Can I Recover Damages if the Driver Was Not Charged With a DUI?

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A judge's gavel on a dark wooden table, resting on a pair of opened handcuffs.Victims of car accidents can recover damages from the driver who caused the accident. In North Carolina, as long as you had no part in causing the collision, you can recover damages regardless of whether the other driver is charged with DUI or not.

Contact a drunk driving accident lawyer to discuss the unique details of your case to make sure you know your options and make the best decisions to get your full compensation.

If Found Not Guilty, Can I Still Sue?

When someone chooses to drive a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol, they are choosing to put everyone’s life in danger. Alcohol causes slow reaction times, poor judgment, and impaired vision, according to Healthline.

Drunk drivers are very likely to cause serious injuries to others and are not judged very kindly by juries. If you have been injured by a drunk driver and that driver was not convicted of driving while intoxicated in criminal court, do not worry.

The verdict from the criminal court will not affect your ability to file a civil lawsuit.

What Is the Difference Between Criminal and Civil Court?

Criminal court is where the driver faces punishment from the state if convicted of illegal activity. In a case of drunk driving, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was intoxicated above the legal limit which is 0.08 and above in North Carolina.

If convicted, the driver could have to pay a fine and go to jail or community service, depending on the circumstances and the judge’s decision. The fine would be paid to the state, and the victim of the accident would not receive anything from this court.

Civil court is where the victim seeks financial compensation from the driver or the driver’s insurance provider. The victim has to prove that the driver caused the accident through recklessness or negligence.

The driver’s intoxication only has to be proven to be above 51% certainty, which is much easier than criminal court. The ruling made in criminal court does not affect the outcome of civil court.

Is a Drunk Driver Automatically Liable for Damages?

Even the most irresponsible drunk driver is not automatically liable for paying for your damages. You must always prove the other driver’s negligence or reckless behavior caused the accident. According to the Legal Information Institute, in order to prove negligence, you must:

  • Prove that the driver had a duty of care
  • The driver breached that care
  • The breach of care is what caused your injury
  • You suffered damages from the negligence

What Damages Can I Claim For Compensation?

According to Forbes, compensation is meant to make the victim whole again after something has been taken away. This means that you should be given enough to return you to your status before the accident.

Unfortunately, some injuries are severe and life-changing. Emotional trauma is also very serious, and these things do not have an actual monetary value.

Since civil court assigns compensation through a dollar amount, all of your injuries, damages, and suffering are added up into a payment. You can expect to be compensated for the following:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Loss of Wages
  • Lost Future Earnings
  • Property Damage
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Emotional Distress
  • Diminished Quality of Life or Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Loss of Companionship or Consortium
  • Permanent Disabilities, Impairments, or Disfigurements

Medical Expenses

When you are injured in an accident, you must get medical attention. Medical bills in the United States are very expensive and add up quickly.

They are often the most costly part of the accident. Your medical bills include hospitalization, surgeries, rehabilitation, therapy, medication, specialized equipment and care, and more.

Lost Wages

Most people are unable to work while they recover from their injuries.

Losing your income is stressful, especially when bills are accumulating. These lost earnings will be included in your claim.

Lost Earning Capacity

Suppose the accident has left you unable to continue your work, or you need to take on a role with a lower salary. In that case, you can also claim this loss as economic damage.

For example, if you had a job that required intense concentration, but the accident left you with post-traumatic stress disorder, and you can no longer focus, you would no longer be able to continue in your profession.

Your future earning potential will be used to calculate your lost earning capacity.

Property Damage

Your vehicle and anything else you had with you is your property. Any damage to these items will have to be recovered through payment for repair, replacement, or the reduction of their value.

Pain and Suffering

Serious injuries cause excruciating pain. You deserve to be compensated for your discomfort that was caused by the accident. Pain is usually short-term and fades as your injuries heal. Unfortunately, sometimes it becomes chronic and can last for years or even be permanent.

Emotional Distress

Drunk driving accidents are traumatic. Many victims find themselves feeling fearful after an accident. Serious injury, entrapment, and fatalities escalate emotional trauma.

Some people develop anxiety, depression, phobias, decreased mental capacity, difficulty concentrating, or post-traumatic stress disorder, among other mental anguish-related issues, because of the accident itself or from their subsequent injuries and disabilities.

Diminished Quality of Life or Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Long-term and permanent injuries are a harsh reality for many survivors of drunk driving accidents. Suddenly becoming unable to do something you love can lead to severe depression.

Loss of autonomy is humiliating and makes people feel like a burden to their families. Even losing the ability to work or earn the same income level as before the accident and then watching your family struggle can be heartbreaking.

These losses can change your personality and outlook on life, and you should be compensated for that.

Loss of Companionship or Consortium

The accident may leave you with injuries or disabilities that change your relationships with your loved ones. For example, how can you hug your family members if you have become paralyzed or when your arms have been amputated?

Perhaps your spouse and children once saw you as strong and dependable, but now you can barely move and are constantly irritable because of your chronic pain. You can seek compensation for losing the dynamic of these relationships.

Permanent Disabilities, Impairments, or Disfigurements

Permanent injuries quite literally change your life forever. They change the way you live, your relationships, and how others see you.

People may stare at your scars or look at you with pity when they see your disability leading to frustration, humiliation, and depression. Compensation for any permanent damage is usually substantial.

Regardless of whether the other driver was charged with a DUI or not, if they caused the accident that caused you harm, they are responsible for compensating you for any damages you have suffered.

Drunk driving accident lawyers make a big difference in how much you receive, so it is important to choose a dependable law firm with experienced attorneys who know how to handle cases that involve drunk drivers.

Call the Heavy Hitters of North Carolina to Get Your Full Compensation

The lawyers at Tatum & Atkinson are ready to fight for what is rightfully yours. You do not have to go up against big insurance companies with their aggressive attorneys alone.

Contact us at (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation so we can discuss your case and answer any questions you may have.