North Carolina is an at-fault state, which means that any driver who is at fault in an accident pays for both property damage and bodily injury.
North Carolina is one of the only states to enforce a pure contributory negligence rule, meaning if your negligence contributed in any way to an accident, you are barred from receiving any compensation, even if you were injured in the accident. For example, if you were at fault for only one percent of the accident, you cannot receive any compensation from the other driver’s insurance provider.3
Insurance adjusters will investigate the scene in order to determine who was at fault or negligent during an accident.
Driving Without Insurance
Underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage is a minimum requirement in North Carolina. Fortunately, only 7 percent of drivers are uninsured in the state, putting it among the 10 states with the lowest rates of uninsured drivers in the U.S.
While coverage is stackable in North Carolina, meaning you can combine your coverage limits across multiple vehicles, you can only stack your coverage across different insurance policies. In other words, you need to own multiple insurance policies in order to stack coverage. If you have more than one car with uninsured motorist coverage on separate policies, multiply your limit by your number of cars to get your new, higher limit per car.
DUI is a serious offense in North Carolina. A DUI will stay on your record for 10 years, resulting in a 30-day license suspension along with other potential penalties.
||Suspension of license
||Can a judge suspend the minimum sentence?
||Up to $200
||24 hours to 60 days
||Possible 24 hours
||Possible 30-day suspension
||Up to $500
||48 hours to 120 days
||Possible 48 hours
||Possible 60-day suspension
||72 hours to 6 months
||Possible 72 hours
||Possible 90-day suspension
||7 days to 1 year
||30 days to 2 years
Ignition interlock devices are mandatory for offenders with high blood alcohol content (anything above a BAC of 0.15) and repeat offenders.
||Ignition interlock device requirement for a BAC of 0.15 or above (after license reinstatement)
||Ignition interlock device requirement for a BAC below 0.15 (after license reinstatement)
Seat Belt Laws
In North Carolina, seat belts are considered a primary law for drivers/front-seat passengers and secondary law for back-seat passengers. This means that a police officer can pull you over and issue you a citation for the sole reason that you (the driver) or a front-seat passenger was not wearing a seat belt. On the other hand, a police officer can issue a ticket when a back-seat passenger isn’t wearing a seat belt only if there is another citable traffic infraction.
Distracted Driving Laws
Texting and driving is banned for all drivers in North Carolina. If you’re over 18, however, you can use your phone to talk while driving or use GPS.
If you’re under 18, you can talk on the phone only with your parents or in emergency situations. All handheld device use is banned for commercial drivers.
Teen Driver Laws
The minimum age for a learner’s permit is 15 in North Carolina. If you’re looking to get a permit in North Carolina, you’ll need the following:
- Proof of age/identity
- Social Security card or proof of Social Security number
- Proof of U.S. residency/citizenship or U.S.-issued verification of legal presence
- $22 for your learner’s permit fee
|Type of license
||Supervision (parent, guardian, or name on application for permit)
||Must be in the front seat with a teen driver at all times
||9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for first 6 months
||Required for all passengers
||Required only during curfew hours, unless driving for work or volunteering
||9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
||Required for all passengers
Statute of Limitations for Claims
In North Carolina, you have three years from the date of an accident to file a claim for both property damage and personal injury. If you don’t file a claim within that time frame, you won’t be eligible to receive coverage for those damages/injuries.
Cancellation and Non-Renewal Notification Laws
Cancellation is when your insurance company cancels your insurance policy during its term. Non-renewal is when your insurance provider refuses to renew your coverage at the end of its coverage period.
If your insurance provider decides to cancel or not renew your policy, it has to let you know within the allotted period of time prior to your policy’s expiration date.
|Cancellation vs. non-renewal notification law in North Carolina
||Cancellations due to fraud, misrepresentation, or driver’s license suspension or revocation
||Cancellations due to nonpayment
|How long before your policy expires your insurer must notify you
Insurers may choose to cancel or not renew a policy for a number of reasons:
- You haven’t paid your premium consistently.
- You have committed fraud or misrepresentation on your application.
- Your driver’s license has been revoked or suspended.
- Your insurance provider no longer provides that specific type of insurance.
- You have been cited with a DUI.
North Carolina has a pretty straightforward self-insurance policy. If you want to self-insure, you need to show proof of at least $205,000 in collateral.
Car Inspection Requirements
To register or renew your registration in North Carolina, you must complete a safety and emissions inspection within 90 days of renewal.
In order to pass your inspection, a licensed mechanic must conduct a safety and emissions inspection, which includes checking your vehicle’s headlights, signals, brakes, steering, windows, emissions, and tires. According to the North Carolina Consumers Council, the average cost for safety inspections is $13.60, and the average cost for an emissions check is $16.40.4
If you don’t get your vehicle inspected by the due date, the state will block your vehicle’s registration until you provide a proper inspection.
There are no SR-22 requirements in North Carolina. Some states require insurers to file SR-22s on behalf of drivers who have a criminal background or a history of serious traffic violations. In states with SR-22 requirements, you must have your SR-22 certificate at all times if you have a high-risk insurance policy.
If you need or want to take a defensive driving course in North Carolina, you can find one at https://www.nsc.org/safety-training/defensive-driving/courses/online.
While defensive driving courses might be a requirement if you’ve received a citation, they are also a good way to get a discount on your car insurance. In North Carolina, defensive driving courses cost just under $50 and are four hours long.
Serious Injury and Monetary Thresholds
While there aren’t any injury or monetary minimum thresholds in North Carolina, there is a limit to how much a victim can sue a driver in the event of an accident-related injury. The punitive damages can’t exceed three times the amount of the actual damages or $250,000.
Don’t forget that North Carolina functions under contributory negligence, meaning if you were even 1 percent at fault for an accident, you cannot receive any compensation. Because insurance companies have to find just 1 percent of fault in order to nullify compensation, it’s rare that courts will award victims punitive damages in North Carolina.
Accident Reporting Requirements
If you are involved in an accident in North Carolina with losses that exceed $1,000 in injury, property damage, or death, then you must report to the police immediately. If you don’t, you could receive a fine of up to $100.
Price Discrimination Based on Gender and Credit Score
With the exception of Massachusetts, Hawaii, Michigan, and California, most states in the U.S., including North Carolina, look at your credit score and gender to determine your insurance rates. Women pay slightly less on average for car insurance than their male counterparts, and individuals with a low credit score may have to pay nearly triple the rate of individuals with an exceptional credit score.
When Is a Car Declared a Total Loss?
A vehicle is considered a total loss when the cost of repairs exceeds its actual market value (AMV). While some states require the cost of repairs to be equal to or greater than the AMV, the damages need to equal just 75 percent of the AMV for it to be considered a total loss.
Since the total loss threshold is significantly lower than the AMV in North Carolina, this should provide good news to anyone in a total loss incident. For example, if your car is worth $10,000, it needs to incur only $7,500 in damages for you to receive the maximum total loss coverage as stated in your insurance plan.