NC Laws Play Favorites; Insurance Profits Rise
If you have been injured in an accident in North Carolina, the laws of our state make it far more challenging than it should be for you to receive fair compensation for your injuries. Many of North Carolina's laws affecting the rights of injured individuals are outdated and unjust when compared to the majority of other states in the nation.
North Carolina is one of only four states to still use the outdated “contributory negligence” law. According to this law, if an individual is found to have contributed just 1% to their own injuries, they have no right to recover compensation for medical bills, property damage, permanent injuries or other damages they suffer as a result. Most states simply apportion blame to the involved parties and determine any rights to compensation accordingly. Unfortunately, the system in North Carolina favors insurance companies and hinders individuals by limiting their rights. The recent “billed v. paid” legislation further tilts the scales of justice away from the individual to the benefit of insurance companies and large corporations.
The NC General Assembly passed a law (HB 542) in 2011 to limit the evidence a plaintiff (individual) can introduce at trial when explaining to the jury what medical bills they incurred because of their injuries. Before this legislation, if an injured individual was charged $100,000 for medical treatment, they were allowed to introduce that amount to a jury as the appropriate floor for their compensation. Since this law was enacted, injured individuals can only introduce the amount it took to “satisfy” the bills they incurred, the "paid" amount, which is routinely significantly less. A majority of individuals reach a settlement with the involved insurance company prior to trial. Insurance companies typically begin negotiations at an amount above the individual's incurred medical bills. Therefore, it is easy to see how this law significantly impairs the individual's chances of receiving just compensation.
"Billed v. paid" is a bad law and, at Crumley Roberts, we believe that its' consequences are profound. What are these consequences?
- Billed v. paid allows civil defendants to avoid personal responsibility for their actions.
- Billed v. paid prevents individuals, devastated by injuries through no fault of their own, from obtaining fair recovery.
- Billed v. paid creates a disincentive to purchase health insurance.
- Billed v. paid reduces state revenue (tax dollars) by shrinking the amount paid back to the state in cases where the plaintiff has state-sponsored health insurance.
- Billed v. paid raises the profits for national and multi-national car insurance companies who lobby the legislature with millions of dollars each year.
In North Carolina, fighting against the insurance companies is an uphill battle. At Crumley Roberts, we understand the law and we work hard to stand up for our clients to receive fair compensation for their devastating injuries.
Look for part 2 of this blog series on Monday, November 11 when we'll look at two hypothetical cases to further illustrate the devastating effects of the "billed v. paid" law.
Dré Fleury is the Personal Injury Practice Group Leader at Crumley Roberts. His passion for individual rights drives his work every day. He leads a team of personal injury attorneys and case managers throughout the state who work hard to stand up for their clients.Free Initial Consultation