Can You Sue a Drunk Driver for Hitting You in North Carolina?

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Some people make the mistake of thinking that justice is only served through the criminal process that the drunk driver faces. Even though the driver may be criminally charged, that has nothing to do with the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

The drunk driver responsible for your injuries may deal with two separate legal processes because of their actions. They can face both criminal and civil consequences for drunk driving accidents. Horton & Mendez are a team of Wilmington car accident lawyers who can hold drunk drivers accountable in civil court.

The Different Criminal and Civil Processes for Drunk Driving Accidents

Whether the driver is ultimately convicted of the criminal charges does not matter. Even if acquitted, they may still be civilly liable in a lawsuit.

Two separate standards of proof apply to these cases. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard of proof equates to near one hundred percent certainty that they are guilty of the crime. In a civil case, you must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. This is akin to a 51% standard.

The disposition of the criminal case could impact your civil case if the driver pleads guilty to the charges. Then, the plea can be used as evidence to establish their liability in the civil case.

However, many drunk drivers who agree to a plea bargain with the prosecutor will end up pleading no contest to the drunk driving charges, specifically because they are worried about their civil liability. Nonetheless, it would be possible to prove their liability in a civil case without their criminal conviction.

Drunk Driving Accidents Still Warrant an Insurance Claim

When you file a drunk driving accident claim, you would still be dealing with the responsible driver’s insurance company. Even though the driver acted recklessly and criminally, their insurance company is still obligated to pay for the damages they caused.

In many cases, the insurance company is motivated to settle with you because they do not want the case to reach a jury.

One of the main reasons why insurance companies are afraid of drunk driving cases is the possibility that you could get an award for punitive damages. The insurance company has a legal duty to their insured to settle all claims within the policy limits if the value of a judgment will likely exceed the policy limits.

However, this does not mean an insurance company will automatically be reasonable. They still like to see what they can get away with in settlement negotiations, hoping that you do not know the value of the case or do not have the will to fight.

Your Damages in a Drunk Driving Civil Lawsuit

In a drunk driving civil case, you may be entitled to the following damages:

  • The cost of your medical care
  • Lost wages for the time missed for work or reduction in earnings capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Punitive damages

Wrongful Death Cases for Drunk Driving Accidents

Due to the high fatality rate of drunk driving crashes, many cases are filed by families who have lost loved ones in these accidents. These families can file a wrongful death case to seek compensation for their personal injury when their loved one died.

In a drunk driving wrongful death case, the family could receive the following compensation:

  • The wages that the deceased family member would have earned throughout their lifetime
  • The loss of the loving relationship with and guidance received from the deceased person
  • The emotional trauma and grief that comes from suddenly losing a loved one under tragic circumstances

Your Attorney Can Help You Pursue Financial Compensation

Since there is less of a question of liability in a drunk-driving accident case, much of the focus is on securing adequate financial compensation. Estimating damages in a serious car accident requires the expertise and skill that a personal injury lawyer brings to the table.

The insurance company is betting that you may take a quick settlement for whatever they offer. However, their offer is almost always not enough to fully compensate you for the damages that you have suffered.

When you hire a personal injury lawyer, the attorney will advise you when the settlement offer is inadequate and handle the negotiations with the insurance company when you are seeking more.

In the end, you have more leverage than usual in a drunk-driving personal injury case because of what happened. Your attorney can help you maximize that leverage to obtain the fairest financial compensation. At Horton & Mendez, we know the insurance company’s playbook before they use it.

Contact a Wilmington Car Accident Lawyer Today

The attorneys at Horton Mendez are here to help injured accident victims fight for the financial compensation they deserve for their injuries. It does not matter that the insurance company does not want to give it to you. We make you aware of your legal rights and help you stand up for them.

To schedule your free initial consultation, call us today at (910) 668-8067 or send us a message online. You take the first step —  we help you with everything else.

Drunk Driving Accident FAQs

Why do I need a lawyer if it is easier to prove liability in a drunk driving accident case?

An experienced lawyer will help you secure fair and just compensation for your personal injury.

Can I afford a drunk-driving car accident attorney?

Yes. You do not need to make any upfront payment to the lawyer; you only pay them once you win your case from the proceeds of your settlement.

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