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North Carolina Car Accidents

You probably pass a car accident every day and forget it just as quickly – until it happens to you. When vehicles weighing thousands of pounds share the road, crashes are inevitable. And in North Carolina, one of the ten most populated states in the country, car accidents are tragically increasing every year. 

The motor vehicle fatality rate in 2021 was North Carolina’s worst in 20 years – even though traffic has yet to return to normal pre-pandemic levels. 

A car accident can be a stressful experience. Managing injuries, insurance paperwork, medical bills, and emotional anguish can turn your world upside down. A few precautions can make all the difference should you find yourself a car crash victim. These include thoroughly understanding your auto insurance policy, what steps to take after a car accident, and how a North Carolina car accident lawyer can help. 

rearview of traffic jam on a roadway with taillights

North Carolina Car Accident Statistics

North Carolina ranks 11th in the nation for traffic fatalities (after adjusting for vehicle miles traveled), with 1.44 deaths for every 100 million miles.

Despite North Carolina’s Vision Zero, a data-driven safety campaign aimed at eliminating roadway injuries and deaths, 2021’s statistics compared to 2020 proved North Carolina is falling further from that goal. 

  • More than 276,000 auto accidents, up 11.7%  
  • 1,783 deaths, up 7.5% 
  • 114,722 injuries, up 8.9%
  • Speeding caused 23.9% of fatalities
  • 202 motorcyclists killed, up 14.8%
  • 262 pedestrian fatalities, up 5.2%
  • 17.9% of crashes involved distracted drivers

And in 2022, more than 500 people lost their lives in just the first three months. That’s a staggering 51% fatality increase from the same period in 2021.

Data compiled by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program revealed fewer deaths involving pedestrians, cyclists, and work zones in 2021 but more related to speeding, distracted driving, and not wearing seat belts.

The increase in traffic fatalities is higher than overall traffic and miles traveled, a clear sign that North Carolina roads are becoming more and more dangerous.

Causes of North Carolina Car Accidents

Most experts agree that the pandemic is largely to blame for the nationwide increase in traffic fatalities. Empty roads gave drivers a false sense of security, leading to reckless behavior like speeding, skipping a seat belt, or using alcohol and drugs. But those behaviors haven’t stopped as roads fill up again.

These are some of the most common causes of North Carolina car crashes.


Some of the most preventable car accidents are caused by speeding. Speed limits exist for a reason and are set based on careful area research. Speeding decreases your reaction time, giving you less time to stop or react to avoid a collision. 

Distracted Driving

Anything you do while driving that takes your hands or eyes off the road is a dangerous distraction. Texting is the most obvious example, but reading, eating, messing with the radio, or just talking to your passengers can significantly increase your risk of a crash, even if it’s just a second or two.

Dangerous driving while writing SMS text message

Failure to Yield

It can be easy to forget that other roadway users can’t read your mind. If you don’t slow down for a vehicle that has the right of way, make room for emergency vehicles, or enter a crosswalk while a pedestrian is using it, you’re failing to yield, which can earn you a traffic ticket or fault in a needless death.

Changing Lanes Improperly

Switching lanes is something you probably do without a second thought, which is why it causes many accidents. Examples include changing lanes without using your turn signal, while in the middle of an intersection, and without checking your mirrors.

Driving Under the Influence

Car crashes involving drugs or alcohol are probably the most preventable of all. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in North Carolina is .08, but more than 175 drunk drivers in 2021 fatalities exceeded .15. More than 8,000 were injured, and 400 were killed in alcohol-related crashes. 

Car insurance agents take pictures of accident-damaged vehicles with a smartphone as a proof of insurance claim.

Steps To Take After a Car Accident

You may know the basic steps to take after a car accident, but in the chaos of the immediate aftermath, it’s easy to overlook something crucially important. It might be helpful to keep a list of the proper car accident procedures in your vehicle, so you’re not scrambling to remember if a car accident happens to you.

  1. Move yourself and any passengers to a safe area away from traffic. Check everyone for serious injuries and call 911 if necessary. North Carolina state law requires a call to law enforcement for any crash involving injury, death, or property damage over $1,000.
  2. Share your name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate, and insurance information with the other driver as soon as possible. Be calm and respectful to everyone during this process. 
  3. Record witness contact information, what the witness saw, and the make and model of all vehicles involved. Also, get the names and badge numbers of any police officers that come to your aid. 
  4. Take as many photographs and/or videos of the cars and the surrounding area of the accident. The more detail you have, the more substantial your evidence will be if you must go up against the other driver or your insurance company.
  5. Contact your insurance company right away. Most companies require you to alert them of an accident within 24 hours. 

Equally important are the things you should not do after a North Carolina car accident.

First and foremost, never leave the scene before completing the above steps. Doing so could forfeit your rights to compensation and even make you prosecutable for a hit-and-run. 

Never apologize or admit fault at the scene. Anything you say can be used as evidence against you, and your statements may not even be accurate. Leave those determinations up to law enforcement so you don’t admit to something that wasn’t your fault. If your insurance company asks for a recorded statement, consult an attorney well-versed in car accident insurance claims before consenting.

If you’re experiencing pain after a car accident, seek medical attention immediately. Even if you feel fine, it’s best to get checked out. Your insurance company will look for any reason why you should not be compensated, and if you try later to claim injury but were not examined by a healthcare provider, you’ve just given them one. 

Sometimes your insurance adjuster will offer you a check on the spot, and it’s rarely a good idea to accept without consulting a car accident attorney. Cashing that check means settling the claim, leaving behind thousands of dollars you might have received by going through the entire car accident claims process.

Additionally, if you seek medical advice but delay or fail to follow the treatment plan for your car accident injury, your insurer can use the time you waited to argue that your injury was unrelated to the car accident. 

In North Carolina, a controversial personal injury rule called contributory negligence holds that a plaintiff is not entitled to any damages if they’re found even one percent at fault for an accident. This rule, used in just four other states, is why it is crucial to seek legal guidance and representation before moving forward in any car accident claim.

Navigating the Insurance Process After a Car Accident

After a car accident, your insurance company will connect you with an insurance adjuster, who will gather details about the accident and decide how much compensation you deserve. They will act as if they’re on your side but use high-pressure tactics to save the company as much money as possible. They could manipulate you into admitting fault or accepting a smaller settlement by encouraging you to let them take over from here. They may advise you not to hire a lawyer because they know an attorney will likely win you much more than the company wants to pay.

You will need to be interviewed by the insurance adjuster, who will ask you to provide specific details about where and how the crash happened, if there were any injuries, and whether there were witnesses and a police report. It’s essential to answer these questions to the best of your ability without admitting fault. 

Navigating the insurance claims process alone can be incredibly confusing, even if you know your policy inside and out. A car accident attorney can guide you through the process while you focus on getting back to your life. They can also sit with you during your interview to prevent you from talking yourself out of the compensation you deserve. 

selected focus on gavel with a lady justice statue and bookshelf in the background

When to Hire a North Carolina Car Accident Attorney

While it is true that many car accident insurance claims, such as those with minor injuries and no dispute over fault, can be handled without a lawyer, it’s always wise to take advantage of a free consultation for tips on handling the claim on your own.

For anything more serious, an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney can be invaluable and gain you up to 40% more compensation than if you represent yourself.

The strongest argument for representation in North Carolina is its complex liability laws, especially the contributory negligence rule. If you are found even slightly negligent in your accident, you could receive nothing. A lawyer can file a claim with the other party’s insurance company and handle settlement negotiations. If an agreement cannot be reached and negligence is in dispute, the next step is bringing the case to court. A North Carolina car accident attorney with a history of successful results will ensure a fair and reasonable outcome for your case. 

If your dispute is with your insurance company and you decide to forgo an attorney, your time will be spent filling out forms, providing interviews, and negotiating. The claims process will take time away from your recovery. Car accident attorneys can take over all the claims process work and communicate with your insurer on your behalf. They can also gather the evidence you’ll need to avoid contributory negligence and prove the other party’s fault. 

Possible recoverable damages in a car accident include economic losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, auto repair, and physical therapy. They also include non-economic losses of pain and suffering that are harder to quantify. You must have proof of these losses to be reimbursed, and your lawyer will know how to get it.

Many people reject legal representation out of fear of how much it will cost, but it’s important to remember that car accident attorneys work on contingency. They only get paid if you win your case; the money comes from a portion of your settlement. 

The North Carolina car accident lawyers at the Whitley Law Firm have successfully recovered millions of dollars in compensation for car accident victims. We understand the complexity of insurance regulations, liability laws, and settlement negotiations. If you have been in a car accident and suffered injury or the loss of a loved one, our team can protect your rights and obtain the highest compensation possible. Call us at 800-785-5000 or contact us anytime to discuss your options. 

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3301 Benson Drive, Suite 120
Raleigh, NC 27609
Whitley Law Firm

At Whitley Law Firm, we take pride in representing the wrongfully injured in Raleigh and all throughout North Carolina and understand your need for compassionate and responsive legal guidance. You can trust us to provide the service you deserve.

Our Raleigh personal injury lawyers and support team offer more than 80 years of combined experience to help you obtain the financial damages you rightfully deserve. We are committed to helping clients obtain just compensation for their injuries and losses, using every available resource.