Careless, aggressive and impaired driving has been on the rise in North Carolina and across the country in recent years, and sadly the trend appears to be continuing upward. Nearly one-third of all driving fatalities are due to alcohol impairment with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
In North Carolina, the percentage of overall alcohol-impaired driving fatalities is slightly higher than the national average, as is the portion of under 21 driving fatalities and percentage of fatalities in crashes involving high BAC drivers. In fact, 75% of drivers in fatal crashes who were repeat offenders had a BAC of .15% or higher.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a serious accident involving a negligent driver, it is important to know your rights as well as your legal options when seeking compensation for your injuries.
Legal options after a serious accident
Under North Carolina laws, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of impairing substances, including alcohol or controlled substances. A DWI is a form of negligence that the plaintiff can prove with evidence of a breath or blood test and the police report. North Carolina follows a contributory negligence legal theory in which the injured party may not recover any compensation if the other party can prove that they were partially at fault for causing the accident.
Because of this, it is very important to make sure that there is substantial evidence of the negligent driver’s impairment. It is also wise to wait until the other driver is either convicted of a DWI or has pleaded guilty, as it will then be easier to pursue a personal injury claim in civil court.
Some exceptions to the contributory negligence rule can apply if the at-fault driver’s behavior was worse than ordinary negligence, such as if they acted willfully or wantonly, they failed to exercise a duty of care toward others on the road, and they show an intentional disregard for the safety of others.
North Carolina does impose third-party liability on alcohol venders if:
- They negligently sold alcohol to a minor,
- The minor caused the accident while under the influence of the alcohol that the vendor served to them, and
- The injuries to the victim that resulted were caused by the minor’s negligent driving.
There are also social host liability laws that apply to anyone who serves alcohol to individuals who later cause an accident after getting behind the wheel, and these laws encompass drivers of all ages.