With the holidays now upon us, plaintiff lawyers tend to see a substantial increase in the number of DWI and drunk driving related “accidents.”
In fact, Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest “drinking days” in the United States.
50% of all people killed on #BlackOutWednesday are between the age of 21 to 34 years old.
Most people understand drinking and driving increases over the New Year holiday.
What many fail to understand are the dangers of having “one too many” after an office Christmas party or family gathering.
That’s as true in criminal court as it is for personal injury matters.
“We get caught up in the spirit, sometimes drinking more than expected. After more than 20 years helping people in our court system, the best legal advice I can give is this: Do not drink and drive.” – Danny Glover, Outer Banks Accident Lawyer
Drunk Driving is not an Accident
An all-too-common cause of accidents in North Carolina is drunk driving. Some people call them “accidents.” We don’t.
A choice was made to operate a vehicle with impaired mental or physical faculties. You cannot get out of responsibility for hurting someone else by calling it an “accident.”
Negligence in North Carolina includes making a poor choice to drive after consuming alcohol, drugs, and even medicines that affect your abilities. Even the consumption of legal prescription medications can be the basis for criminal charges.
Negligence involves a “duty of care.” One need only be reasonable and considerate of others.
That reasonableness includes the operation of a vehicle and whether to get behind the wheel.
Plaintiff’s lawyers refer to that as the “standard of care.” In North Carolina, all motorists are required to operate their cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles in a safe, reasonable manner.
Failure to do so may result in a claim for negligence and possibly payment of compensatory damages.
Violating the NC drunk driving laws can be per se unreasonable. In fact, it may serve as a legal basis for a special type of damages called Punitive Damages.
Under the NC DWI laws, you need not be “drunk.” It’s against the law to drive if your mental or physical faculties (or both) are appreciably impaired by alcohol and/or controlled substances.
Punitive Damages and Gross Negligence
If the level of negligence is extreme or “gross,” there are instances when damages in addition to regular actual damages are legally possible.
Punitive Damages may be allowed under the accident laws when there is “willful or wanton” conduct or an intentional act that caused damages to another.
Damages in North Carolina may include, but are not limited to:
- Lost Wages / Lost Earning Capacity
- Disfigurement / Scarring / Permanent Injury
- Medical Bills, Ambulance, Hospital, Physical Therapy
- Pain and Suffering
Lawyers may refer to those as “compensatory” or “actual damages.” The person who caused the injury, the tortfeasor is legally responsible for the ordinary, expected damages associated with their negligence.
Punitive Damages are in addition to punishments imposed, if any, for the drunk driving charges. They are a form of financial punishment that are separate and apart from any other verdict or judgment.
If the person who caused the wreck acted in a willful, wanton way, punitive damages may be legally appropriate. That is to say, if there is gross negligence, that may serve as a legal basis for additional consideration of damages.
“Punitive damages, in part, are meant to serve as a warning to others. It’s a form of punishment mean to hit the tortfeasor in the wallet.” – Danny Glover, OBX Accident Lawyer
North Carolina Punitive Damages
North Carolina General Statute authorizes recovery of damages, specifically punitive damages, when:
- The Plaintiff shows the Defendant is Liable
- Plaintiff cannot be Contributorily Negligent
- Plaintiff must prove an Aggravating Factor:
- Willful or Wanton Conduct
Some forms of punitive damages are subject to a “cap” in North Carolina. Ordinary, that “cap” is set at three-times compensator damages or a quarter-million dollars ($250,000), whatever is higher.
THAT DOES NOT APPLY TO DRUNK DRIVING WRECK CASES IN NORTH CAROLINA
There is no punitive damages cap for accidents involving driving while impaired.
Outer Banks Accident Legal Information:
OBX Accident Lawyers
Danny Glover is an experienced outer banks lawyer, dedicated to helping people who have been injured due to the negligence of others. He provides a free legal consultation to legal matters involving wrongful death, car accidents, semi accidents, and other personal injury claims.
Call Danny Glover NOW: 252-299-5300
You may also email Danny Glover directly at: Danny@DannyGloverLawFirm.com