WILMINGTON -- A Wilmington family is on the brink of losing everything. Four family members were injured in a recent auto accident and the woman who caused the wreck didn't have enough insurance to cover the family's medical bills. Emelia Williams was injured in an auto accident. She said, "I lost my good job, I lost my health insurance, I lost everything." To look at Williams you might not know anything was wrong. But this past summer she had to be airlifted from the scene of an auto accident in Columbus County. Due to severe nerve damage, she's lost the use of her left arm. Her daughter Valerie, just three-years-old at the time of the accident, had her skull cracked open and her arm broken in two places. Valerie said, "When I wake up every day, it'll be hurting, and I'll be rubbing it." The elderly woman that T-boned their car had insurance, but only carried $60,000 in coverage for medical expenses. That didn't come close to covering the Williams' medical bills, which total over $100,000. "I felt like I'd been punished for somebody else's fault," Williams said. "I had my good job, I was doing all right, I was doing OK. Now the job that I used to do, I can't do it any more." She lost her job as a nursing assistant at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. She also lost her health insurance because she couldn't afford the $500 monthly payments for COBRA. She's now seven months behind on her mortgage, in danger of losing her home. Williams says she just can't understand why she's the one paying the price when she didn't cause the accident. Attorneys say it happens more often than you think. Attorney Stuart Smith said, "I would say in a third of our cases, there is not insurance available, or there is not enough for their medical bills." In North Carolina the law only requires drivers to carry $30,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident. If more than one person is injured, the law requires only $60,000 worth of coverage. Experts recommend that people carry underinsured motorist insurance for events just like this. They also recommend getting an umbrella policy in case you cause a catastrophic accident. If your insurance isn't enough to cover someone's medical bills, they may go after your personal assets. Smith said, "Particularly when the person is injured even more, and the $30,000 is all that's available, it really puts that injured person in the position, I might want to take their house, I might want to take their car." Unfortunately Williams did not have underinsured motorist coverage to cover her medical expenses. But she did have long-term disability coverage from her job at the hospital, which is providing the family some income. The family thinks it's unfair that the law requires people to carry so little insurance. The minimum coverage limits were set back in 2000 and despite how inadequate they are for serious accidents like this DMV officials know of no efforts to increase the limits.
- Video Central
- About WWAY