Personal injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question: “I was involved in a motor vehicle accident with injuries. Do I need a lawyer?”
In North Carolina, victims of auto accidents caused by drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs can obtain compensation for their losses and damages. While suing a motorist who was under the influence of drugs when your collision occurred may be tricky, it is often the only viable way to recover damages.
The danger of drugged driving crashes was evident in a recent car accident in south Charlotte, North Carolina. As reported by WCNC, one person died and two others sustained serious injuries in a vehicle crash in which drug use may have been a factor.
The fatal collision occurred in the 1700 block of Tyvola Road. One motorist was driving a Volvo when he crossed the median strip and collided with an SUV head-on. While the driver passed a sobriety test, evidence at the scene suggests that the motorist may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the collision.
What is Drugged Driving in North Carolina?
Under North Carolina General Statutes Section 20-4.01, it is unlawful to operate motor vehicles under the influence of “impairing substances,” including alcohol and controlled substances. While alcohol impairment can be quickly determined through a breathalyzer test, drug impairment cannot be measured by roadside tests.
It can be proven that a driver was impaired by drugs only through chemical testing, which can take a while. A motorist can be convicted of a drug DWI if the results of chemical testing show that the driver was under the influence of:
- A controlled substance;
- A psychoactive substance; or
- A combination of these substances.
Can You be Partially at Fault if You Were Not Impaired?
Can a driver who did not consume drugs be held partially responsible for the crash? Under North Carolina’s contributory negligence rule, the at-fault party is not required to pay for the victim’s damages if they can prove that the victim’s fault contributed to the crash.
However, there are several exceptions to the contributory negligence rule in North Carolina. One of them applies when the at-fault motorist’s conduct was beyond ordinary negligence and constituted “willful or wanton” negligence.
- A driver’s conduct is willful when he or she fails to exercise due care to avoid causing harm to other people; and
- A driver’s conduct is wanton when it involves intentional or willful disregard for the safety of others.
Are You Eligible for Punitive Damages in a Drugged Driving Accident?
If the motorist who caused the drugged driving accident is deemed at fault and you are entitled to compensatory damages, you may also be eligible for punitive damages. In North Carolina, you can recover punitive damages when the at-fault party’s conduct is willful and wanton, fraudulent, or malicious. The law requires you to prove that you are entitled to punitive damages by presenting “clear and convincing” evidence. Under North Carolina law, punitive damages cannot exceed $250,000 or three times the total value of your compensatory damages. However, North Carolina does not impose a cap on punitive damages if the at-fault motorist was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
Speak with our personal injury lawyers to establish fault in your drugged driving accident and evaluate your case. Reach out to Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable personal injury attorneys. Call (704) 370-2828 to receive a consultation with our lawyers to explore your legal options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.
The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.
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