Settlements for car accidents involving a drunk driver can be quite complicated. They involve more potential parties than ordinary car accidents and can also feature per se negligence on the part of the drunk driver. This article looks at some of the Issues around the complexity of settling an accident involving a drunk driver.
Drunk Driving Accidents Can Cause Serious Injuries
Drunk drivers often fail to take the evasive actions to avoid an accident that a sober driver would take. Because of this failure and their unsafe driving in general, accidents involving drunk drivers often result in more fatalities and more severe injuries than typical in most car accidents. Serious injuries from drunk driving accidents may include:
Spine and neck injuries – either can result in temporary or permanent paralysis and loss of motor function, which can severely impact daily living.
Traumatic brain injury – one of the most common injuries in car accidents, TBI can range from a mild concussion to severe permanent loss of cognitive function, or debilitation changes to vision, memory, reasoning, hearing, and emotions, any of which can also impact earning capacity and daily living skills.
Internal Injuries – The severe shaking and physical forces in a completely uncontrolled accident can causes major injuries to internal organs requiring surgery and perhaps leaving lifelong changes.
Broken Limbs – The same forces which cause internal injuries can break bones, causing potentially crippling injuries.
Burns, Scars, and Disfigurement – The severity of impact in a drunk driving car accident can cause explosions leading to burns, scars, and permanent disfigurement, leading to a permanent reduction in the quality of life.
Settlements Depend on Various Factors
One of the most important reasons for using a lawyer when you’ve been the victim of a drunk driver is the complexity of the factors going into calculating your settlement. Some of the issues to be considered follow below.
The Extent and Severity of Your Injuries
Clearly, the most important factor in your settlement is the extent and severity of your injuries. Drunk driving accidents tend to produce extremely severe injuries, which can have life-altering and devastating consequences. Any settlement will need to reflect the short- and long-term treatment for those injuries, any rehabilitation or assistive equipment required, loss of wages and future earning capacity, and any other significant consequences of the accident.
Your occupation is a significant factor in a settlement because it affects the sum of your lost wages and lost earning capacity. Moreover, certain injuries may make it impossible for you to continue in your previous occupation. If you’ve lost cognitive function, your desk job may no longer be possible. On the other hand, if you’ve lost motor function, you may no longer be able to engage in physically demanding occupations.
The Other Driver’s Insurance Policy
Unfortunately, in many cases the sum of your settlement will rest on the amount of insurance coverage carried by the at-fault driver. Whatever your damages are, if the insurance policy covers only a total of $100,000, that is all you are likely to collect. Note, though, that the law is likely to presume the drunk driver was grossly negligent because of the drinking, thus reducing your burden of proving liability.
Other Potentially Liable Parties
However, there may be other liable parties who have higher insurance policies in a drunk driving accident. If the drunk driver was driving as part of their employment or became intoxicated at a work-sponsored occasion, then the employer may also be liable for your injuries. Similarly, the locations where the driver obtained his alcohol may be liable under dram shop liability for serving a driver who should not have been further served. Each of these defendants can hugely increase the recovery pot available to you.
Whether You Will Suffer Losses into the Future
It is also important to calculate permanent injuries in settling your case. Some injuries may heal completely and let you return to your normal life in a relatively short period. Other injuries can be far more severe and leave you with loss of future earning capacity, need for assistive services or rehab, and ongoing medical expenses. These are important factors in calculating a settlement.
Protecting Your Rights after a Drunk Driving Accident
You must take certain steps to ensure your rights after a drunk driving accident. Be sure to document the accident scene and obtain contact information for the other parties and any potential witnesses.
Call the Police
Be sure to call the police and get a copy of the report at the scene or later if necessary. Wait at the scene for police and, if necessary, for emergency medical personnel.
Seek Medical Attention
Don’t wait to seek medical attention. If the police do not call emergency medical personnel to the scene, get medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. Not all injuries are easily visible, want to make sure any latent injuries are detected after the wreck.
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Once you’ve received medical attention, be sure to do what your doctors tell you for as long as they tell you. Any deviation from medical treatment or instructions will allow the other side to downplay your injuries and attempt to reduce the settlement.
Call a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Don’t forget to contact a drunk driving car accident attorney as soon as you possibly can. Even if you decide not to use an attorney, the information you gather in your free initial consultation can be invaluable in settling your case.
Contact a Wilmington Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you’ve been the victim of a drunk driver in North Carolina, call us today. Our no-cost initial consultation and case evaluation can put you on the road to your recovery. Let us get you the best possible recovery from your drunk driving car accident.
How long do I have to file a claim?
The North Carolina personal injury statute of limitations is three years from when the injury became apparent or should have become apparent. This period may seem like a great deal of time, but it really isn’t.
Do I need a lawyer?
In a word, yes. An experienced and knowledgeable car accident attorney can help you to spot claims and potential defendants far more certainly than you can do. Even if you choose not to retain counsel, the wisdom and guidance you get in that initial consultation can be invaluable.
How much can I recover
How much you can recover depends upon how much damages you suffered. You may recover for economic (special) damages such as medical and hospital bills, lost wages, and rehabilitation. You may also be able to recover compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. And in very rare cases, you may be able to recover punitive damages, although the amount of these is somewhat limited in North Carolina. In the end, you can recover the losses you can prove.