Public safety officials have identified driving while intoxicated as a serious threat to those on the road. They have undertaken national public awareness campaigns educating the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as cooperating with state and local law enforcement organizations to increase enforcement of driving while intoxicated laws during times of the year when drinking and driving seems to be more prevalent, such as the winter holiday season and the beginning of summer. Despite all of the efforts at eradicating drinking and driving, people still choose to drive while intoxicated. North Carolina drivers should understand how much of a problem of drinking and driving is in the state, the types of injuries that can result from drunk driving accidents and options for recovery for victims of such accidents.
The statistics about the extent of the problem of drunk driving can be startling. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that someone dies in a drunk driving auto accident every 53 minutes on average, and someone is injured in a alcohol-related motor vehicle accident every 90 seconds. In North Carolina there were 366 fatalities from alcohol-related auto accidents in 2011, according to data from the Century Council, 51 of which involved impaired drivers who were under 21 years of age. Of those fatalities, 72 involved drivers with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.15 percent or higher, 71 of whom were repeat offenders.
Drunk driving accident can be particularly devastating because impaired drivers often do not take steps to avoid the accident, as sober drivers normally do. In some cases, intoxicated drivers mistake the gas pedal for the brake and end up making the impact of the collision worse, rather than mitigating the effects as they intended. Also, drunk drivers are likely to fall asleep behind the wheel and drift into oncoming traffic, causing head-on collisions – the most deadly type of auto accident. Common injuries associated with drunk driving auto accidents include:
Victims of drunk drivers may choose to file a claim against the drunk drivers to recover for their losses. Victims may seek reimbursement for medical bills, permanent disabilities, lost wages and pain and suffering. North Carolina law also allows victims of drunk driving accidents to seek punitive damages in addition to the money they receive for reimbursement. There is no cap on the amount of punitive damages a person can recover in a negligence claim involving drunk driving. If the drunk driving accident was fatal, the victim’s survivors may pursue a wrongful death claim against the driver. In cases where the driver was visibly intoxicated at a bar or restaurant and the establishment continued to serve the driver alcohol, victims may file a dram shop liability claim to hold the establishment responsible for its negligence in over-serving patrons.
If you have been injured by someone who was irresponsible and chose to drink and drive, speak with an experienced car accident attorney who can help you navigate North Carolina’s drunk driving laws and protect your rights.