Wilmington DWI Accident Lawyers
We Sue Intoxicated Drivers on Behalf of Crash Victims in North Carolina
Under North Carolina law, people injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by drunk or drugged drivers have the right to sue for damages related to their medical bills, lost earnings, and more. In some cases, suing a drunk driver may be the only way to recover compensation for your vehicle repairs, medical bills, and the unjust pain you endured because of the accident.
To speak to an experienced attorney who knows you are going through, please call Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 501-2474. Our firm protects North Carolina injury victims, and we will go to work to hold the intoxicated driver responsible and get you on the road to recovery.
What If You Shared Some Blame for the Collision?
North Carolina's "contributory negligence" standard means that if the at-fault driver can prove you shared some of the blame for the accident, he or she may not have to pay for damages. However, several exceptions to this rule apply when the at-fault driver’s conduct goes beyond ordinary negligence and instead is deemed “willful or wanton” negligence. An act is willful if the defendant intentionally fails to carry out some duty imposed by law or contract, which is necessary to protect the safety of the person or property to which it is owed. An act is wanton if the defendant acts in conscious and intentional disregard of and indifference to the rights and safety of others.
We adamantly argue in court that driving while drunk is a willful or wanton act! If the other driver was drunk or intoxicated, you should be able to avoid this antiquated defense and receive compensation, and possibly punitive damages. This is why we typically go ahead and sue drunk drivers.
What Constitutes “Drunk Driving” in North Carolina?
Drivers who have a blood-alcohol concentration of .08% or more are over the legal threshold for operating a motor vehicle. Over 30% of traffic fatalities in the U.S. are attributed to drivers under the influence. In North Carolina, there is only one charge for all drug and alcohol offenses: driving while intoxicated (DWI).
According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.5% of North Carolina drivers admitted to driving after drinking too much within the prior 30-day period. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report from December 2016 showed that in the year prior there were 1,379 roadway fatalities in NC, of which 411 involved DWI drivers - 30% of the total. For the same period, there were 258 instances where the driver’s BAC was .15% or over.
What Constitutes “Drugged Driving” in North Carolina?
Under North Carolina General Statute § 20-138.1, a person can be convicted of DWI if he or she operates a vehicle under the influence of an impairing substance. An impairing substance is defined as either alcohol or “…any drug or psychoanalytic substance capable of impairing a person’s physical or mental faculties or any combination of these substances.” This includes taking illegal drugs as well as medication that was legally prescribed by a medical professional, such as Valium or Ativan. In addition, over-the-counter medicine such as Nyquil and other cold remedies can impair a person’s ability to operate a vehicle and could lead to a DWI charge.
At the scene of the collision, be sure to contact the police so they can examine the at-fault driver for any signs of impairing substances. This proof will help immensely when you later file a claim against that driver and insurance company.
DWI’s Impact on Auto Insurance
Drivers who violate the state’s laws often pay higher rates for auto insurance. North Carolina ranks number one among all states for the increase in auto insurance costs for DWI offenders – an average of 321%. However, this does not mean a habitual drunk driver can choose to forego insurance.
North Carolina’s state laws require all drivers to have continuous liability insurance provided by a company licensed to do business in NC.
The minimum policy limits are:
- $30,000 for bodily injury, if one person is injured.
- $60,000 for bodily injury, if two or more people are injured.
- $25,000 for property damage, to the victim’s vehicle or personal possessions in the vehicle.
Those policies are there to protect you in the event of a crash. Do not hesitate to file a claim if an impaired driver causes you injury. Insurance companies are generally liable to pay for the illegal acts of their policyholders, which is why these policyholders pay higher rates.
You May Be Eligible for Punitive Damages
If the driver who injured you was fraudulent, malicious, or “willful and wanton” in causing the crash, he or she is on the hook for punitive damages. “Willful and wanton” means “conscious and intentional disregard of and indifference to the rights and safety of others, which the defendant knows or should know is reasonably likely to result in injury, damage, or other harm,” and you, the plaintiff, have the burden of proving this true in court. The burden of proof is higher than normal - you must prove your entitlement to punitive damages by clear and convincing evidence. North Carolina’s pattern jury instruction on this topic states: “Clear and convincing evidence is evidence which, in its character and weight, establishes what the plaintiff seeks to prove in a clear and convincing fashion.”
It will help to speak to a lawyer experienced in drunk driving cases immediately after a crash.
A jury will determine how much you should be awarded in punitive damage. While this amount cannot exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000 in regular personal injury cases, this standard is set aside in DWI cases (North Carolina General Statutes § 1D-26). There is no cap on punitive damages if the driver who hit you was intoxicated.
Rhine Law Firm, P.C., is happy to assist you with getting your crash report at no cost. Visit our police report request page and fill out our form. We'll take care of the rest.
Don't Be Injured by a DWI Driver Twice. We Will Protect Your Rights.
If you were involved in a car wreck caused by a DWI driver, call Rhine Law Firm, P.C., so we can begin our investigation. Wilmington car wreck attorney Joel Rhine is an experienced trial lawyer with decades of experience protecting the rights of people who have suffered injury or loss because of another party's negligence or misconduct.
National Practice with a Local Presence
Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Won
Over 30 Years of Experience
Experienced, Thorough & Dedicated Attorneys
Spanish-Speaking Services Available
Evening & Weekend Appointments Available Upon Request
“Joel Rhine and his staff did everything possible to help us in a very dark period of our lives.”- John
“We were blessed to have them fighting for us and never giving up.”- Stewart
“Rhine Law Firm has a friendly, caring, professional staff and they worked hard for me.”- Becky
“I couldn't have asked for a better firm to handle my injury claim. If you do not have confidence with your attorney, you need to contact Rhine Law Firm immediately.”- Will
“Rhine Law Firm went out of their way to make sure that my mother-in-law obtains everything she is entitled to in an injury case.”- Lee