North Carolina Wrongful Death Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

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A drunk driving accident lawyer consults with a client in a North Carolina wrongful death law office. 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 else decided to drink and drive was killed for no reason.

Seeking Compensation With a North Caroline Wrongful Death Drunk Driving Accident Attorney

A lawsuit against a drunk driver is a civil case. The victim’s family has to prove that the drunk driver’s negligence caused the accident and resulting death.

The family should have multiple pieces of evidence to build a strong case.

  • Police Report
  • Medical Documentation
  • Lost Wages Verification
  • Witness Statements

Police Report

The police report is the most important document for proving what happened in the events surrounding the accident. 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.

If a victim or witness is medically cleared to remain at the scene of the accident, it is best to do so to thoroughly explain their account of what happened and to point out any evidence that may be missed if they were not present.

If they are too badly injured to remain at the scene, the police will take their statement at the hospital, if possible. The officer’s observations of the driver will also be described, including:

  • The smell of alcohol coming from the driver or the vehicle
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • The driver’s level of coordination
  • Ability to focus visually and mentally

Medical Documentation

All medical reports, from diagnostics to treatment to results, must be kept for the lawsuit as legal documentation linking the victim’s injuries and subsequent death to the collision with the drunk driver.

The total of all medical bills will prove the amount of financial damages the injuries cost in order for the driver’s insurance company to pay for these expenses.

Lost Wages Verification

A letter from the victim’s employer stating their usual pay and how many days they will have missed up until retirement age should be enough to prove lost wages. It is prudent to include past pay stubs or tax forms as well.

An economist will go over all of these numbers to get an accurate estimate of lost future earnings.

Witness Statements

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 personal injury lawyer can also help your case by getting the defendant’s receipts for alcohol from bars and restaurants. Witnesses can include:

  • Passengers in your vehicle
  • Passengers in the defendant’s vehicle
  • Witnesses in other vehicles who saw the defendant driving before the accident
  • Anyone who saw the accident take place
  • People who saw the defendant immediately following the accident
  • Someone who saw the defendant drinking alcohol shortly before the accident
  • Police
  • The victim, if they were still able to give a statement before they died

Charges for Killing Someone While Driving Drunk

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:

  • The defendant was driving a motor vehicle
  • The defendant was driving the motor vehicle in a public area designated for vehicles
  • The defendant was impaired while driving
  • The impaired driving of the defendant was a direct cause of the victim’s death
  • The incident occurred in North Carolina

Wrongful Death Claims

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.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

According to North Carolina Law, a wrongful death occurs when a death is caused by neglect, a wrongful act, or default of someone else. Therefore, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against the party whose negligent or intentional actions caused the crash that claimed the victim’s life.

What Types of Damages Can Be Claimed In a Wrongful Death Case?

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:

  • Funeral Expenses
  • Transportation Of the Deceased
  • Burial or Cremation Expenses
  • Medical Bills For the Deceased As a Result of the Accident
  • Lost Wages the Victim Would Have Earned Had They Lived
  • Pain and Suffering of the Deceased
  • A Reasonable Value For Non-Economic Damages

Funeral Expenses

According to Funeralocity, the average cost for a funeral in North Carolina is just over $8,000 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.

Transportation of the Deceased

Not all drunk driving accident victims die close to home. The cost to bring them home varies wildly depending upon the following criteria:

  • Distance They Must Travel
  • Fees for Shipping Arrangements
  • Method of Transportation
  • Weight of the Deceased

Burial or Cremation Expenses

Direct burials without the cost 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.

Medical Bills for the Deceased As a Result of the Accident

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.

Lost Wages the Victim Would Have Earned Had They Lived

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 depend on the victim as the household’s primary income source.

Pain and Suffering of the Deceased

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.

A Reasonable Value for Non-Economic Damages

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.

These people are losing future memories and will suffer emotionally for the rest of their lives.

Who Is Responsible for Accidents Involving Drunk Drivers?

When someone is killed by a drunk driver, it is easy to place all the blame for the accident onto the driver. The liability for the victim’s death may reach further than strictly the driver.

Your North Carolina wrongful death drunk driving accident will investigate the circumstances surrounding the collision to determine where the driver received the alcohol, whether or not the driver was a minor, and if someone knowingly allowed the driver to operate the vehicle while intoxicated.

Is a Bartender Responsible for Drunk Drivers?

North Carolina has a specific law, N.C.G.S Section 18B-305, that prohibits the sale of alcohol to intoxicated individuals. It states that it is “unlawful for a permittee (bar owner) or employee or for an ABC store (liquor store) employee to knowingly sell or give alcoholic beverages to any person who is intoxicated.”

The trouble with this law is that it is difficult to prove criminal intent. How would the bartender know that the person was intoxicated, especially if there were multiple drinks served to a group where the driver drank the majority without the bartender’s knowledge?

There are many scenarios where the bartender and certainly the bar owner could not have been aware of the level of intoxication of the driver or that person’s intention to drive.

Responsibility of Permit Holders

In order for an establishment to receive a permit to serve alcohol, the permittee must accept the responsibility of refusing service to an intoxicated customer. The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission issues the permits and enforces the laws upon the permittees.

They provide control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption, and possession of alcoholic beverages within North Carolina. The permit holders are responsible for educating their employees about the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of preventing customers from becoming intoxicated before driving.

How Do Servers of Alcohol Reasonably Know When Someone Is Drunk?

Dram shop laws are in place to discourage servers of alcohol from acting irresponsibly and knowingly over-serving alcohol to people they know are planning to drive afterward. This law is supposed to decrease the number of drunk drivers on the roads.

True responsibility rests on the driver who deliberately got behind the wheel of their vehicle while drunk. However, there are several signs of impairment bartenders and other servers of alcohol look for when determining whether or not somebody is intoxicated.

  • Slurred speech
  • People who have become uncommonly loud, bragging, arguing, swearing, or complaining
  • Physical coordination changes include spilling, clumsiness or unsteadiness, carelessness, bumping into tables, clumsiness with money, unsteady walking
  • Behavior changes, including anger, sullenness, withdrawal, or excessive happiness

Parents of Underaged Drunk Drivers

In North Carolina, it is illegal to give, sell, or provide anyone under the age of 21 with alcohol, and any attempt to help the underage individual is prohibited. It is also illegal for someone under 21 years old to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol.

If a child is illegally served alcohol and they are injured or killed as a result of a subsequent accident, the parents of that child can hold the person or establishment who provided the alcohol responsible due to a cause of action.

The parents would have to prove that the provision of alcohol to their child is what caused the injury or death. The underage driver cannot bring a claim against the vendor because they knowingly participated in illegal activity.

If the underage driver misrepresented their age through the use of a false identification card, the permittee will not be found negligent.

Social Host Law

The host of a private event can be held liable for the damages caused by a drunk driver who was served alcohol at the event. Three things must be found to be true in order to hold the host responsible.

  • The host must have provided alcohol to the driver who caused the accident
  • The host must have known or had reasonably expected that the driver was intoxicated before leaving the private event
  • The host had to have known that the driver was going to be driving after being served alcohol

The driver under the social host law could be an intoxicated adult or minor. Hosting private parties in North Carolina requires vigilance and care for the guests whenever alcohol is served.

Contact Your North Carolina Wrongful Death Drunk Driving Accident Law Firm: Tatum & Atkinson

If you have lost a family member due to the actions of a drunk driver, you could be entitled to compensation. At Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters, 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.