DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENTS
What are the laws, my rights and what am i entitled to…?
I Was Hurt By a Drunk Driver—What Next?
Despite rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, criminal penalties, and public service campaigns statewide, people still drink and drive. Being a car accident victim injured by another driver’s actions is always a scary and sobering experience—but when the other driver was driving under the influence it can be even more so. If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, it is extremely important to contact a North Carolina personal injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you receive due compensation during this difficult time. The experienced attorneys at PRJ Law are standing by to provide a free consultation to explore your options and defend your rights.
Why contact an attorney as soon as possible if I don’t know what my long-term injuries will be yet?
North Carolina has a statute of limitations, or time limit, of three years for these types of personal injury cases—unless there was a death involved, in which case it is only two years. That means you have that amount of time after the accident to file a lawsuit. In addition, the more time goes by, the harder it can be to gather evidence necessary to prove your case, particularly if you are not receiving any medical treatment. Even if you (or your attorney) are not gathering evidence to build your case, the insurance company absolutely will be—and they may do everything possible to limit what they have to pay out to you.
Statistically, in the event that they can still drive after the collision, drunk drivers are also more likely to flee after the scene of an accident, or commit a hit and run. The drunk driver’s insurance company may pressure you to settle your case as quickly as possible because they know that cases involving their clients under the influence can be very expensive payouts for them the longer they draw out. Your personal injury attorney will be able to handle these communications and all negotiations with the opposing insurance company for you.
Do I have to wait until after the drunk driver’s criminal proceeding is finished to seek compensation?
No! Criminal cases in North Carolina can actually take years before they are brought to trial, and you will probably have medical bills due in the meantime, missed time at work, counseling you need and other bills to pay. It’s also important to know that the outcome of your civil personal injury case is not dependent on the ultimate outcome of drunk driver’s criminal case.
What are some common drunk driving injuries?
The reason drunk driving accidents are so deadly and dangerous is because alcohol significantly lowers a person’s reaction times. This can lead to almost any type of car accident you can imagine, from rear-end collisions to t-bone/sideswipe crashes and head-on collisions. Injuries range from whiplash, muscle sprains and broken bones to spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries (“TBIs”).
MORTOR CYCLE ACCIDENT
What if I was hit on a motorcycle by a drunk driver?
Drunk driving accidents involving motorcycles often have the most deadly or catastrophic consequences. All information above still stands if you were hit on a motorcycle, but the importance of getting a personal injury attorney experienced in handling drunk driving accidents can be even higher. Insurance companies know that if the personal injury case goes to trial, juries are more likely to be less sympathetic to motorcycle victims and so may try to get to you settle for a much lower amount than if you had been in an automobile. The majority of the population doesn’t ride, so it can be harder for jurors to identify with motorcyclists.
Could I have a claim against anyone else besides the drunk driver?
It’s possible. North Carolina has what is called a “dram shop law” that bans bartenders, serving staff, and party hosts from serving a visibly intoxicated person if they know that person is going to drive. This is a form of negligence. If the party providing the alcohol in these circumstances is found liable, they in addition to the driver may be responsible for your damages in the drunk driving case.
Will damages just cover the costs I’ve had to pay out of pocket?
Unlike other types of personal injury cases in North Carolina, in cases where the harm is caused by the defendant driving drunk, there is no cap on so-called punitive damages that you can receive. Damages that reimburse you for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering are referred to as compensatory damages, or damages that pay you back. By contrast, punitive damages exist to punish the other person for committing such an egregious act, and/or send a message to that defendant and society at large. Punitive damages are usually capped at $250,000 in personal injury cases, but the North Carolina legislature recognizes the seriousness of impaired driving and makes an exception to both compensate those harmed by it and deter others from driving drunk or high.
Being injured by a drunk driver is a doubly traumatizing experience: on top of the physical and psychological injuries you would suffer in a sober accident, the situation is compounded by knowing that the entire situation could have been avoided. It’s critical to protect yourself and hire an experienced personal injury attorney to show the other party and insurance companies involved that you mean business. The personal injury attorneys at PRJ Law stand at the ready to leap to action and build the strongest case possible to aggressively defend your rights.