North Carolina Car Insurance Laws and Regulations

A look at liability car insurance requirements for registered vehicles in North Carolina, and other state auto insurance rules.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

North Carolina requires vehicle owners to show proof of sufficient liability car insurance before license plates will be issued for the vehicle. Here's what you need to know:

  • North Carolina car insurance operates on a "fault" basis, meaning the driver who causes a traffic accident is responsible for any harm done to others.
  • Vehicle owners must meet certain minimum coverage requirements when insuring their cars and trucks in North Carolina.
  • Failing to insure your vehicle (or letting coverage lapse) will lead to fines and other penalties.

Is North Carolina a "No-Fault" Car Accident State?

North Carolina is a "fault" state when it comes to financial responsibility for injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses stemming from a car accident. In other words, the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is responsible for compensating anyone who suffered harm as a result of it (although from a practical standpoint it's typically the at-fault driver's insurance carrier that will cover these losses, up to policy limits).

What Are My Options After a Car Accident?

After a car accident in North Carolina, depending on available insurance coverage and the circumstances of the crash, you might be able to proceed in one of three ways:

Note: In no-fault car insurance states, claimants don't have this same range of options. But North Carolina drivers don't need to worry about no-fault when it comes to an in-state car accident.

Liability Car Insurance Minimums in North Carolina

If you're buying car insurance in North Carolina, the law requires you to have the following minimum amounts of liability car insurance coverage:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury liability per person injured in an accident you cause
  • $60,000 for total bodily injury liability when two or more people are injured in an accident you cause, and
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident you cause.

This basic coverage pays for medical bills, vehicle damage, and other costs of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who incur losses stemming from a car accident you cause, up to coverage limits. You can (and in some situations should) carry more coverage to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and vehicle damage. Remember, once policy limits are exhausted, you are personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.

Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.

Finally, remember that in North Carolina (and elsewhere) liability coverage can't be applied to your own injuries or vehicle damage after a car accident. You'll need different (additional) coverage for that if you're involved in a car accident and no one else's coverage applies to your losses. For example, personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay coverage can be used to pay your car accident medical bills, and collision coverage can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident.

Do I Need Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage In North Carolina?

North Carolina requires that every car insurance policy sold in the state include both uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage and uninsured motorist property damage insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage may be required depending on how much coverage you carry under your policy. This coverage is crucial if you end up in a car accident with an uninsured driver, or one whose liability policy won't cover your losses.

What Are the Penalties for Driving Without Insurance In North Carolina?

If you've let your car insurance lapse in North Carolina, you'll need to pay a fine of either $50, $100 or $150 (depending on how many coverage lapses you've had in the last three years), and a $50 restoration fee when you renew your vehicle registration.

More Information and Help With Car Insurance In North Carolina

For more information on North Carolina's motor vehicle insurance requirements straight from the state, check out these resources:

If you've been involved in a car accident in North Carolina and you need help with the insurance claim process, it might make sense to discuss your situation (and your options) with a legal professional. Get more information on when you might need a car accident lawyer, and what to expect from your first meeting with a car accident attorney. You can also use the features on this page to connect with a North Carolina injury lawyer.

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