Driving while impaired (DWI) driving carries criminal charges in North Carolina, but these consequences do nothing to help people injured by an intoxicated driver. If you were injured by a drunk driver, whether as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist, it is time to file a lawsuit to pursue all your damages.
Drunk Driving Is Negligent Driving
All personal injury cases involve the legal concept of negligence. Negligence, in essence, is when another party has breached its “duty of care.” Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal and dangerous – reaction times are slower, decision-making is flawed. Depending on the level of intoxication, it can lead to wrong-way driving, speeding, swerving, running lights, and other unsafe conduct. If you were unlucky enough to be sharing the street, road, or highway with a drunk driver who caused an accident, it is time to hold that driver accountable for his or her negligent conduct.
How Is a Drunk Driver Punished?
Someone with a DWI will be punished through the criminal justice system, but North Carolina law allows for punitive damages in accompanying civil cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish, as well as deter others from engaging in similar acts. It must be established that the driver engaged in “willful and wanton acts.” The amount of compensation recovered in a lawsuit, which is a combination of economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, is typically far higher than what could be recovered through an insurance claim.
When Should You File Against a Drunk Driver?
In North Carolina, you have a short period of time in which to file a lawsuit, so you should speak to a lawyer immediately after an accident, especially if you have catastrophic injuries.
Injuries that fall into the category of “catastrophic” include:
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe neck and back injuries
- Disfiguring burns
- Multiple fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Hearing or vision loss
In many cases, the level of compensation paid by the negligent party’s insurance company is negotiated out of court. Many personal injury lawyers prefer to settle cases, as they rarely, if ever, engage in litigation. This approach is not ideal in cases of serious injury: what if the insurance company fails to offer a reasonable level of compensation? In such a case, bringing a lawsuit against the negligent driver is the correct action. It may lead to a better offer – insurance companies are aware that juries can award very high levels of compensation, and may try to avoid the risk.
How Long Does It Take for a Lawsuit to Be Resolved?
A personal injury lawsuit can take time to resolve. Your attorney will have to document every aspect of the case, including how the accident occurred, the condition of the driver, whether he or she had previous DWI convictions, eyewitness testimony. The extent of your injuries and the predicted costs of ongoing medical care and treatment, as well as the long-term impact on your earning capacity, quality of life, and ability to practice your profession all must be thoroughly evaluated. Financial, medical, and mental health experts may all be called upon to provide professional information about your condition. It is often well worth the months to years it may require to resolve.
North Carolina Drunk Driving: An Epidemic
Unfortunately, North Carolina is home to many serious alcohol-related accidents. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that 10,511 people were killed across the United States in 2018, leaving many more families suffering unimaginable grief and loss. In North Carolina alone, 354 people were killed in recent years. If you or a loved one suffered serious harm in a vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver, you need help immediately – from a trial lawyer who has the experience and skills to take your case to court for resolution. Contact the Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 501-2474 for an initial consultation. We are talented litigators with a reputation for excellence in personal injury lawsuits.