It is no secret that drunk drivers are among the most dangerous drivers on North Carolina’s roads. Their delayed reactions and impaired physical and mental faculties, drunk drivers have a greater tendency to cause high speed collisions and head-on impacts that result in serious injury or death. But drunk driving is a preventable issue. When an impaired person gets behind the wheel and causes harm it’s important to hold that driver accountable.
Drunk Driving Background and Statistics
A driver is considered legally impaired when his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) measures .08% and above. While there is no way to establish what every single person experiences at that point, many people will have trouble with balance and “feel no pain”. Your reflexes are seriously curtailed and muscle coordination diminishes.
In 2020 alone, there were 11,654 fatalities wherein at least one driver was impaired. That constitutes 30% of all traffic fatalities for the year. Unfortunately, these statistics are on the rise as fatalities jumped 14.3% from 2019 to 2020 nationwide. In North Carolina, of the 1,538 deaths on the road in 2020, 30% of those were due to impaired driving – totaling 454.
The first thing to realize if you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver is that the driver is often not the only liable person. Recovering insurance policy limits from the drunk driver is often the “low hanging fruit” for lawyers. North Carolina has low minimum coverage policies that, even if an attorney can settle for the maximum, is not nearly enough to make a victim whole.
Critically, an attorney can assist you in litigating a claim against other people or businesses who may have negligently contributed to the collision. These claims are known as dram shop claims, and make available insurance limits significantly higher. Proving this liability is often difficult, but an experienced attorney can help you get the most out of your settlement.
The damages available after a North Carolina drunk driving collision depends on a variety of factors. If the victim did survive, then there are a number of available “elements of damages”. This includes compensation for:
- past and future medical expenses
- past and future lost earnings
- physical pain and mental suffering
- permanent injury, permanent scarring and disfigurement
- and loss of use of part of the body.
If the drunk driving victim dies, the administrator of the estate can pursue the damages set forth in North Carolina’s wrongful death statute. Wrongful death claims are eligible for:
- expenses for care,
- treatment and hospitalization caused by the incident prior to death
- compensation for any physical and mental pain and suffering before death
- funeral expenses
- net income of the decedent
- compensation for the services, protection and care of the decedent to his or her beneficiaries
Drunk driving is considered willful and wanton negligence under North Carolina law. That implies there is always a possibility for recover of punitive damages. These are damages that are not designed specifically to compensate the victim but, instead, to punish the defendant and send a message to them, as well as to the community. While punitive damages in North Carolina are limited to the greater of $250,000 or three times compensatory damages, this is not true in cases involving drunk driving.
The recovery of punitive damages are driven by the facts that surround the drunk driving. For example, is this the only offense by this defendant or do they have a history? Have they driven drunk again since causing the injury? There are any number of facts that can help drive the recovery of punitive damages, and it is very much a case by case inquiry. A good investigation into the punitive damages element of a drunk driving case can help result in a policy limits tender even when the injuries are not severe.
Representation for North Carolina Drunk Driving Victims
Maginnis Howard’s lead personal injury attorney, T. Shawn Howard, has proven experience handling complex drunk driving personal injury cases. He is a million dollar and multi-million-dollar advocate, and he has also been designated a Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2016.
To schedule a free personal injury consultation, call us at (919) 526-0450. You can also send a confidential message through our contact page.