Alcohol impacts several essential skills motorists need to drive safely, including their judgment, vision, and reaction time. Due to these impairments, drunk drivers are more likely to cause accidents than sober drivers. If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, the attorneys at Kreger Brodish LLP understand your anger and frustration. You shouldn’t have to suffer because of someone else’s irresponsible, selfish, and dangerous decision to drive while drunk. We will work hard to hold the drunk driver accountable for your injuries and accident-related losses.
What to Do If You Have Been Hit by a Drunk Driver
If a drunk driver hits you, take as many of the following steps as possible to protect your rights and interests:
- Call 911— After any accident, you should call 911. A police officer will respond to the accident scene. They can evaluate whether the other driver is impaired.
- Gather information— Take photos and videos of the accident and the overall scene. Don’t try to interact with the drunk driver or other intoxicated individuals in case they become agitated or aggressive. However, you should talk to any witnesses and get their names, phone numbers, and addresses.
- Seek medical care— Get medical care as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. Prompt medical attention is vital for your health and safety, as well as proving your claim for compensation.
- Be careful with your words— Do not apologize or take responsibility for the accident. Your words could be used to damage your compensation claim. Be wary of insurance companies who call you immediately after the accident “just to check on you.” Insurance companies save money by denying and minimizing claims. They may try to trick you into saying something that gets them off the hook.
- Consult a drunk driving accident attorney— Drunk driving accidents are more complex than the average fender-bender. Consult an experienced drunk driving accident attorney who can help you fight for your rights and interests.
Drunk Driving Laws in North Carolina
In North Carolina, driving while noticeably impaired or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher is illegal. The legal limit for motorists under 21 and commercial motor vehicle drivers is 0.04 percent.
Under North Carolina law, a vendor that knowingly sells alcohol to an underage or intoxicated person may be held liable for harm that person does to a third party. In other words, a bartender or liquor store owner who sells alcohol to an obviously drunk person could be held responsible for accident injuries that the person causes.
Penalties and Liability in North Carolina Drunk Driving Accidents
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 450 traffic fatalities in North Carolina involved a drunk driver in one recent year. These drunk driving accidents make up 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state. The state aims to limit these preventable tragedies by imposing both criminal and civil legal consequences on drunk drivers who cause accidents.
In North Carolina, drunk drivers who are convicted of the crime of driving while intoxicated (DWI) face the following consequences depending on their level of offense:
- Fine ranging from $200 to $4,000
- Jail sentence of 24 hours to two years
- 24 to 72 hours of community service
- Substance abuse assessment and treatment
- License revocation
- Vehicle forfeiture
Separate from the criminal case, drunk drivers can also be liable civilly for damages to anyone they injure. Accident victims can pursue compensation by filing a claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
While criminal and civil cases are distinct, a criminal conviction against the drunk driver could help your civil case. Being convicted of a DWI is proof of negligence by the at-fault driver. However, a criminal conviction is not required for civil liability. Someone can be found not guilty of the crime of drunk driving while still being liable for an accident.
Compensation for Drunk Driving Victims
By pursuing a claim or lawsuit against the drunk driver, you may be able to recover damages for the following accident-related losses:
- Past and future medical expenses, including emergency care, surgery, rehabilitation, medications, and medical equipment
- Lost wages from time missed at work due to your injuries
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injuries prevent you from returning to work
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Accident victims whose cases go to court may also be awarded punitive damages for particularly wrongful acts. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter similar wrongful acts. To be awarded punitive damages under North Carolina law, the victim must prove with clear and compelling evidence that the defendant is liable for compensatory damages and their conduct involved fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct. While the law caps punitive damages in most civil cases, cases involving drunk driving are excluded from this cap.
Contact a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer in Durham Today
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, the experienced attorneys at Kreger Brodish LLP can fight to hold the drunk driver accountable for their negligent actions. We can handle the complex, confusing legal process on your behalf so that you can focus on your health and well-being. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our Durham drunk driving accident lawyers.