So you’re on your way home from the movies when someone violently slammed into your driver’s side door after running a red light. You get out of your car with searing pain in your lower back and a headache, that’s only made worse when you come face to face with the at-fault driver who reeks of booze. What happens next?
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver, there will likely be a criminal DUI case against the at fault drunk motorist. While the criminal case may punish the at-fault driver for their reckless behavior, it may not take care of any medical bills and bills to repair or replace property, such as your car after the accident.
A criminal case is pursued by the state, generally through the County District Attorney’s Office (DA’s Office) of where a crime is committed to enforce the state’s criminal laws. It’s important to keep in mind that the DA’s Office does not represent you. You are not their client. The state is. However, while the DA’s office represents the state, they may obtain compensation for some of your injuries and damages by obtaining an order for the at-fault driver to pay you restitution. In North Carolina, a criminal defendant can be ordered to pay restitution to a victim of a crime committed by the defendant, in addition to any penalty authorized by law, to compensate the victim for any injuries or damages arising directly and proximately out of the offense committed by the defendant. However, you may be entitled to more money in the event that the at-fault driver is ordered to pay restitution depending on the amount of damages that you acquired from the accident and the amount of restitution that the at-fault driver is ordered to pay you, provided that the at-fault driver is even ordered to pay you restitution. “An order providing for restitution does not abridge the right of a victim or the victim’s estate to bring a civil action against the defendant for damages arising out of the offense committed by the defendant. Any amount paid by the defendant under the terms of a restitution order under this Article shall be credited against any judgment rendered against the defendant in favor of the same victim in a civil action arising out of the criminal offense committed by the defendant.” N.C.G.S. § 15A-1340.37(a). In other words, you can pursue your own civil case against the at-fault driver for damages exceeding what was paid to you in restitution.
In a civil case, you can get your own personal injury attorney who exclusively represents you to pursue damages from the at-fault driver for medical bills, property damage bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other compensable damages. Additionally, because the crime of DUI involves conduct beyond the standard negligence that is generally the focus of personal injury law and includes elements of intentional wrongful conduct, plaintiffs who are injured by intoxicated motorists can also generally pursue punitive damages in addition to the potential damages listed above. “Punitive damages may be awarded, in an appropriate case to punish a defendant for egregiously wrongful acts and to deter the defendant and others from committing similar wrongful acts.” N.C.G.S. § 1D-1.
Typically, after you have received treatment for your injuries, a personal injury attorney will compile your medical bills and treatment records arising from the accident and draft and send a demand package to the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier requesting an amount to settle your case to prevent civil litigation against the at-fault drunk motorist. If the at-fault motorist was uninsured, the personal injury attorney will commence the same action with your insurance carrier to obtain the requested damages from your uninsured motorist coverage. If this action fails to result in a settlement then the personal injury attorney can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to pursue the damages sought by the injured party.
We strongly encourage you to seek the advice of a licensed North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver, where you could potentially recover damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damage and other compensable damages. At Biazzo & Panchenko Law, we are prepared to negotiate a settlement for you or pursue your case through a jury verdict if warranted. Contact Biazzo & Panchenko Law today to schedule your free Personal Injury consultation. This blog is not to be construed as legal advice.