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.
Importantly, because North Carolina follows a fault-based system, passengers injured in an accident must 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.
What Is a Fault-Based System?
North Carolina follows a fault-based system (also known as a “tort” system) when it comes to car accident claims. Under this system, injured automobile accident victims typically file claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, not their own. Minimum liability insurance covers other people injured due to the policyholder’s negligent or wrongful conduct, not the policyholder.
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. However, if you only have minimum liability insurance, you must file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. This means you will have to prove someone else was at fault.
After an accident, you should contact an attorney who can help you establish liability and help you file your claim. Whether you sustained injuries as a driver, passenger, or a pedestrian, we can assist you in filing your 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 share some of the blame, you may not recover 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 found partly at fault for an accident cannot file 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 car 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 an uninsured motorist injures you. 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 for added protection. In some cases, this is a requirement depending on the coverage provided by your policy.
In North Carolina, UM insurance covers the policyholder (the vehicle owner), 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 injured passengers in motor vehicle accidents forgo filing a personal injury claim with insurance. Mainly 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 vehicle’s driver was at fault for the accident, regardless of whether a claim is brought against the insurance company. In that case, it will likely raise the driver’s premiums. When an injured passenger files a claim for damages, this does not necessarily impact the driver any more than they would have already been affected following the accident. Choosing not to file a claim for damages benefits only the insurance company.
If you believe you are entitled to compensation after an accident, 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. At Maginnis Howard, we will fight for the compensation you deserve. Visit our contact page for more information about our three conveniently located offices across North Carolina.