To determine who receives your settlement demand, you must identify every party who contributed to causing your injuries. You then identify the insurance carrier for each responsible party. The victim’s demand with all supportive evidence should then be directed to the adjusters for each individual insurance carrier.
In most car accident cases, the only insurance carrier involved is the liability coverage on the at-fault vehicle(s). However, severe injury cases and more valuable injury claims often pull funding from multiple insurance policies. As a practical matter, the question of who owes for your injuries boils down to a list of all overlapping insurance policies that share the obligation to pay for victim claims. The following is a list of typical insurance sources that contribute to fund injury claim payments:
- Primary auto liability insurance — The first in line to pay victim claims is the liability insurance on the at-fault driver’s vehicle.
- Joint tortfeasors — If more than one driver contributes to causing your accident, the liability insurance policy covering each at-fault vehicle will share concurrent primary liability for injury claim payments. For example, if two drivers fail to observe a red light and strike a third driver, the innocent victim collects from the two liability insurance policies covering the two at-fault vehicles.
- Excess liability insurance and umbrella coverage — For any at-fault driver and vehicle, the auto policy may be augmented by the driver’s homeowner’s umbrella coverage or by additional liability insurance. Many homeowners will add $1,000,000.00 in excess liability insurance to protect their home and assets in the event of a catastrophic accident. In serious injury cases, make sure that all excess liability insurance policies are involved in settlement discussions.
- Driver personal coverage in borrowed vehicle case — If a driver borrows a friend’s vehicle, the liability insurance policy on the borrowed vehicle provides primary liability insurance. However, if the victim’s injury case value exceeds the liability coverage limits on the vehicle policy, the victim can access additional liability insurance coverage through the driver’s personal auto insurance policy.
- At-fault driver’s family car insurance policies — Car insurance covers the “named insured” and any resident relative when they cause a collision. Thus, a driver who causes an accident may be covered by another family member’s liability insurance. This excess liability coverage provides additional money to pay the injured party. Victims should review all car insurance policies in the at-fault driver’s household to locate additional coverage.
- Business coverage and commercial liability insurance — If the responsible driver was employed when he or she caused your accident, the employer is also liable and legally responsible for your injury claims. Most business policies carry high coverage limits. With significant money involved, these commercial insurance carriers employ the very best adjusters to oppose victim claims.
- Federal funding — If your accident was caused by an agent of the federal government, the Federal Tort Claims Act abolishes sovereign immunity and allows claims against the federal government.
- State funding — If a state employee or agency caused your accident, the state may be held liable under the North Carolina State Tort Claims Act. These claims are handled and defended by the state’s attorney general. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case is tried and determined by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
- Uninsured motorist coverage — If there is no liability insurance coverage for either the at-fault vehicle or the at-fault driver, the victim can collect injury claims payments through multiple sources of uninsured motorist (a.k.a. UM) coverage in his or her household. North Carolina allows stacking of UM policies. Thus, if you are the victim of an uninsured driver, you can collect from the uninsured motorist policy covering the vehicle you were riding in and also through other separate policies held by you and every other relative who resided with you on the accident date.
- Underinsured motorist coverage — If all liability insurance policies added together do not provide adequate funding to pay for your injury claims, you can collect additional benefits through multiple underinsured motorist (a.k.a. UIM) policies. Stacking of UIM policies is fully allowed in North Carolina. UIM coverage can be collected from the insurance policy for the vehicle you were riding in, your own policy if it is separate, and from all policies for every relative who resided with you on the date of accident.
These are the common sources of insurance coverage available to pay accident-related injury claims. For a complete list of all money sources available to pay accident victims, see chapter 1.