If you are involved in a car accident in North Carolina, it is vital that you take the appropriate steps to protect your claim – assuming that you are well enough to do so. The reason this is so important is that North Carolina is one of 4 states and the District of Columbia which recognize a pure contributory negligence rule (the others are Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland).
Under the pure contributory negligence standard, if you are even 1% at fault for your accident, then you recover nothing in your case. Although this may seem unfair, and we don’t disagree that it is, it is the current law in North Carolina and as a result, you must be diligent in following these 5 steps to protect yourself if you are injured in an accident.
#1 Photograph the scene
In this day and age of cell phones, it is important that you collect as much information as possible from the scene of the accident. You need to photograph your car, the car that hit you, the location of the accident, and even the condition of the road. If there are skid marks in the road, you will want to photograph those. You will also want to have someone take pictures of you and your injuries.
If is amazing how quickly the police and other emergency personnel will clean up the scene of an accident. If you don’t photograph the scene of the accident right away, all that evidence could be lost forever.
#2 Speak with the other driver and collect information
If you are able to do so, you should talk to the other driver. See if they will admit to causing the accident. If they do, or if they apologize for the accident, keep a record of that. Record it if possible. You may need this information to give to the police when they come. Also make sure to get the other driver’s contact information and insurance information. Photograph their insurance card if you can.
#3 Speak with any witnesses and collect their contact information
If you see any witnesses, get their names, phone numbers, and email addresses. It is important to get their statement about what happened. Do not admit to them that you may have been at fault, for the accident, even if you were. But try to get a feel whether they would be a good witness and cooperative if they were called upon.
#4 Seek medical attention
This should probably be at the top of this list, but it goes without saying that you absolutely, positively must seek medical attention if you are injured. Make sure that the EMT’s take your vital signs and check you over before you leave the scene. Even if you don’t think you are injured, it is possible that some injuries may take several days or longer to manifest themselves (i.e. back injuries, among others).
#5 Call 9-1-1
Last but not least, you need to call 9-1-1. When the police come, give them an honest statement about what happened. If the other person was at fault, make sure they are cited.
Many people would rather avoid calling the police. However, if your accident was serious, you should not make the mistake of letting the other drive leave without calling the police. You will need the accident report and the witness statements that the police officers are trained to write-up and obtain.
Make sure you read through the policeman’s notes and let them know if they made any mistakes. It is a lot easier to have the policeman correct their notes at the scene than to have them change a filed police report.
If you have a question for us, you can submit it confidentially online by clicking here. You can also call The Hart Law Firm at (919) 460-5422. We are happy to speak to you and answered any detailed questions you may have.