I was hit by a drunk driver. What are my options for legal remedy?
A car crash can be many things. Frightening, frustrating, and expensive are just a few of the adjectives that can help describe the situation. When in a collision and navigating these emotions, it is important to take some initial steps to deal with the situation. These initial steps include moving your vehicle out of the way of traffic, if possible, and calling the police and medical assistance if the collision led to any injuries or serious damage.
But what happens next? What is a victim to do after the collision? What if you approach the other driver and notice they smell of alcohol?
Are legal remedies available?
When it comes to an accident that involves a drunk driver, there are two routes to relief. First, the state may pursue a criminal case against the driver. This remedy is the one that most individuals are familiar with and see on television with officers completing sobriety tests on the roadside, arresting an intoxicated individual, processing them through booking, and returning for scheduled court dates. Depending on the details of the case, this can result in years of imprisonment and steep financial penalties. Although this can result in the state holding the driver accountable and provide consequences for breaking the law, it will not directly aid the victim or the victim’s family.
Beyond the criminal case, the victim and/or the victim’s family can seek relief through a second route by opening a civil claim. A civil claim is different than the criminal system. The civil system allows the victim to hold the wrongdoer accountable for the damage done through a personal injury claim. A personal injury claim will provide financial compensation to help cover costs like medical expenses, lost wages, future medical expenses, compensation for permanent injury or scarring, as well as funds to account for pain and suffering or mental anguish.
How do I pursue a civil claim?
It begins by filing a claim. Knowing which paperwork is needed, the proper court and how to gather evidence are all important and complicated legal matters. To make things even more complicated, North Carolina state law can make it difficult to ensure the victim receives the compensation they deserve. This is because the state has a Contributory Negligence Law that bars the driver from collecting damages if the victim is found partially at fault for the collision. Having an attorney representing you for your claims will ensure that you receive appropriate compensation for your injuries and are not excluded from recovery by these state specific laws.
It is also important to note that these cases come with a time limit. This time limit, referred to in the legal world as the statute of limitations, is generally set at three years after the collision. Those three years provide you the opportunity to get treatment for your injuries, appropriately investigate your claim, and attempt to settle the matter outside without filing a lawsuit. Once these three years pass, the statute of limitations bars you from filing a lawsuit.
Victims need to take all these matters into account when building these claims. Thankfully, they do not need to go it alone. You can hire legal counsel to advocate for your interests and better ensure you get the compensation you are entitled.