Our drunk driving accident lawyers know you want justice if you or a loved one have been injured in a crash with an intoxicated driver. Criminal consequences for the DUI driver is only part of the justice that you deserve.
You can also obtain significant financial compensation for your injuries in a civil lawsuit, independent of a criminal trial. First, you must negotiate with one or more insurance companies who may resist paying you what you are due.
The Wilmington, NC, car accident attorneys at Horton Mendez will stand up for your legal rights to full compensation when they are challenged. Call us today to schedule your free initial consultation.
North Carolina Drunk Driving Laws
Like every other state, North Carolina presumes that a driver is drunk if they have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater.
In North Carolina, drivers convicted of drunk driving are sentenced based on the presence of aggravating and mitigating factors. A very high BAC or causing an accident are two of the aggravating factors that judges will use to impose harsher sentences.
If there are more aggravating factors than mitigating factors (a level 3 offense), the defendant will receive a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours (or 72 hours of community service and a fine). The maximum sentence for a Level 3 offense is six months in prison.
If a driver causes serious bodily injury when they are under the influence, they can receive a jail sentence of up to 59 months.
North Carolina Drunk Driving Statistics
Drunk driving is a serious problem in North Carolina and in the Wilmington area. Here are some relevant statistics about drunk driving, both in North Carolina and nationally:
- In 2019, 11,639 people were arrested in the state for driving under the influence.
- In that year, there were 323 drunk driving fatalities in the state.
- 69% of drunk driving fatalities involved drivers with a BAC greater than .15
- 63 drivers under the age of 18 were arrested for driving under the influence
- North Carolina had the third-highest number of DUI fatalities in the country In 2017, even though it ranked ninth overall in total population
The statistics indicate that drunk driving is an epidemic in North Carolina and one that strict laws have not managed to bring under control.
Potentially Liable Parties in Your Drunk Driving Accident Lawsuit
The drunk driver is the most obvious responsible party for your accident injuries because they are the one who caused the crash. Their actions would meet the legal standard for financial recovery in a personal injury case. If the drunk driver does not have enough insurance, you can file a claim against your own underinsured motorist coverage.
North Carolina has dram shop laws that could allow you to hold the owner of the establishment where the drunk driver was consuming alcohol liable. You may even be able to sue their social host if they were drinking at someone else’s house.
There have been numerous recent cases where drunk driving accident victims have obtained large settlements or jury verdicts in dram shop cases. The legal standard is that you must prove that the establishment knowingly continued to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person.
In some cases, knowledge has been inferred by the fact that the establishment served an extremely large amount of alcohol to a person, which would have made anyone extremely intoxicated.
A dram shop lawsuit would allow you to increase your compensation by going after a “deeper pocket.”
Compensation in Your Drunk Driving Lawsuit
You have a legal right to be fully compensated for the injuries that you have suffered in a drunk driving accident. Your actual compensation can depend on two factors:
- How much insurance coverage is available to pay for your injuries (both the responsible driver’s policy and your own)
- How hard you negotiate with the insurance companies to get the settlement that you deserve
In general, you have the legal right to be paid for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress
A family can file a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one was killed by a drunk driver. If they can prove wrongful death, they would be entitled to their own personal injury damages that they suffered when their loved one tragically died in an accident.
While punitive damages are very rare in a car accident case, drunk driving is one type of case where you may have a strong case for these damages. Usually, insurance companies like to settle drunk driving cases before they can reach a jury for exactly this reason.
A Criminal Conviction Is Not Necessary for Financial Compensation
Your financial compensation is not dependent on whether the driver is convicted of DUI. There are different standards at work in these cases:
- In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove the driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard equates to 100% certainty that the driver committed the crime.
- In a civil case, a plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard equates to a 51% chance that the facts alleged by the plaintiff are true.
The lower standard in a civil case means that a driver could be acquitted of a crime but still be liable to pay your damages. A guilty plea can be used as evidence in a civil case, so drunk drivers will usually plead no contest to avoid that.
Contact a Wilmington Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Today
The attorneys at Horton & Mendez understand that you are going through perhaps the most difficult time of your life after you have been seriously injured in an accident. We will fight for you and guide you through the legal process in a way that will ease your burdens.
You can schedule an appointment to speak with a drunk driving accident lawyer by sending us a message online or by calling us today at (910) 668-8067. You owe us nothing unless you win.