Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question “What if the accident was my fault?”
Lawyers representing the victims of a fatal crash on I-85 near Chapel Hill have added two businesses as named defendants to their lawsuit. The crash occurred when a 20-year-old UNC student, Chandler Kania, collided head on with a vehicle on I-85 while traveling in the wrong direction on the interstate. The crash occurred at 3:00 a.m., killing three and leaving a nine-year-old girl as the only survivor in the victims’ car.
Kania’s blood alcohol level was .17, over twice the legal limit for those of age to consume alcohol in North Carolina. Reports also indicate that he had mixed marijuana with alcohol the night of the accident. He has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, possessing an open container of alcohol, possession of alcohol by a person under age 21, and driving by a person less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol.
Kania is also a named defendant in a civil lawsuit aimed at recovering monetary damages caused by the accident. Also named in this lawsuit are Kania’s parents, Mike and Stephanie Kania. Chandler Kania is accused of driving negligently in a “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.” His parents, lawyers for the plaintiffs argue, are liable because they jointly owned the Jeep driven by Chandler which was to be used for family purposes, specifically by their son.
In an interesting twist, plaintiffs’ lawyers have added two Chapel Hill businesses as named Defendants to the lawsuit. He’s Not Here and La Residence are two Chapel Hill restaurants that have been added to the suit for allegedly serving Chandler Kania alcohol while he was under the age of 21. Furthermore, the suit accuses the businesses of failing to provide training measures for their employees that would prevent service of minors.
North Carolina law prevents the sale or transfer of alcohol to minors (those under 21) by individuals or by businesses. The law also provides for a cause of action for anyone injured because of the sale of alcohol to a minor. In other words, the statute allows for a party injured by an intoxicated minor to bring suit against the business that sold alcohol to the minor, as has occurred in this case. The nature of the suit is one of negligence. Plaintiffs will have to show that the businesses negligently sold alcohol to Chandler Kania and that in doing so, they caused the injuries to the victims. However, evidence tending to show that Kania may have misrepresented his age would likely be admissible and would be evidence that shows the restaurants may not have been negligent. Importantly, the statute caps the amount of damages that can be sought by a plaintiff against a business providing alcohol to a minor at $500,000 per occurrence. This aspect of the statute is reportedly being challenged as unconstitutional in this case.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on developments arising from this challenge. As it stands, a victim who has been injured by a drunk driver is sometimes prevented from fully recovering from a negligent business that is partially responsible for causing the victim’s injuries.
In total, this suit seeks to recover over $25,000 in damages from the accident. Additionally, plaintiffs seek to recover more than $25,000 in punitive damages. Generally, the purpose of civil suits is to put the victim back in the financial position he or she would have been before the accident or problem occurred. However, in some circumstances, North Carolina Law allows for damages beyond this amount which are designed to punish a liable defendant for gross misconduct leading to serious injury. These damages are known as punitive damages.
It is important to remember that if you are injured by a drunk driver, you may have options when deciding from whom to attempt recovery. That is why it is important to consult with a lawyer. If injuries occur, the person who caused the accident may have insufficient assets to fully compensate you for damages or losses. However, they may not be the only party at fault. Always consult a personal injury lawyer to review your case and see how the tort law might be applicable to your unique circumstances.
If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
By Phoney (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL
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