Automobile collisions can cause life-changing injuries, and this is especially true with drunk driving accidents. Intoxicated drivers often fail to take any evasive actions that might reduce the force of the collision, such as braking or swerving. This, in turn, leads to more severe injuries such as brain and spinal cord injuries and, in some very tragic cases, death. If you or a loved one has been hurt by a drunk driver, the Raleigh personal injury and wrongful death attorneys of Maginnis Howard can help. Our DUI injury attorneys, including lead personal injury attorney T. Shawn Howard, aggressively handle drunk driving cases.
Drunk driving accidents are handled differently by insurance companies. They frequently try to reach out and settle cases involving alcohol as soon as possible. The reason for that is simple. If a DUI case is taken all the way to a jury trial, the jury can award additional damages beyond those available in other automobile collision cases. The insurance company then has to pay that verdict on behalf of its drunk driving insured. It would rather mislead injured victims into settling the case early than to let those victims have the opportunity to speak with an attorney and learn the available options for recovering compensation for injuries caused by a drunk driver.
Like any other automobile accident case, a collision involving a negligent intoxicated driver entitles you to recover basic “compensatory” damages. These are damages designed to “make you whole,” such as compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, permanent injury, permanent scarring, and physical pain and mental suffering. However, you may also recover “punitive damages” under Chapter 1D of the North Carolina General Statutes. Punitive damages are designed to punish someone who has acted recklessly and with indifference to the rights and safety others. The perfect example is a drunk driver. Juries tend to award more “punitive” damages when the drunk driver is a repeat offender, so it is always critical for you and your attorney to do a full investigation to learn if the drunk driver in your case has prior charges. Under North Carolina law, punitive damages are typically capped at $250,000 or 3 times your compensatory damages, whichever is higher. This cap is removed for cases involving drunk drivers. See N.C.G.S. § 1D-26. A jury can award any amount it sees fit to punish the drunk driver. The amount will typically depend upon how bad the conduct was. Because insurers know that juries can award such significant amounts, they will many times offer a far more reasonable offer than they otherwise would in a case that did not involve a drunk driver but did involve the same injuries. For example, after taking the testimony of a drunk driver whose statements under oath conflicted with her medical records, Maginnis Law recovered $50,000 from an insurance company when our client had only approximately $2,000 in medical expenses and no permanent injury. The company knew that the jury would likely punish the lying drunk driver with a substantial punitive damages verdict.
In far too many drunk driving cases the irresponsible driver does not have sufficient insurance to cover all the damages caused by his or her negligence (the minimum insurance in North Carolina is only $30,000). A good law firm will help you look beyond the negligent drunk driver to see if there is another person or company who failed to act responsibly and contributed to your injuries. This means looking at the source of the alcohol. Was the drunk driver served or furnished alcohol after he or she was already noticeably and visibly intoxicated? Was the drunk driver served underage? These are questions that come up in so-called “dram shop” cases. Under North Carolina law, a furnisher of alcohol, whether a bar, restaurant, or social host, can be liable if they serve alcohol to a person who is noticeably and visibly intoxicated and likely to operate a motor vehicle. Maginnis Law has experience handling cases like this. In the high profile case of a UNC student who drove drunk the wrong way down I85 after drinking at his fraternity house, an apartment, and two Franklin Street bars, the firm recovered a $2.9 million wrongful death settlement for the family of a child killed in the wreck. Our firm can help you determine whether, in addition to your claim against the drunk driver, you have a viable dram shop or social host case.
The Maginnis Howard auto accident attorneys offer free case evaluations to all North Carolinians injured in drunk driving accidents. We handle all automobile accident cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you pay no attorneys’ fees unless we recover money damages on your behalf. We will travel to meet with you to discuss your DUI injury case. Call our firm at 919.480.8526 or visit our contact page to send a confidential email with the facts of your case.