According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, there were 11,264 alcohol related vehicle crashes in 2016, resulting in 402 fatalities. Despite the known risks, and massive public awareness campaigns, many drivers needlessly risk their own lives, and others, by getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Drivers who make this decision, and find themselves in an accident, are generally regarded as reckless and irresponsible, but no matter how much of a “slam dunk” the case may be, you should absolutely retain and experienced drunk driver accident attorney.
North Carolina Laws Regarding Drunk Driving
North Carolina law states that anyone aged 21 years or older with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08% or higher is considered drunk. For individuals under 21, any BAC amount is considered legally drunk. The threshold is lower, .04%, for commercial drivers, and those with a prior DWI.
BAC is determined via a breathalyzer or a blood test. Penalties for drunk driving can include loss of driving privileges, fines, and imprisonment. Drunk drivers may also be subjected to civil suits. In addition to criminal proceedings.
Civil Suits vs. Criminal Proceedings
A drunk driver may face criminal proceedings, even if an accident hasn’t taken place. However, an accident with injuries or fatalities can lead to harsher punishments. While criminal proceedings are brought by the states, along with the victim, a civil suit case is filed by the victim or victim’s family. This type of case is more like a personal injury claim and is used to recover damages from medical treatment, lost wages, and other economic damages.
While the criminal case will be separate from any civil suits filed, you may require information from the criminal proceeding to move forward. While it is best to wait for the criminal proceedings before filing a civil suit, it’s important to be mindful of the statute of limitations.
In North Carolina, civil suits must be filed three years from the date of the injury.
Third Party Liability
If you are injured in a drunk driving accident, you may also be able to file a civil suit against against the business or third party that provided the alcohol to the driver. This is known as the “Dram Shop Law,” and it can only be used in drunk driving accidents resulting in injury or death, and in which the drunk driver was a minor. Compensation under the Dram Shop Law is limited to $500,000 per alcohol-related accident, regardless of how many people are injured.
Persons injured in an accident involving a drunk driver may file a claim against a third party if:
- The vendor negligently sold alcohol to a minor. For example, if they failed to ask for ID, that would be considered negligent.
- The vendor continued to sell alcohol to an individual, despite obvious evidence that they are severely intoxicated. This can be difficult to prove.
- The accident and resulting injuries were “proximately caused” by the negligent driving while intoxicated. This basically means that the accident may not have happened if the drunk driver hadn’t been served, or continued to be served, alcohol at the establishment in question.
- The accident occurred within the statute of limitations, which is three years from the date of injury.
In North Carolina, there is also a “Social Host Liability,” meaning that a private host can also be held liable for a drunk driving accident if they provide alcohol to guests at a party, or other social event. The law differs from the Dram Shop Law, in that it can also apply to drunk drivers over the age of 21.
Injured persons can seek damages from a social host if:
- The host served or provided alcohol to the drunk driver.
- The host knew the drunk driver was intoxicated.
- The host knew the intoxicated individual would be driving.
Common Drunk Driver Accident Injuries
Drunk driving accidents can lead to catastrophic injuries that can severely affect your quality of life, and even result in death.
Common injuries seen in drunk driving accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
An experienced drunk driver accident attorney in Raleigh can help you assess your injuries, medical bills, and ultimate impact on your life to ensure that you are compensated fairly.
Types of Compensation
Due to these extreme negligence involved in a drunk driving accident, persons injured can seek compensatory and punitive damages in court.
Compensatory damages refers to money awarded for costs incurred due to an injury suffered due to a drunk driving accident.
These types of damages are awarded in civil cases, and can include:
- Medical bills, including hospital, treatment, etc.
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Physical therapy
- Domestic services, such as in-home care
- Medical equipment
- Lost wages
- Increased living expenses due to injuries
- Property replacement
In civil cases, a person injured in a drunk driving accident can also seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to deter the drunk driver from repeating their poor decision.
In essence, punitive damages go beyond compensatory damages and are typically sought in particularly egregious situations. Injured persons may even be able to seek damages from the drunk driver’s insurance policies outside of regular automobile insurance. These types of damages are determined by the court.
Here are some examples of when punitive damages may come into play:
- The driver was speeding excessively.
- The driver has multiple DWIs.
- The accident involved multiple vehicles/persons/injuries.
- The drunk driver shows no remorse.
Call a Raleigh Drunk Driver Accident Attorney for Help
If you’ve been in an accident involving a drunk driver, do not sign any waivers or make agreements with your insurance company or associated parties without contacting a personal injury attorney that has experience with drunk driver accidents. Drunk driving is a seriously negligent act, and you are entitled to compensatory and punitive damages for your pain and suffering. An experienced drunk driver accident attorney can guide you through the process, remain mindful of the statute of limitations, and ensure that you receive all damages to which you are entitled.
Call us at (919) 615-2473 or complete the online contact form below to speak with a Raleigh drunk driver accident attorney.
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