According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one person dies every 45 minutes in the United States of America because of collisions caused by driving after the consumption of alcohol.
In 2019, 10,142 people were killed because of drunk driving. According to The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 906 of these people were under 21 years old.
Drunk driving is a completely preventable crime. Every person who has died because someone decided to drink and drive was killed for no reason.
People drink alcohol because of peer pressure, societal norms, to alleviate stress and anxiety, to celebrate, to mourn, and because of addiction issues. The decision to drive after the consumption of alcohol is a decision to commit a crime and put multiple lives at risk.
In North Carolina, there were 323 fatalities involving alcohol-impaired driving in 2019, and 25 of these deaths were just children under 21 years of age.
Drunk driving accidents increase during holidays. According to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Crash Data Facts Report, 63% of the fatalities during the New Year holiday were alcohol-related.
Lane departure accounted for over half of all fatal accidents. There were 11,345 drunk driving crashes in North Carolina in 2018.
7,602 of these crashes involved injuries, and 411 people were killed.
According to Background Checks, North Carolina is a part of the deadliest region for drunk driving because of the high DUI death rates. North Carolina is ranked as the seventh worst state for DUI problems, with 27,915 DUI arrests and 421 fatalities.
Driving a vehicle while impaired and causing the death of another human, whether he or she was in another vehicle, a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist, or passenger, is enough to be charged with Felony Death By Vehicle in North Carolina.
In order to convict the drunk driver, the defendant, of Felony Death By Vehicle, the state must prove the following elements:
When someone dies due to an alcohol-related accident, a family member or representative may file a civil lawsuit for wrongful death against the driver at fault for the accident. The claim must be filed within two years of the victim’s death, which may differ from the date of the accident.
According to North Carolina Law, a wrongful death occurs when a death is caused by neglect, a wrongful act, or default of someone else. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against the party whose negligent or intentional actions caused the crash that claimed the victim’s life.
The deceased victim’s family is the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit. If successful, the court will order the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s claimed damages.
The determination of the value of the award for damages potentially includes the following factors:
According to Funeralocity, the average cost for a funeral in North Carolina is just over $8000 and varies depending on the city, elected services, and service provider. Drunk driving accidents are unplanned events that can leave families unable to pay for funeral arrangements.
Not all drunk driving accident victims die close to home. The cost to bring them home varies wildly depending upon the following criteria:
Direct burials without the coat of a funeral added range between around $1,200 – $1,600. Cremation is approximately just under $1,000.
The cost for each method fluctuates depending on location and the type of coffin or urn chosen.
Drunk driving accidents are horrific, especially when high speeds are involved. With the advancements in safety features in vehicles today, many people survive the initial crash.
Unfortunately, some still succumb to injuries and die in the hospital. Any treatment they received before their death, including transportation to the hospital, will be charged to their estate.
While families are not responsible for paying these expenses, medical bills are expensive and would take a large portion, if not all, of the deceased’s estate. Some families could be left with nothing, especially if assets were only in the deceased’s name.
The income the deceased would have earned if the accident had not happened is also calculated in a claim for damages. This amount is significant to families who depended on the victim as the household’s primary income source.
The family can also receive financial compensation for any pain the victim experienced from the accident until death.
Some deaths happen instantly, while other victims experience extreme pain from their injuries, and they may have suffered for a long time before help arrived or if they were trapped somewhere.
Family members are owed compensation for the loss of their loved one. Non-economic damages are for the loss of the individual.
For example, a child who lost a parent also loses a guide, counselor, and comforter. A spouse is losing a companion, support, and consortium.
They are losing future memories and will suffer emotionally for the rest of their lives.
A lawsuit against a drunk driver is a civil case. The victim has to prove that the drunk driver’s negligence caused the accident and resulting injuries.
The victim should have multiple pieces of evidence to build a strong case.
The police report is the most important document for proving what happened in the events surrounding your accident.
If you are medically cleared to remain at the scene of the accident, it is best to do so to thoroughly explain your account of what happened and to point out any evidence that may be missed if you are not present.
If you are too badly injured to remain at the scene, the police will take your statement at the hospital.
The police report will include a description of the accident as well as any field sobriety tests and breathalyzer results that the officer performed at the accident site. The officer’s observations of the driver will also be described, including:
All medical reports, from diagnostics to treatment to results, must be kept for your lawsuit as legal documentation linking your injuries to the collision with the drunk driver. The total of all medical bills will prove the number of financial damages your injuries cost you in order for the driver’s insurance company to pay for these expenses.
A letter from your employer stating your usual pay and how many days you have missed should be enough to prove lost wages. It is prudent to include past pay stubs or tax forms as well.
The driver may try to argue that they were not drunk at the time of the accident. Witnesses who saw the defendant driving erratically, swerving, weaving, speeding, or driving too slowly can all help the argument they were drunk or otherwise impaired.
A drunk driving accident lawyer can also help your case by getting the defendant’s receipts for alcohol from bars and restaurants. Witnesses can include:
People who have known you for an extended amount of time can be called upon to testify how your life has changed and whether you have experienced a loss of enjoyment of life.
They can testify to your loss of autonomy and inability to engage in past hobbies or recreational activities that you enjoyed before the accident.
Expert witnesses are typically doctors or other medical professionals that will explain the severity of your injuries. They can describe your new physical limitations and pain caused by your injuries.
Therapists can also testify to post-traumatic stress symptoms and emotional distress from the accident and subsequent trauma.
If you have lost a family member due to the actions of a drunk driver, you could be entitled to compensation. At Tatum & Atkinson, we understand that your loved one is more than just another number added to an annual statistic.
Each person making up those large numbers had a life, had a family, and did not deserve to die just because someone else decided to drink and drive. Contact us at (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation, so we can see what we can do for you to ease your pain in this terrible situation.