Once you’ve been involved in a wreck, several things happen fairly quickly. Law enforcement will ask you for a statement about how the accident happened, and you should be thorough in your explanation as to why the other person was at fault. If you have any injuries, you should make sure to mention these to the investigating officer as it will be recorded on the accident report that the officer will complete.
Within a couple of days, you should hear from the insurance company asking to take a statement from you. You should be careful at this phase. Not only is the insurance company attempting to gather information about how the accident occurred, but, if possible, they are trying to get you to make some statement which they can then characterize as indicating you were at least 1% at fault. In North Carolina, if you were even 1% at fault, you can’t recover at all.
There will be two adjusters assigned to your case. One adjuster will represent the insurance company concerning your property damage, meaning your car and either having it repaired or declared a total loss and providing a rental until your car is repaired or you have received a check for the market value of your vehicle. You should be aware that if you’ve had extensive improvements to the car, it will be difficult to recover the costs of these improvements. Any that you can remove, you should do so. You can either reuse them or sell them. You should make sure to remove all of your personal belongings from your vehicle before it is repaired or the insurance company takes it away as a total loss.
If you are suffering any injuries, it is very important that you seek medical care not only to document that you were hurt, but to put you on a path to recovery. It will be important for you to follow the instructions given by the physicians as failure to follow the orders of a doctor may later be used as a reason for contesting the value of your claim. If you need assistance finding medical care, we can recommend general categories of providers from which you can choose.
If you are missing work as a result of your injuries, it will be important to make sure that the doctor includes in the notes that you were unable to work. This is one of the issues that insurance companies are most notorious about denying within a claim.
You should not attempt to resolve your case until you’ve completed medical treatment and either made a full recovery or recovered to the extent that the doctors believe your injuries will be permanent. The reason is that you do not want to resolve your case and then find out that you need additional surgery or treatment for which you did not seek recovery prior to settling your case. It is important to keep in mind that you have three years from the date of the wreck in North Carolina to either have resolved your case or have instituted a lawsuit. If you are still treating as the three-year threshold approaches, your case will need to be filed as a lawsuit so that the three-year limitation no longer applies
Once you have completed your treatment, we will assemble all of your medical records and bills and submit them to the insurance company. We generally only give the insurance company about 30 days to consider your case, at this point, with your agreement, we will attempt to obtain an amount which is satisfactory to you.
If we are unable to resolve your case at this point, we will file a lawsuit and start your case on its way to court. This will not necessarily mean that your case will be tried or that you will ever go to court, it will simply demonstrate to the insurance company that you intend to be treated fairly.
If a lawsuit is filed certain things will occur. The insurance company will hire a lawyer to defend the other driver. They will submit written questions which we will assist you in answering. They will be entitled to review your medical records for the 10 years prior to the collision. Please be aware that they will also check your social media sites to see if you made posts about your accident or injuries or if you appear to be performing any activity inconsistent with the injuries that you were claiming. I recommend that my clients make no entries on their social media sites concerning the accident and post no information depicting activities or any physical ability that might be misconstrued as indicating that you were injured less severely than you claim.
Following the answering of these written questions, most likely the defense attorney will like to have a question-and-answer session with you under oath. This is called a deposition. You and I will prepare for the deposition and I will be by your side as it occurs. The defense attorney will ask you many questions that seem to have no relevance to your case. This is normal as they are just trying to get as much background information as they can to determine whether or not you’re likely to be believed by the jury. They will eventually get to questions concerning how the accident happened and what happened to you physically including your injuries and treatment. Following this deposition, the defense attorneys will prepare a summary of their impressions of the information that you gave as well as you individually and how they believe you will be perceived as a witness should your case progress to court.
After the deposition has been completed, the court requires that we attend what is called a mediation. This is a procedure where we and the insurance company have agreed on a neutral third party who is certified by the court to serve in this capacity.
During the mediation, I will outline the facts concerning the accident and your injuries as well as your medical expenses and any loss of wages. The defense attorney will then present a version of the case claiming that you were not injured or that if you are injured, you’re not injured as badly as you claim. You should anticipate that this is what you will hear and you should not take it personally. This is the same line of defense that I hear in probably 90% of the mediations that we conduct.
During the mediation, the mediator will go back and forth between both sides exchanging figures to see if there is some figure that you are willing to accept and that the insurance company is willing to pay. It is at this phase of a lawsuit where approximately 65% to 70% of all my litigation cases are resolved. If your case resolves at mediation, then there will be no need for you to attend further hearings or answer questions or go to court.
If we are unable to resolve your case at mediation, then your case will continue toward a trial where citizens will listen to the evidence and make a determination of what they believe to be a fair result. There are far too many considerations, when it comes to results that can occur in court, to discuss in this article. Rest assured that if your case reaches this point, we will have a very detailed discussion about what to expect and what is a reasonable outcome.