Is Drunk Driving an Example of Gross Negligence in NC?

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When a motorist causes a drunk driving accident, there are additional factors in play that are not present in a “typical” motor vehicle incident. There could even be a chance that you could qualify for more financial compensation.

Regardless, the prospect that the insurance company may need to pay higher damages in the wake of a DUI-related accident could scare them into doing the right thing. How do you know if their offer is fair? If you or a loved one has been injured by an intoxicated driver in North Carolina, call the Horton & Mendez Injury Attorneys today to speak to a Jacksonville, NC, drunk driving accident lawyer.

There May Be More Than Negligence at Play

In order to win a car accident case, you would need to prove that the driver was negligent. This legal term means that they did something that would be considered unreasonable under the circumstances. Usually, you would not need to prove how negligent they were, only that they were negligent in the first place.

There are different gradations of fault in a car accident case. In the usual case, the driver may have been wrong because they did something like rear-ending the car in front of them because the motorist did not see another vehicle stop.

There could be other cases where the driver bears an even higher degree of fault. They could have consciously taken some action that would put other drivers in danger, or they could have exhibited such a gross disregard for your safety that the law could view their actions even more seriously.

Two categories of conduct could be considered “negligence plus” in a car accident case:

  • Reckless driving is when a person “drives any vehicle upon a highway or any public vehicular area carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others.” Reckless driving is a criminal offense that could be prosecuted under the law.
  • Gross negligence, which is a concept in personal injury law, is when a person shows a lack of care that demonstrates a reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety.

The two are very similar concepts, and they are almost identical. One is a criminal offense, while the other is a principal that comes into play when you file a civil lawsuit against the driver.

Drunk Driving Can Be Reckless and Gross Negligence

Drunk driving can fall under both umbrellas. When a driver gets behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, they show a conscious disregard for the safety of others. Even when they are intoxicated, they are still deemed to know what they are doing. Drunk driving is a crime that does not require any type of specific intent.

Even though you are already in a position where you qualify for financial compensation when you prove negligence, there is a higher degree of fault involved with drunk driving. Not only has a driver broken a law, but they have done so in an extreme way.

The Insurance Company Could Be on the Hook for More Money

Your civil lawsuit is your own way of holding the drunk driver accountable for the harm that they caused you or a loved one.

While they may be criminally punished for what they did, it does not put any money in your pocket. You need to maximize the value of your case because it represents damages that you have suffered.

Dealing with the insurance company in any car accident case is all about leverage. You need to figure out what makes them sweat and take advantage of it fully in any negotiation. Here, the insurance company may be worried about having to pay you far more than just compensatory damages.

Can you get punitive damages out of gross negligence?

Ordinarily, it is very rare for you to qualify for punitive damages in a personal injury case. This statement is even more true in car accident cases when the driver involved in the crash was careless.

Punitive damages are reserved for some of the more extreme cases when the driver was reckless or grossly negligent. It may be possible to make a case that a drunk driver meets those criteria and would be legally obligated to pay you punitive damages. Here, drunk driving may be enough for you to qualify for punitive damages. The insurance company may want no part of your case because they know that there could be a worse financial result for them.

Insurance companies will not pay punitive damages as part of your settlement agreement.

However, they would be responsible for these damages if you took your case to trial and won.

The prospect of punitive damages is one that can keep the insurance companies on the straight and narrow in settlement negotiations. They know full well that they can face numerous consequences if you take your case to court and win. They could be obligated to pay you more money.

In addition, their driver, who may also have been ordered to pay you, could file a bad faith lawsuit against them because they had the chance to settle your case and did not.

An experienced car accident attorney knows how to maximize your advantage and settlement negotiations. If you are handling a drunk driving civil case on your own, the insurance company may know that there is little that you can do about their tactics. When they see that you have hired an aggressive lawyer, they may approach things in a completely different way.

Contact a Drunk Driving Car Accident Lawyer Today

When you want justice and accountability after a drunk driving accident, consider legal help from Horton & Mendez Injury Attorneys. We will pursue the maximum possible financial compensation on your behalf, putting pressure on the responsible driver’s insurance company to pay for all of the damages you have suffered.

If they will not pay you, we know exactly what to do for you. Our attorneys are standing by and ready to help. To schedule a free initial consultation, send us a message online or call us today at 910-405-7751.

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