Every driver in North Carolina must buy and carry a minimum amount of car insurance. This helps cover any costs or damages that a driver might cause another person if the driver hurts that other person (a plaintiff) in a car wreck. It is a common mistake to think that your medical bills are automatically paid if you are injured in car wreck. That usually does not happen, which leads to a plaintiff needing to file a lawsuit. The reality is that if a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit and is in court, it is because the defendant driver’s insurance company refused to pay to make that plaintiff whole for her injuries.
When a plaintiff sues a defendant driver who injured her, the defendant’s car insurance company is responsible for paying the damages that a jury decides the plaintiff needs for justice and to be made whole. The car insurance company will pay any damages up to the policy limits for the defendant’s insurance policy. Typically the minimum amount of coverage that a driver must have as car insurance in North Carolina is $30,000 for an individual and $50,000 for each incident. That means that a defendant driver should have at least $30,000 in insurance coverage for one plaintiff. Or if there is a car wreck with more than one plaintiff who is injured, the minimum insurance policy should provide at least $50,000 to be split among those 2 or more plaintiffs.
Of course, as you can imagine, a driver could buy a car insurance policy with a much larger coverage, like $50,000/$100,000, $100,000/$300,000, or $1,000,000. Usually when the defendant driver is a company, like an 18-wheeler truck for Walmart or one of the trucking companies, or even just a work van for a local HVAC or pickup truck for some electric company or contractor, the work vehicle will have a commercial auto insurance policy with a very large damage limit covering it. Sometimes those commercial policies will cover up to $5,000,000 or $10,000,000 in damages for a car wreck.
If you see a lawsuit filed against the actual defendant driver, it can be confusing about how the insurance company plays a role. The case looks like it goes directly against the defendant driver with no mention of the insurance company. In reality, however, the car insurance company is almost always standing silently behind the defendant driver. In fact, North Carolina has a rule that says the insurance company cannot even be directly sued!
It is usually the car insurance company that pays for the defendant driver’s lawyer and will pay any damages that a jury determines justice demands the plaintiff should receive. However, it is the law in North Carolina courtrooms that no one can say that insurance is involved. A defendant driver almost never pays money out of his own pocket to make a plaintiff whole for the injuries the defendant driver caused her. Usually, the car insurance company pays the damages that a jury orders a plaintiff should receive. This may not seem right, but the insurance companies have gotten the rules changed in their favor. Just remember, the defendant sitting in the courtroom has auto insurance for a reason and they most likely will not be paying out of their own pocket.