Wilmington DUI Accident Lawyers
Under North Carolina law, persons injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by a drunk driver have the right to sue for damages related to medical bills, lost earnings, and pain. In some cases, suing a drunk driver may be the only way to recover compensation related to the automobile property damage, medical bills, and unjust pain you endured because of the accident.
North Carolina's "contributory negligence" law means that if the other driver's insurance company can prove that you shared some of the blame for the accident, it may not have to pay for damages. However, if its covered driver was charged with DUI at the scene or exhibited other willful or wanton conduct, you may be able to avoid this defense and receive compensation.
Drivers who have a blood-alcohol concentration of .08% are considered to be over the threshold for legally 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, 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, equivalent to 30% of the total. For the same period, there were 258 instances where the driver’s BAC was at least .15% or over.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has a five-level classification system for misdemeanor offenses of driving under the influence. The penalties associated with them are as follows:
- Level 5: A fine of up to $200 and a jail sentence of between 24 hours and 60 days. The sentence may be suspended if the offender completes 24 hours of community service and has no driving privileges for a 30-day period.
- Level 4: A fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of between 48 hours and 120 days. The sentence may be suspended if the offender completes 48 hours of community service and has no driving privileges for a 60-day period.
- Level 3: A fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of between 72 hours and six-months. The sentence may be suspended if the offender completes 72 hours of community service and has no driving privileges for a 90-day period.
- Level 2: A fine of up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of between 7 days and 1 year. The sentence is not eligible to be suspended.
- Level 1: A fine of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of between 30 days and 2 years. The sentence is not eligible to be suspended.
The state’s “habitual” DWI offenders are defined as those who have three prior convictions for driving under the influence in the past seven years. These individuals are subject to felony-level laws. They carry a required minimum sentence of one year of incarceration, which cannot be suspended. In addition, the individual must complete a substance treatment program. The vehicles of multiple DWI offenders are now subject to seizure (forfeiture); this is increasingly enforced among offenders who drive while their license is suspended.
Drivers suspected of DWI who refuse to submit to a test to determine if they are impaired may have their driver’s licenses immediately suspended for a 30-day period. Limited driving privileges may be given to the offender at the discretion of the judge, but an assessment for substance abuse is generally required. Those who refused to submit may face a one-year license suspension. Those who violate this provision a second time face a four-year revocation.
Drivers who violate the state’s laws often notice a spike in the rates they pay for auto insurance, and those convicted of DWI most certainly will notice. Did you know that North Carolina ranks #1 among all states for the increase in auto insurance costs for DWI offenders? The median increase is over 300%! Here is a side-by-side comparison with two bordering states:
- South Carolina: The increase averages 50%
- Virginia: The increase averages 70%
- North Carolina: The increase averages 321%
The majority of auto insurance companies base these rates on the prior three-year driving record. In a DWI, this period begins on the conviction date, not the date that the incident occurred.
If you were involved in a car wreck caused by a DUI driver, call Rhine Law Firm, P.C., and find out if you can file a lawsuit against the drunk driver. Wilmington car wreck attorney Joel Rhine is an experienced personal injury trial lawyer with decades of experience protecting the rights of people who have suffered injury or the loss of a loved one because of another party's negligence or misconduct.
Start by getting all of your questions answered by a knowledgeable, experienced DUI accident litigation attorney. Call us toll-free at (866) 772-9960 or locally in Wilmington at (910) 772-9960 or send us an email to arrange a free consultation with attorney Joel Rhine. Office hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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