North Carolina Legal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When you or a loved one is injured in an accident, no one hands you a pamphlet containing all of the information you need to understand your case. In this section we strive to answer the basic questions that everyone has in the time following a car accident, on-the-job injury, medical malpractice, abuse, or other accident.
If you don't find the answers to all of your North Carolina injury questions here, we encourage you to contact our Raleigh injury lawyers for answers to questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
- Page 1
I don't live in North Carolina, but I slipped-and-fell while traveling there. Do I file my accident injury claim in North Carolina?
Generally the state in which an accident occurs is where an injury claim must be filed if the negligent party does not settle out of court. If your slip-and-fall accident occurred in North Carolina, our state's statute of limitations would apply to your claim. However, this is not true in all cases. Without knowing all the details concerning your accident, a number of other factors could change our answer:
Were you traveling in North Carolina for work-related purposes? If so, you would likely be eligible for workers' compensation benefits in the jurisdiction where your employer is headquartered. For example, a North Carolina resident and employee who is injured while traveling out of state on a work trip would file a workers' comp claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, even though the injury occurred across state lines.
What factors contributed to your fall? Was a sidewalk poorly maintained--did you slip on loose stones? If a property owner failed to properly maintain walkways, you will need to pursue them for compensation. Were you drunk or intoxicated at the time of your fall? North Carolina has a contributory negligence law which provides an individual may not collect compensation for injuries or damages that resulted by any action of their own, even the slightest degree. Did you seek medical attention immediately following your accident? Some injuries may take time to develop--like brain injuries--and these could affect required surgeries, lost work, and more - considerably changing the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
The answers to all of these questions could change how you approach and proceed with your injury claim. The slip-and-fall accident attorneys at Brent Adams & Associates meet with individuals for a consultation at no charge. Our lawyers only earn money when we win money for clients. Schedule a consultation today.
I was walking and was hit by bicyclist. Can I sue the bicyclist to cover the cost of my injuries and lost work?
You may be concerned that there is no insurance policy to pursue if you have suffered injuries in a non-motorized vehicle accident. Although bicyclists in North Carolina have the same road rights as motorized vehicles as per the Bicycle and Bikeway Act, bicyclists are not required to maintain liability insurance policies.
If the bicyclist was at-fault in the accident, you may be able to pursue a claim directly with the cyclist. Depending on the circumstances, an asset search may be completed. You may be able to settle your claim out-of-court. If negotiations are not satisfactory, then a lengthy court process may be required.
The accident events need to be reviewed carefully. Was the cyclist in an area that permits bicycles? Are there speed limits in place for cyclists and were these being observed? Were you as a pedestrian following crosswalk signs?
Pedestrian victims may be able to receive compensation from other parties. Sometimes insurance policies cover instances outside their general scope or intent. For example, some homeowners insurance policies will cover the theft of your laptop if it was stolen from your car. Also, some homeowners insurance policies will cover damage to your vehicle if the damage occurred while on your property--the damage could be a result from a number of reasons: a tree falling or even someone breaking into the car.
Not every insurance policy is the same. As a victim in an accident where the at-fault party is uninsured, in addition to pursuing the negligent party directly you may be able to seek compensation from your own insurance policies if any are present. For example, your personal automobile insurance policy has underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. UM/UMI coverage helps cover your medical expenses wen the other party lacks or has inadequate insurance.
Getting hurt by a bicycle can cause serious injuries, and even death. Earlier this year two pedestrian-bicycle fatalties occurred in Central Park. In both accidents, the pedestrians died and the cyclists survived.
Fortunately, the rate of pedestrian-bicycle accidents is going down. The Journal of Safety Research released a report this October 2014 on the rates of pedestrian-bicycle accidents. The report attributes a developing cycling infrastructure as a main cause for the lower accident rate.
North Carolina has a growing network of greenways, bike lanes, and hundreds of cyclist groups. Raleigh cycling clubs can be found most nights of the week on downtown streets, gathering at cafes, breweries, and coffee shops. As the number of cyclists grows, the chances of being involved in a bicycle accident also grow. Brent Adams & Associates maintains five offices in the greater Triangle area. From Raleigh, Cary, Fayetteville, Dunn, and Clinton, our bicycle accident lawyers help victims navigate their injury claims. Anyone who has been hurt by no fault of their own deserves to know their rights. Our firm enjoys helping accident victims understand their rights under state and federal law, and we take great pleasure in representing their interests in negotiations in and out of court. If you were hurt in a bicycle accident, contact our attorneys for a complimentary consult.
What is the statute of limitations for North Carolina water contamination cases?
Individuals who suspect their water is contaminated may need to satisfy special deadlines. These deadlines may or may not be limited to North Carolina's statutes of limitations.
Under some circumstances the negligent party may notify homeowners, businesses, or property owners of a leak or contamination that may have affected water supplied to the property. These could be legal notices that automatically trigger the figurative start of a ticking clock on a deadline for making a claim.
When it comes to the North Carolina statutes of limitations on water contamination cases, potential claimants need to learn about North Carolina's statute of repose. The statute of repose applies to parties who have polluted water. It provides that a lawsuit against a government organization or a company must be filed within 10 years of the activity that caused the contamination. (This means if a homeowner discovers their water is polluted 10 years and 1 day after it was initially contaminated, they would have missed the deadline.) This particular requirement poses great responsibilities on the claimant--not only do they have to prove who the negligent party is, but they need to have evidence of when the contamination occurred and for how long.
Another matter that affects some cases is whether or not federal statutes trump state laws. One example about a water contamination in Asheville can show how this surfaces with claims:
Residents of Asheville sued CTS Corp. over a polluted property. Residents initially discovered the pollution 13 years have the closure of the CTS factory. The residents cited the federal statute of limitations--which provides claims may be made within 2 years of the date of discovery. However, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in June 2014 in the case of CTS Corp v. Waldburger that the state's statute of limitations applies. The residents have no case.
Interested in learning about other water contamination cases in North Carolina? Contact our accident lawyers and review:
I slipped and fell on snow at my home in Raleigh, how can I get compensation?
Slip-and-fall accidents in the snow bring up several questions. Our injury lawyers in Raleigh handle cases on both public and private properties that involve trips, slips, or falls. When an individual falls at home due to snow or ice accumulation, our lawyers must ask a few questions. Here is one important question, possible areas of compensation, and what individuals need to do after a snow injury:
Do you own your home?
If you own your home you should have a homeowners insurance policy, which has coverage limits for personal injuries sustained on your premises. Whenever your insurance company fails to provide coverage outlined in your policy, contact our Raleigh insurance dispute attorneys to help manage your claim. However, keep in mind that North Carolina is one of just a handful of states that has a contributory negligence statute. This law provides that any individual who contributes in any way to their own injury or loss will not be able to recover compensation from another party. A slip-and-fall case in the snow on your own premises may be difficult to prove. You will need to prove that you completed adequate snow removal, salted, and made the area as safe as possible prior to your accident. As is the nature of nature, the weather conditions at the exact time of your accident may be difficult to document and prove. Immediately following your accident you likely sought medical attention or moved to a safe place--taking photographs of the accident area were probably the last thing on your mind. Our lawyers may be able to pursue a third party on your behalf if other factors contributed to your fall. Were you using a snowblower at the time of your accident and did a malfunction cause you to fall on your own property? Our lawyers have also handled defective product cases and we can review your rights.
If you do not own your home, check with your landlord or apartment complex. If they failed to remove snow timely or neglected to salt the sidewalks, you may be able to pursue a premises liability case against them. The owner of the property where you reside must help prevent the affects of snow and ice, not only for tenants' safety when they come and go, but to ensure emergency personnel can access the property in the event of an accident. (In some cases landlords may have snow and ice removal exclusions in lease agreements, which our lawyers can review.)
After you fall, you need to seek medical attention. Document the reason for your injuries with a physician or healthcare provider. This way you can provide clear information to your insurance company.
Whether or not you fall at a home you own or rent, if you were leaving to make a sales call or a make a delivery as part of your job, your employer may be liable for your injuries. Whenever you are injured while performing duties associated with your employment, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. Learn more about the "going and coming rule."
Property owners and businesses are responsible for maintaining the safety of their properties. Let us know if we can help with an injury claim on your behalf.
Who is liable for injuries at the North Carolina State Fair?
The recent North Carolina State Fair injuries suffered by fair-goers who were getting off the “Vortex” ride raises issues about who is liable for the injuries.
According to news articles, the State hired a New York company, Powers Great American Midways, to provide and operate rides for the NC State Fair. PGAM owned 54 of the rides at the fair, however, it did not own the Vortex--this particular ride was owned by a sub‑contractor.
Investigators are looking into the issue of whether a safety switch which malfunctioned on the ride the previous Monday was one of the possible causes of the injuries to patrons who were stepping off the ride when they were injured. Two of these riders were critically injured and remain in the hospital along with a third victim.
In North Carolina, a concessionaire who is hired by a local fair (in this case, the North Carolina State Fair) to furnish amusements has a non‑delegable duty to ensure that the rides are in a reasonable and safe condition, even those rides not owned or operated by the concessionaire. That is, the concessionaire, may not delegate the responsibility for operating rides in a reasonably safe condition to a sub‑contractor who provides and operates the rides.
Should it be determined that the owner and operator of the “Vortex” failed to exercise the care, the concessionaire who hired the owner of the ride, PGAM, would be liable for the negligence of the owner and operator of the ride.
In a similar case of injuries to patrons of an amusement park which arose from an injury at the Dixie Classics Fair in Winston-Salem, the North Carolina Supreme Court held the World of Mirth Shows, Inc. liable for injuries suffered by riders on a “Scrambler” ride that was owned and operated by Michael Dembrosky. The World of Mirth Shows, Inc. hired Dembrosky to provide the Scrambler to the Dixie Classics Fair.
In holding the World of Mirth Shows, Inc. liable for the injuries, the Court wrote:
“An employer is not ordinarily liable for injuries resulting from dangerous conditions collaterally creating by the negligence of an independent contractor. But where it is reasonable foreseeable that harmful consequences will arise from the activity of the contractor unless precautionary methods are adopted, the duty rest upon the employer to see that these precautionary measures are adopted, and he cannot escape liability by entrusting this duty to the independent contractor.”
The Supreme Court noted that public policy fixes upon the contractor the non‑delegable duty to see that adequate precautions are taken for the safety of the public. Mr. Dembrosky could not be located and the victims were therefore unable to obtain a recovery against Dembrosky whose whereabouts were unknown.
Should it be determined that the riders who were injured were somehow themselves negligent as they got off the “Vortex”, under North Carolina’s draconian contributory negligence law, the injured victims will not be able to recover a dime, no matter how negligent the owner or operator of the amusement ride may have been. North Carolina is one of only four states in the country to enforce this seriously out‑of‑date and unfair law.
I was in a North Carolina accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Will I ever be able to drive again?
Yes, you may. About half of moderate-to-severe brain injury survivors will get back behind the wheel and operate a motor vehicle again. Driving may not be the same experience for the accident survivor. Vehicle modifications and special devices may be necessary in order for brain injury victims to assimilate back into safe driving. Those costs should not be the accident victim's burden if they were hurt by another party's negligence. This is one example why it is so important to consult an attorney about a brain injury case in North Carolina - there may be extra expenses associated with an injury that victims and their family members don't realize right away. Our injury lawyers in Raleigh review the questions brain injury victims should ask a doctor if they want to drive again.
Do I lose my rights in a recreational waiver?
Recreational waivers (or liability releases) are created to protect an entity from liability issues. You may have signed a recreational waiver when you went on a trip with a school or other organization, or participated in an event that involves a degree of physical risk. You may not realize it, but there is usually fine print on the back of concert tickets that addresses your waived rights when attending the event. They are legally binding contracts, but they are subject to state law. These waivers, if done properly, are usually drafted by a legal party that specifically addresses the risks at hand. Are you signing your rights away when you sign the waiver?
Yes, and no. It all depends on your unique circumstances. In North Carolina, recreational waivers may hold up in a court of law. Waivers in some states, like Virginia or Montana, have weak reputations, according to Recreation Management Magazine. North Carolina waiver releases will have a lesser chance of being enforced if there was an act of gross negligence, a minor completed the form without a parent or guardian's consent, or other unique factors outside the scope of normal risk. Under North Carolina law, courts will enforce waivers unless they are "violative of a statute, gained through inequality of bargaining power, or contrary to a substantial public interest."
This topic surfaced in 2012 after several drowning accidents in Goldsboro brought the community's attention to the risk waiver all individuals are required to sign before swimming in the park.
If you are concerned about a waiver you have signed, and experienced an injury or loss as a result of that party's negligence, feel free to schedule a complimentary case evaluation with one of our accident attorneys in Raleigh, Fayetteville or Dunn.
What is post-concussion syndrome?
Although a mild traumatic brain injury, a concusssion is a brain injury. Accident victims who experience a brain injury may develop post-concussion syndrome. Signs of concussions include blurred vision, nausea, and memory impairments. These usually go away in about a week. However, if they continue for longer than ten days, the victim typically has post-concussion syndrome.
When someone develops post-concussion syndrome they need the care of a neurologist, and potentially a psychologist, who will develop a rehabilitation plan. Normal exercise should not be attempted without the direction of a doctor. This condition may require long-term care, which means your doctors need to know that it relates to your accident. You also need to inform your injury lawyer so that negotiations for your injury settlement will reflect compensation to cover these added medical and care expenses.
Can I use Facebook and Twitter while I wait for my personal injury case to settle?
Whether you have a pending North Carolina workers' compensation claim or you are filing a lawsuit for personal injuries sustained in an accident, our injury lawyers in Raleigh encourage all accident victims to suspend or limit social media activity. Using social media during your injury case may seem perfectly innocent, but status updates, photos, and other information revealed in your online accounts can be misconstrued and damage your case. When you meet with our Raleigh injury lawyers during a no-cost consultation, ask for our Social Media Guide for Injured Persons.
Keep in mind, you do not want to delete your social media accounts, past posts, or photos. The simple act of deleting existing information could be interpreted as hiding evidence. Whether digital or hard copies, no party should destroy or delete any evidence during imminent or pending litigation. (See the case of Gatto v. United Airlines to learn how deleting social media information caused problems in an injury case.)
Any social media activity could be taken out of context and could also be used against you in the court of law. Be extra vigilant and questionable of new friend requests or followers. Make sure that you are only friends or connecting with people that you know and trust. Adding connections that you do not know could mean adding an investigator, who could possibly
misunderstand something you wrote on your social media account and use it to incriminate you.
How do Liens Affect Personal Injury Settlements?
Liens could completely devastate a personal injury settlement. Our Raleigh injury lawyers have been successful at eliminating liens or significantly reducing their amount. We use a combination of aggressive negotiation, a deep knowledge of federal and North Carolina injury laws, and targeted research to show insurance companies and other lien holders they are not legally entitled to the money they are demanding of our injured clients.
Many people do not realize their injury settlement may be in jeopardy due to a lien because they do not understand what a lien is. What exactly is a lien? Liens, also known as subrogation claims, are placed on settlements by Medicare, Medicaid, hospitals, health insurance companies, and/or workers’ compensation insurance companies so that they may recover costs that were made for an injured person’s care. When these liens are enforced, injured persons may lose their entire settlement. Our Raleigh injury lawyers maximize settlements for North Carolina accidents and minimize the amount injured persons must pay out.
Raleigh injury lawyer Brent Adams hosted an entire presentation of the 2013 Southern Trial Lawyers Association dedicated to educating other attorneys on his own successful lien reductions and removals, essential laws, and effective ways to research liens.
Research shows that 50% of the liens made by insurance companies are false. The insurance companies attempt to base their liens on ERISA law, but in reality this conflicts with state laws.
If an injured person’s plan does not state specific information about their coverage, our Raleigh injury lawyers will request the full plan to review and verify if the lien is valid. If the insurance company is entitled to the lien—specific language must be present in the policy. This is a prime example why hiring an injury lawyer in Raleigh is helpful to your North Carolina case. Without the assistance of a Raleigh injury lawyer who knows how to reduce or remove liens in North Carolina, injured victims may have to use their settlement to pay off the liens.
Is a landlord required to provide working smoke detectors for the tenant?
Yes, North Carolina law provides that landlords are required to provide and install working smoke detectors in houses and apartments they rent. The tenant is not responsible for providing these smoke detectors.
North Carolina General Statute § 42 42 contain the following statutory obligations of the landlord with respect to smoke detectors:
- Landlords must provide an operable smoke detector that has the Underwriters Laboratory Inc. approval or an approval from a similar testing organization.
- The landlord must install a proper detector in accordance with the standards of the National Fire Protection Association.
- Upon receiving notice of a need for replacement or repair of a smoke detector, the landlord must, within 15 days after receipt of such notice, repair or replace the smoke detector.
- The landlord shall ensure that the smoke detector is operable at the beginning of each tenancy.
- The landlord shall replace batteries in battery operated smoke detectors at the beginning of each tenancy. However, for this one requirement, the law specifically says that the landlord would not be negligent for failure to install these new batteries.
- If the landlord shall fail to comply with any of the requirements mandated by North Carolina law (except for the requirement concerning changing new batteries) the landlord is liable for any injury or death that results from this failure.
Why do I have to let the defense lawyer see my medical records?
Whenever you file a personal injury lawsuit, you give up a large part of your right to privacy.
Once a lawsuit has been filed, the first thing the insurance company's lawyer will do is ask for all of your medical records back to the previous ten years before the collision occurred.
Sometimes, we object to the ten-year span of medical records and provide instead five years of medical records. However, if the defense lawyer decides to make an issue over your medical records, most judges this day and age will let the insurance company lawyer have all of your records back the full ten years.
The stated reason for this invasion of your privacy is that if you are alleging personal injuries caused by the negligence of the defendant, the defendant’s insurance company is entitled to defend your claim by showing that you had pre-existing conditions or other medical issues before this wreck which somehow has a bearing on the damage the defendant has done to you by his negligence. This is perhaps a weak argument but the courts almost always buy it.
It may be possible to keep the defendant insurance company from seeing some types of your medical records. For instance, if a woman breaks her leg in a motor vehicle collision, courts sometimes will not force us to produce copies of the woman's gynecological records.
Defense lawyers use any and everything they can to try to discredit the plaintiff. This includes any record of mental or emotional problems in the past, criminal records, or anything else that the defendant will think that a jury might punish the injured plaintiff for. It doesn’t have to be logical and it doesn’t have to make any sense at all.
The way many of these cases are defended by the insurance company lawyers is to throw everything they can against the wall just to see if something will stick. After all, the defendant and his insurance company do not have to prove anything. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff.
Usually the defense tactic is to not produce any evidence of its own but to try to poke holes in the plaintiff’s evidence. One of the major weapons for doing this is past medical records.
Even if the claim does not result in litigation, the injured person’s privacy however will be invaded. Insurance companies will not pay a claim without having seen the injured parties medical records. Therefore, if a personal injury claimant wants to settle their case, they must voluntarily agree to allow the insurance company to see the records. Otherwise, there will be no settlement.
After an accident, must I give my financial records to the insurance company?
If you allege loss of income as part of your personal injury claim, the defendant's insurance company is entitled to see some or all of your financial records.
Ordinarily, federal and state law is careful to protect the privacy of your financial records.
However, if you file a claim for personal injury which includes a claim for lost income as a result of your physical limitations, your financial records are fair game for the insurance company.
If the injured party is a salaried employee, whose only income is from wages which are all recorded on W2 statements, the extent of the invasion of the injured party's financial privacy is usually limited to the production of those W2 statements and federal income tax returns.
If the injured person was in business for themselves, the invasion of that person's financial privacy will be much more intrusive.
It is very difficult to prove lost income for someone whose income is variable. An example would be a person who owns their own business and whose income therefore is somewhat unpredictable. For instance, a Realtor whose income depends upon the number of houses sold within an certain time period will have a difficult time proving precisely the amount of the income lost if he or she is unable to work for say a three-month period. The argument is that even if that person had not been disabled for the three months, there is no indication as to how many, if any, houses that broker could sell within the three-month period. In other words, the argument is that the lost income is highly speculative.
In order to prove lost income, it is necessary to show income over prior years. If the current year's income is not lower than the prior year's income, it is almost impossible to show any loss of income for the period of time the injured person is out of work.
In order to deal with these matters, both sides need access to voluminous records created over long periods of time.
This, of course, results in the revelation of financial records which state in federal law both would protect from the prying eyes of third parties. However, once a personal injury is filed, if the claim includes one for a lost income, all-financial records are fair game.
If there is a dispute about whether certain records must be revealed, a trial judge will make a decision. However, in almost every case, the judge will allow the defendant's insurance company to see these records.
On the other hand, if there is no claim for lost income, the insurance company will not be able to obtain the claimant's financial records
If my injury case goes to trial in North Carolina, how much does it cost for each day of a jury trial?
Nothing. It costs nothing for a case to go to trial whether or not one of the parties asks for a jury.
A party who files a lawsuit does have to pay a fee for filing the lawsuit. As of this writing, the fee in North Carolina for filing a superior court case is $200. However, once the case goes to trial, there are no additional charges that the litigant has to pay the court for use of the courtroom, cost of the judge or the jurors. It does not matter how many days it takes to try the case, the cost is the same. The initial court cost is the only fee to pay to the court.
This is one of the instances in which the most valuable rights we have are basically free. The right to a jury trial is free in North Carolina, and in virtually all other states.
Even if the party who files the lawsuit ends up losing, he or she does not have to pay any additional court costs.
What if I was injured by exposure to asbestos in my home? Do I have a claim if I never worked with asbestos? What kind of products should I worry about?
Often times asbestos exposure will occur at home, not at work. Clothes laundered from work in an asbestos-containing environment, or building materials like asbestos-containing "popcorn" acoustic ceiling spray, have caused exposures that result in asbestos diseases decades later. Sometimes a location such as a school or office building can cause an exposure from demolition or damage to old steam pipes or insulation. Generally speaking, asbestos was used extensively until the mid to late 1970s. If you have an asbestos disease and don't know how you were exposed, you should immediately investigate making a claim, or risk being time barred by North Carolina's statute of limitations.