Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer in North Carolina
Personal Injury Law Firm for Victims of Drunk Drivers
Drunk driving accidents account for nearly a third of traffic fatalities nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal in all 50 states, meaning that a drunk driver may face criminal charges when he or she causes a car accident. However, this criminal case will not compensate the victim for medical bills and other expenses. Instead, you must file a personal injury lawsuit and/or insurance claim to recover these costs. Additionally, you may be able to hold other parties responsible for your injuries and damages as well. These parties may include the establishment that sold the alcohol or the social host who provided it.
North Carolina’s car accident laws are often restrictive, thanks to the doctrine of contributory negligence. This means that, even in drunk driving accidents where driver negligence is usually straightforward, you may still be unable to recover compensation if the court or jury decides that you contributed to the crash in any way. However, in the cases we have handled against drunk drivers, we stop the defendant’s allegation of contributory negligence in its tracks. The law allows us to allege that driving drunk amounts to gross negligence and under North Carolina law, contributory negligence cannot be used as a defense when the defendant was grossly negligent.
Therefore, you should contact an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer if you were hurt by a drunk driver. The car accident lawyers at Riddle & Brantley have experience with these types of cases. We offer free initial consultations and are always ready to come to you, wherever you are. Home, hospital, and nursing home visits are common since we understand that you may not be able to travel to our offices.
Who is Liable for the Injuries and Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident?
Almost all drunk driving accidents are a direct result of driver negligence. Therefore, the driver and the driver’s insurance company are typically accountable for the damages that result from the car accident. However, the drunk driver may not have insurance or the limits of his or her policy might not cover the full extent of your damages. If so, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, though this is only a viable option if the driver has sufficient assets to pay you in the event of a successful verdict.
Also, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against additional parties. These include:
- The bar, restaurant or another establishment that sold the driver alcohol. North Carolina dram shop laws allow you to hold alcohol vendors accountable for accidents their drunk patrons later cause. However, certain restrictions apply. First, you can file this kind of claim if the drunk driver was a minor (under 21). You can also file a dram shop claim if the vendor sold alcohol to an already intoxicated patron, also known as overserving. If the drunk driver who caused your car crash injuries was overserved, you may be able to file a negligence per se case against the vendor. A negligence per se claim actually changes the standard of care. In a regular injury claim, negligence is generally established by asking whether a reasonable person would have acted differently than the defendant in the situation. However, this can be vague, and reasonable people could disagree. A negligence per se claim basically states a defendant was negligent if all the following conditions are true:
- A duty exists due to a statute or ordinance. In dram shop cases, a North Carolina statute from 2013 establishes this duty. It prohibits alcohol vendors from selling to intoxicated people.
- The statute or ordinance was enacted to protect a class of persons which includes the plaintiff.
- A breach of the statutory duty occurred.
- The injury sustained was suffered by an interest which the statute protected.
- The injury was of the nature contemplated in the statute.
- Violation of the statute directly caused the injury.
- A social host. In North Carolina, if the drunk driver became intoxicated at a social gathering or party, you may be able to collect compensation from the host. Unlike dram shop cases, you may hold a host accountable for car crashes caused by drunk drivers of any age. However, you and your drunk driving accident lawyer must prove three things:
- The host served or provided the alcohol. This means that if the drunk driver brought his or her own drinks to the party, the social host may not be liable.
- The host knew that the guest was intoxicated.
- The host knew that the guest would be driving.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Drunk Driving Accident Claim?
After a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you can seek compensation for your injuries and other expenses through an insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit. The possible damages for which you may recover compensation include:
- Economic damages. These are verifiable, material expenses that you incurred as a result of the car accident, such as:
- Medical bills. This can include the cost of treatment for your car accident injuries as well as ongoing therapies and medical care.
- Car repairs and the cost of other property damage.
- Lost wages. If your injuries keep you from returning to work for a period of time, or possibly permanently, you can recover the value of your lost wages.
- Funeral expenses. If you are filing a wrongful death claim for the loss of a loved one in a fatal car accident, you can recover the cost of funeral and burial expenses.
- Noneconomic damages. This kind of compensation is for non-material injury or hardship, such as:
- Pain and suffering. You may be able to collect compensation for your physical and emotional discomfort.
- Loss of companionship. You may collect these damages in a personal injury (loss of consortium) or wrongful death lawsuit (loss of the loved one to the family).
- Disability or disfigurement. This is compensation for the ongoing discomfort or pain of a debilitating injury or extensive scarring.
- Punitive damages. This is additional compensation that may be awarded in a civil lawsuit to punish the drunk driver. You can file for and collect punitive damages separately from any criminal proceedings against the negligent driver.
Hurt by a Drunk Driver? Contact Our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Today
Car crashes caused by drunk drivers often result in catastrophic personal injuries or wrongful death. However, even though the drunk driver was almost certainly negligent, it can still be difficult to get a fair insurance settlement after this kind of car accident. A North Carolina drunk driving accident lawyer can help you take control of your situation and alleviate some of the anxiety you may be experiencing.
At Riddle & Brantley, we help monitor the prosecution of the drunk driving charges against the drunk driver and many times appear with our seriously injured clients in court at the criminal proceedings. We want to make sure that the drunk driver is punished to the full extent of the law. Also, the conviction or guilty plea in the criminal case may help us prove liability in the claim for injuries and damages as the plea/conviction is admissible in the civil case.
We offer free initial consultations so you can get answers to your questions with no obligation. Our personal injury lawyers are prepared to meet you wherever you are, whether at home, in the hospital or elsewhere. Otherwise, you can schedule a meeting at one of our four office locations in North Carolina, in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Jacksonville or Kinston.