North Carolina is 1 of only 4 states that has Contributory Negligence;

Contributory Negligence is a harsh rule that bars you from recovery if you are even 1% responsible for an accident;

An insurance adjuster’s primary role is to “adjust” your claim – generally downward, so the insurance company has to pay as little as possible;

If you are in an accident, and you are not even 1% at fault and your car is totaled, you often receive only a fraction of what is owed on the vehicle. An example might be if you owed $10,000 on your car, but the insurance adjuster deemed it only worth $7,000, you would be responsible for $3,000 and without a car – even if everyone agreed it was not your fault;

If you are in injured in an accident, and your is among the very small percentage of claims that actually goes to trial, the jury is not allowed to hear that any judgment awarded generally does not come from the person who hit you, but from their insurance company;

The lawyers working for the insurance companies are generally paid by the hour, meaning the more they work against you, the more they get paid;

People who are injured, and do not have an attorney, often get very little, if anything, above their medical bills;

The vast majority of claims are settled out of court.

The law in North Carolina is already slanted against the injured and favors insurance companies.

House Bill 542 (HB 542), also known as “Tort Reform for Citizens and Businesses,” is a bill that politicians are seriously considering making law. They want to make it even worse for the injured. It can be a bit complicated to understand, so here is a “real-world” example:

  • You are injured in an accident; rear-ended by a drunk driver.
  • Your car is totaled; unfortunately you owe more than the insurance company BY LAW has to pay. The insurance company paid $7,000 when you owe $10,000.
  • You are out of pocket $3,000 and have no car.
  • After going to the emergency room, and conservative follow up treatment, you have approximately $3,500 in medical bills

We see this type of fact-pattern nearly every day. Presently, the full $3,500 in medical bills you owe would be able to be presented to the insurance company or in a small number of cases that actually go to trial, in court. HB 542 wants to change the rules about what medical bills are actually considered.

If it becomes law, HB 542 would dictate that if your health insurance covered the medical bills (say, $2,000 in the example) then that was your “actual” medical bill – giving the insurance company who is responsible for your injuries the benefit of your medical coverage.

  • The $3,000 you owe on your car, through no fault of your own, is not allowed as evidence;
  • The fact that the insurance company for the at-fault driver is defending and paying the claim is hidden from the jury; and
  • Now, the insurance company for the at-fault driver could argue to reduce what it owes you; that your medical bills are only $2,000, not the $3,500 you were billed. They want to do that to reduce even further what they pay injured people.

Many people these days cannot afford health insurance. In those cases, the new law would still let the victim recover the full amount of their damages from the at-fault insurance company. But some people do dig into their pockets every month to buy health coverage for their families. The proposed law would not let those people recover the full value of their bills from the at-fault insurance company. Is it fair for the insurance company of the at-fault driver to get a discount when the victim has paid for health insurance? That’s like saying a murderer should get a reduced sentence if the victim had life insurance. The fact the victim has paid their hard-earned money to protect their family does not mean the at-fault driver should get a discount.

The law in North Carolina is already heavily slanted in favor of insurance companies and against ordinary people who get hurt.