If you find yourself in an accident as you drive through North Carolina without car insurance, don’t make the situation worse by lying, leaving, or hiding at the scene of the crash. You may face fines and potentially jail time because driving without insurance coverage is a misdemeanor crime. According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-313, driving your car while it is uninsured is a violation of North Carolina’s Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act. If you are not responsible for the accident, being uninsured shouldn’t be a reason not to obtain financial recovery.
Here, the North Carolina attorneys of Dewey, Ramsay, and Hunt will explain the implications of not carrying insurance in North Carolina and your legal options if another driver caused the accident. As seasoned car accident attorneys, we frequently encounter situations where the drivers may lie or try to hide the fact that they don’t have insurance out of fear. Acting in such a way can be a severe miscalculation because you don’t want to add wrongdoings to the violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-313. Whenever we take on a case, we will defend and protect our clients from their innocent mistakes and seek all legal recourse available.
What Happens If I’m In a Car Accident Without Insurance in North Carolina?
North Carolina requires all drivers to carry insurance. Insurance coverage must be at least $30,000 for bodily injuries per person and $60,000 for bodily injuries per accident. Property damage coverage should be at least $25,000. In North Carolina, if you are uninsured and the other party is at fault, you can file a claim against the driver who caused the accident. You should file a claim with the insurance company of the party responsible for the crash right away. If you are considering filing a civil lawsuit, you have a limited time window of three years. Therefore, you need to be mindful of the time passing and how you may be hurting your chances of financial recovery by waiting over the time limit to file a lawsuit in North Carolina. An attorney can go over the time frame pertinent to your situation and what might be your best course of action.
Criminal Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in North Carolina
North Carolina is an at-fault state where the person or entity responsible for the accident will be legally accountable for the costs and losses (both economic and non-economic losses) stemming from the crash.
The legal concept of fault refers to the acts or omissions that caused your injuries. Typically, these acts occur due to carelessness or negligence. Even if you are uncertain of the specific cause of the accident, your interests are best protected by documenting some of the following information:
- The names and contact information of witnesses and police officers at the scene
- Photos; if you are not able to take photographs on your own, ask someone to take pictures and forward them to you
- Names of the other people involved in the accident
Driving without insurance coverage is considered a misdemeanor in North Carolina. Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-31(a), driving without insurance is considered a Class 3 misdemeanor and carries a maximum of 20 days in jail and a $200 fine. If this is not the first time you are caught driving without insurance coverage, you may face more serious consequences. Depending on your circumstances, your attorney can help you ascertain potential penalties in greater detail. You may also be subject to points on your driver’s license.
If you are at fault for an accident, even partially, you can’t file a lawsuit in North Carolina to seek recovery for your losses. Also, if you are uninsured and you are considered at fault, a civil lawsuit against you is likely. If both drivers are uninsured, your attorney can take a closer look at the situation and give you options.
What to Do If Asked About Your Lack of Insurance After an Accident
While it can be intimidating to admit to the police that you are driving without insurance, leaving the scene of an accident or lying to the authorities can have a severe negative impact on your chances of a financial recovery, especially if you didn’t cause the crash. Also, the offense of driving without insurance is a misdemeanor, which is considered the least serious type of offense. It’s in your best interest to protect your rights of financial recovery and deal separately with the misdemeanor offense. Your attorney can help you navigate through these processes accordingly.
Most people who don’t have insurance tend to have an explanation. These are some of the most common reasons insurance lapses:
- Delinquent payments
- Changes in coverage
- Moving to the state without coverage
Whatever the reasons for not having obtained car insurance, you should ask your attorney for recommendations as to how it will be best to proceed. The DMV is typically notified of cars that don’t have insurance, so you may want to call and give them an explanation. If you haven’t been able to contact the DMV, your attorney can give you assistance.
An important distinction is that driving without insurance is a criminal offense. Moreover, while other criminal charges can occur in cases of car accidents, the basis for legal recovery for your injuries will be in civil court. Civil courts are different from the criminal system, and the focus of the civil case will be on who is responsible for your injuries.
A North Carolina Uninsured Motorist Lawyer Can Help
Anyone who is uninsured and has been in an accident should seek legal advice to get a better sense of the options available. The insurance issue may be handled independently of the recovery for injuries. The team of attorneys at Dewey, Ramsay, and Hunt can guide and protect you if you find yourself in this situation. If you have any questions, call us at (704) 377-3737.