In North Carolina, passengers in motor vehicles are covered by minimum liability insurance. The state mandates that all motorists who operate a vehicle carry at least $30,000/$60,000 in bodily injury coverage per person/vehicle and at least $25,000 in property damage. If a passenger is injured in an accident, he or she is covered under the at-fault driver’s minimum liability insurance.
It is important to note that, because North Carolina follows a fault-based system, a passenger who is injured in an accident will need to pursue a claim against the driver who caused the accident. This may not necessarily be the driver of the vehicle the passenger was in—though it could be.
Continue reading to learn more about North Carolina’s insurance laws and how to file a personal injury claim as a passenger, or contact Charles G. Monnett III & Associates to speak to one of our Charlotte car accident lawyers today during a free consultation.
What Is a Fault-Based System?
As mentioned above, North Carolina follows a fault-based system (also known as a “tort” system) when it comes to car accident claims. Under this type of system, injured automobile accident victims typically file claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, not their own. Minimum liability insurance is meant to cover other people who are injured due to the policyholder’s negligent or wrongful conduct, not the policyholder.
While you can elect to add additional coverage that protects you and your passengers in the event of a crash—such as personal injury protection (PIP)/medical payments (MedPay) coverage or collision coverage—if you only have minimum liability insurance, you will need to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. This means you will have to prove someone else was at fault.
After an accident, it’s important that you reach out to an attorney who can help you establish liability and help you file your claim. Whether you were injured as a driver, passenger, or even a pedestrian or bicyclist, our firm can assist you in filing your personal injury claim.
What If Multiple Parties Were at Fault for an Accident?
Often, more than one person is to blame for an auto accident. Unfortunately, if you are one of the parties who shares some of the blame, you are prohibited from recovering compensation under North Carolina law. This is true even if you are only 1% to blame.
Under North Carolina’s pure contributory negligence rule, anyone who is found partly at fault for an accident is barred from filing a claim for damages. However, passengers are rarely found at fault for accidents (except in extraneous circumstances). If multiple parties—such as the driver of another vehicle and the driver of the vehicle you were in—are determined to have contributed to the accident, you could file multiple claims for damages. As an injured passenger, you could be covered under both at-fault driver’s insurance.
What If the at-Fault Driver Is Uninsured?
Because you must file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance provider after an accident, your options for recovery could be limited if the at-fault driver does not have the required liability insurance (or flees the scene of the accident). However, this does not necessarily mean you won’t be able to recover compensation for your damages.
In North Carolina, all auto insurance policies also include uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage kicks in when you are injured by an uninsured motorist. However, it does not cover you if the other driver’s insurance is not sufficient to cover your damages. You can elect to add underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage—and in some cases this may be required, depending on the coverage provided by your policy.
In North Carolina, UM insurance covers the policyholder (the owner of the vehicle), as well as their family members, anyone who drives the vehicle with the policyholder’s permission, and any passengers.
Filing a Car Accident Claim as a Passenger
Unfortunately, many people who are injured as passengers in motor vehicle accidents forgo filing a personal injury claim, particularly when the driver of the vehicle they were in was partly (or wholly) at fault for the crash. However, filing a claim does not have to affect the relationship between the driver and the passenger.
If the insurance company determines that the driver of the vehicle was at fault for the accident, regardless of whether or not a claim is brought against the insurance company, it will likely raise the driver’s premiums. When an injured passenger files a claim for damages, this does not necessarily impact the driver anymore than he or she would have already been impacted following the accident. In fact, choosing to not file a claim for damages benefits no one but the insurance company.
If you believe you may be entitled to financial compensation after a motor vehicle accident in which you were a passenger, we encourage you to explore your legal options. You should not have to face massive medical bills, ongoing lost wages, and immense pain and suffering on your own. The insurance company’s job is to pay out rightful claims and, at Charles G. Monnett III & Associates, we know how to negotiate with them in an effort to recover the fair compensation you are owed.