parties or the insurance companies that may provide coverage on their behalf. We identify properly documented liens from medical providers and insurance companies. These are the entities with whom we will negotiate in order to maximize your recovery.Insurance companies use experienced adjusters and complex computer programs to determine what they consider the value of your claim. The value of your claim is determined by the strength of your liability claim, the amount of your damages, and the advocacy of your attorney. If the insurance adjuster identifies legitimate evidentiary deficits, we will provide additional proof of your claim. We may have to give them additional legal research, as well.
We negotiate. We do what is necessary, legally and ethically, to obtain a fair and reasonable settlement offer.Once we have achieved our objective and secured a fair and reasonable settlement in your case, we turn our attention to the medical providers and health insurance companies. We satisfy properly documented liens. There are sometimes opportunities to negotiate with these lien holders in order to reduce the amount paid from settlement proceeds.
HOW DO I FIND THE BEST AUTO INJURY LAWYER?
Communication is an important component of any attorney-client relationship. Great lawyers communicate openly with their clients. That does not mean that they sit by the phone, waiting to answer any question you have the moment it pops into your head. Great lawyers are busy because many people seek their advice and assistance. They cannot answer your question while they are arguing in court, taking a deposition, writing a brief, or participating in a trial. But they can and do call you back. They listen to your questions. They understand your problems. They help you evaluate alternative solutions. They help you select courses of action. They implement a strategic plan designed to help you solve your problems. They execute the plan in order to resolve your problem in the way that is best for you. And, they are available to discuss these issues with you over the course of the attorney-client relationship.
Your lawyer must have genuine concern for your legal problem and your general wellbeing. He must be approachable. He must endeavor to understand your particular situation. He must walk in your shoes, and you must feel comfortable with him. You must be confident that he is not judging you and that his only interest is in helping you. You must feel like your case is the most importantcase he has, not because you get a bottle of water or a soda when you come into the office but because he genuinely cares about solving your problem and wants to solve it in the way that is best for you and your family.
Because personal injury law is getting more and more complicated, each case presents hundreds of decisions. If you decide that you need a lawyer to help you with your claim, you should look for these additional characteristics when employing an injury attorney.
Your lawyer must be competent. He must possess an extensive knowledge of the law that relates to personal injury cases. He must know civil procedure and other areas of the law, as well. He must know the people who are involved in these types of claims, such as adjusters, lawyers, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, experts, judges, and court personnel.
Your lawyer must be both experienced and sharp. He must also be up on the latest developments in the law and technology. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never hire a young doctor or an old barber.” In other words, the professional you employ must have the proficiency that comes with age and the acuity that comes with youth. He must have been in similar situations before in order to know what to do and what not to do. He must have experienced successand failure, and he must have learned from both. He must have training and experience in collecting evidence, evaluating liability, calculating damages, valuing claims, presenting arguments, dealing with insurance companies, negotiating with adjusters, working with other lawyers and communicating with medical-care providers, and settling injury claims.
He must have a competent and professional staff. If your attorney is competent, then by definition he is currently actively engaged in the practice of law. If he is currently actively engaged in the practice of law, then he must have a competent, diligent, and experienced staff of professionals who are trained to help with one case while he works on another.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A GOOD CASE?
After an auto injury, it can be difficult to know if you have a good case or a bad case. You are probably not familiar with many of the words and concepts that are involved in an injury claim. Attorneys and insurance adjusters throw around terminology that can make you think they are speaking a foreign language. But behind every unfamiliar word and concept is a logical principle. As a result, you probably know more than you think you know.
Here are some of the words and concepts you will hear, along with explanations that will help you connect them to their logical principles.
First, you have to look at the big picture. Insurance companies only pay when they must pay, and they must pay when three things are present: liability, damages, and coverage.
1. LIABILITY exists when another person causes an injury.
Liability has two components. First, liability requires a legal duty.
In the case of an auto injury, the injured party must establish that the other driver owed him a duty of care.
For example, North Carolina law imposes a legal duty on all drivers to decrease speed as necessary to avoid collisions. In addition, North Carolina law requires all drivers to operate his or her vehi-cle on a public highway at a reasonable speed under the existing conditions. Drivers are required to maintain proper equipment, keep a proper lookout, and keep their vehicles under control. When we drive, these are our legal duties or legal responsibilities.
Second, liability requires a breach of duty. For example, if you are stopped for a red light, drivers behind you have a legal duty to “decrease speed as necessary to avoid collisions.” If another driver ploughs into the back of your car, then the other driver has breached his duty. The other driver is legally responsible for the damage to your vehicle and to your body. His or her insurance carrier must defend or pay your claim.A person who breaches a legal duty by accident is negligent. Negligence does not mean he or she caused the accident on purpose or intended the result. In fact, those who injure others on purpose are usually charged with a crime. Rather, negligence occurs when someone is injured because another person makes a mistake. We all make mistakes. The law requires us to pay for the damage caused by our mistakes. This concept will be covered fully under (3) below.
2. DAMAGES exist when one person suffers loss as a result of a mistake made by another. For example, a person who has suffered a broken leg because of a careless driver has damages. The law is designed to “give back” what was taken from the injured person.
Therefore, the law will require the insurance company for the responsible driver to pay for the medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering incurred by the injured person.
In our example, if the injured person never regains complete use of his leg, that person has suffered a permanent injury. The insurance company will be required to compensate the injured person for the partial loss of the use of a part of his body. Since in this case there is no way to “give back” what was taken, our legal system requires the insurance company for the responsible driver to compensate the injured person for the loss. The calculation of this monetary amount is more art than science, and the analysis is different in each case.
3. COVERAGE is an essential component of most successful injury claims. Liability and damages will get you an A on a law-school exam but the real world requires an additional practical analysis. Even if liability and damage are present, who will pay the claim?
Injury attorneys have experience in identifying insurance policies which will cover or pay for damages. Sources of coverage may include the vehicle owner’s auto insurance policy, the vehicle driver’s auto insurance policy, the at-fault driver’s employer’s insurance policy, your health insurance carrier, your own auto insurance policy, a medical payments policy, or an umbrella policy.
Insurance adjusters and insurance companies have an important advantage in North Carolina. North Carolina is one of the few states that still utilizes the concept of contributory negligence, usually a complete and total bar to any recovery. In order to understand contributory negligence, we first have to understandnegligence. Negligence, as we saw earlier, is different from intentional conduct. In an injury case, negligence occurs when someone makes a mistake that results in injury to another person. But the injury is still their fault.
For example, consider two kids on bicycles. Johnny gets angry and runs into Susie with his bike on purpose. That is an intentional act, not an accident or a mistake. It is a crime to intentionally injure someone, and those kinds of cases are prosecuted in criminal court by the district attorney’s office or the United States Attorney’s Office. The legal goals of the criminal process are to punish, deter, and rehabilitate and to protect the community.
If Johnny takes his eyes off of the path to look at a bird and runs into Susie on his bike, that is an accident. It is a mistake made without the intent to injure. It is a negligent act, not a criminal act. Under civil law, a similarly negligent person would be respon-sible for paying for the damage he caused, but would not face jail or probation. The focus is on making the injured party whole, not punishing the person who made the mistake. However, if the mistake maker was engaged in especially reckless behavior, then punishment becomes a part of the process.
If Johnny is not looking at the path and Susie is pedaling too fast for the conditions when the wreck occurs, then they both may be partially responsible for the accident. They are both engaged in behavior that could be considered dangerous. If Susie is injured,
Johnny might be able to assert the defense of contributory negligence because she was pedaling too fast for the existing conditions. In North Carolina, that means she is not entitled to receive any compensation at all. This holds true no matter how severe her injuries are. There are rare exceptions to the rule of contribu-tory negligence. If Johnny is grossly negligent or has the last clear chance to avoid the collision, then she still may be able to recover.
I DON’T WANT TO SUE ANYONE. IS FILING A CLAIM THE RIGHT THING TO DO?
As a kid, I spent a lot of time on the water. I remember seeing a sign at a local marina that read, “DO RIGHT.” Simple and to the point, the message was clear. It was a message worth remembering. It is true that some folks want to do whatever they can get away with; but most of us want to do what is right. Most people who are injured in auto accidents want to do the right thing.
Filing a claim with the insurance company of the driver responsible for causing the accident is the right thing to do. First, filing is what the injured person is legally required to do. Second, it is the law, for fair and logical reasons.
Someone has to pay for the damage when a driver makes a mistakeand injures another person. Someone has to pay for the medical bills, lost wages, and permanent impairment. Who should pay?
Should it be the innocent driver—the person who was minding his own business and obeying all of the traffic laws? Should it be the state or federal government? Should the doctors, nurses, chiropractors, and other medical professionals have to volunteer their time, their resources, and their effort? No. It only makes sense that the insurance policy purchased by the responsible driver should pay for the damage.
Here are some things we often hear: “That is what is wrong withthis country. Everybody wants to sue everybody else” or “People are always looking for a handout” or “People should take responsibility for their own actions and handle their own responsibilities.” he law in North Carolina that relates to auto injuries is built on the premise that people should take responsibility for their own actions. As a civilized society, we have rejected archaic systems of justice and accountability such “as an eye for an eye.” We don’t form a mob and go to the responsible driver’s home and break his leg in retaliation. We simply require that driver to purchase insurance and then require their insurance company to pay for the damage that they have caused.
Isn’t that how it should be? For example, let’s say a father and his son are playing baseball in their yard. The son overthrows the father. CRASH! —The ball goes through the neighbor’s window. Does the man pull his cap down tightly over his eyes and escape quickly to the garage? Does he say to the neighbor, “Your window is in the wrong place!” or “Your window was already cracked.” No, of course not.The man would go next door and ring the doorbell. “I am sorry. We broke your window. We will pay to replace it and we apologize for the inconvenience.” That is what most of us would do, and what each of us would want in a civilized society. Each of us is responsible for paying for the damage we cause. That is what the law requires. That principle is the foundation for personal injury law in North Carolina.
And, since most of us don’t have a pile of money lying around in case we make a mistake that injures another person, lawmakers and judges have made sure that owners and operators of automobiles are legally required to purchase liability insurance. The liability insurance exists to pay when we make a mistake and injure another person. The liability insurance company employs adjusters to handle claims brought by injured people. In fact, it is the adjuster who calls the injured person immediately after an accident.