Driving under the influence of drugs is just as risky as driving under the influence of alcohol. They both negatively impact a person’s ability to drive safely. Unfortunately, drugged driving is more common than many people realize. A 2013-2014 survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 20% of surveyed drivers tested positive for potentially impairing drugs.
When a drugged driver causes a car crash, severe injuries and property damage usually result. Our Charlotte drugged driver accident lawyers understand the trauma this experience can cause. If you were the victim of a drugged driver car accident, you’re entitled to hold the at-fault driver liable for your resulting injuries. You could file an insurance claim or lawsuit to recover compensation for your expenses and the suffering you endured.
At DeMayo Law Offices, LLP, our highly skilled, caring attorneys will help you fight for the justice you deserve. Call us at (704) 333-1000 to learn about your legal rights and options.
Drugged Driving Is More Dangerous Than You Think
When you think of the term DUI (driving under the influence), you probably picture alcohol and illegal substances, such as cocaine. However, something seemingly harmless, like allergy medicine, can affect someone’s ability to drive safely.
North Carolina laws prohibit people from operating a motor vehicle with a metabolized Schedule I controlled substance in their system or while under the influence of an impairing substance.
Four main types of drugs could cause adverse side effects that result in a car accident:
- Controlled substances
- Prescription medication
- Over-the-counter medication
All of these have the potential to cause mental or physical problems for the driver. Common symptoms experienced include:
- Blurry vision
- Slower reaction time
- Loss of coordination and sensory perception
- Reduced concentration
- Inability to focus
Even if you’re taking a drug prescribed by your doctor, it could lead to an adverse reaction. You should always discuss the possible side effects with your doctor or a pharmacist and read warning labels on the packaging. If operating a motor vehicle with the medication in your system is dangerous, you should refrain from doing so.
What You Should and Shouldn’t Do After a Car Accident
If you collide with a driver who’s under the influence of drugs and suffer any injuries, you should follow the steps below:
- Call law enforcement and wait for them to arrive at the scene. They will perform an investigation and write a crash report.
- Talk to anyone who witnessed the crash and write down their names and phone numbers.
- Get crucial details from the at-fault driver, such as their name, contact information, and auto insurance provider.
- Take pictures of the accident scene.
- Seek medical attention. The doctor will evaluate your injuries and refer you for additional treatment if necessary. Be sure to follow their orders and continue seeing all medical providers until you recover.
- Gather copies of every document related to the crash, including medical records, billing statements, and letters from the insurance company.
- Hire a Charlotte drugged driver accident lawyer.
Besides completing the steps above, there are some things you should avoid doing. If you say or do the wrong thing, you could ruin your chance of recovering the maximum compensation.
Don’t wait to pursue a legal case against the at-fault driver. Drugged driving is a serious offense, and you should hold them accountable for their actions. If you wait too long to file an insurance claim or lawsuit, you could miss an important deadline or discover that crucial evidence went missing.
Don’t admit to fault for the accident. Even if you believe you’re partially responsible, don’t tell anyone. Under the state’s contributory negligence rule, you won’t be entitled to any amount of compensation if the insurance company determines you share any blame.
Don’t speak to the insurance adjusters. Whether you file a liability claim, UM claim, or both, never talk to them. Your Charlotte drugged driver accident lawyer will handle all communication on your behalf. That will prevent you from saying something that could harm the outcome of your case.
Don’t sign any forms from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Auto insurance companies don’t care about injured victims. They only care about saving money. They might try to trick you into signing away your rights to the maximum settlement available. If they request your signature on any documents, politely decline and forward them to your lawyer for review.
Don’t wait too long after the accident to seek initial treatment or consistently skip scheduled doctor appointments. The insurance adjuster will have good reason to deny your claim if there’s a gap in treatment. You need to follow up with all your medical providers regularly until they release you from care.
Don’t decide against legal representation. If you attempt to handle your case alone, you’ll most likely end up with a denied claim or settlement offer that’s much lower than you deserve. A Charlotte drugged driver accident lawyer has the experience and resources to build a strong case that gets accident victims the financial award they need.
Damages in an Insurance Claim
When you file an insurance claim, the goal is to recover compensation for your total damages. Damages are the losses associated with an accident. Two main categories are economic damages (expenses) and non-economic damages (intangible losses).
There’s a fault system in North Carolina that determines who’s financially responsible for the injured victim’s damages. The person who causes a car accident is automatically liable for the other party’s injuries and losses. Their liability auto insurance company typically provides a settlement depending on the limits listed on the policy. The legal requirement for liability limits is $30,000 for bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage.
If you choose to file a liability claim, you could pursue the following damages up to the maximum limits:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages and future earnings
- Vehicle repair or replacement costs
- Out of pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Diminished quality of life
Unfortunately, there are times when you might come across a driver who doesn’t have liability insurance, despite state laws requiring it. If that happens, there are other options for pursuing a settlement. UM (uninsured/underinsured motorist) compensates the injured party’s damages when the at-fault driver doesn’t have liability coverage, or the limits aren’t high enough. Instead of filing a claim with their insurance company, you would file a claim with your own auto insurance.
The following damages are available in a UM claim:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages and future earnings
- Out of pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering
Like liability coverage, UM includes bodily injury and property damage limits. If you chose property damage coverage on your policy, you could also seek compensation for car repair and replacement costs.
As mentioned earlier, economic damages are expenses. Things like medical treatment come with a billing statement. To determine the total cost, all you have to do is add up everything. However, calculating non-economic damages, such as physical and emotional pain, is complicated. The insurance company might consider the following factors to come up with a fair number:
- Availability of medical evidence
- Impact of the injury on quality of life
- Duration of the recovery period
- Permanent damage, impairment, or disability as a result of the accident
- The total value of economic damages
- Inability to maintain employment or perform the job to full capacity
- The severity of the injury
- Proof the other driver was at fault
- Future medical treatment needed
Damages in a Lawsuit
You can file an insurance claim, lawsuit, or both. It’s your choice, but your Charlotte drugged driver accident lawyer will advise you on the best option. If you choose to file a lawsuit against the liable driver, there’s a strict deadline you must comply with in North Carolina. It’s known as a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for car accidents is three years. That means you have three years from the accident date to sue for compensation.
The legal theory of negligence is standard in this type of case. Negligence refers to one party’s failure to prevent harm to another by following a standard of reasonable care. There are five elements you must show were present at the time of the accident to prove negligence:
- Duty: The other driver owed you a duty of care;
- Breach: They breached their duty;
- Cause in fact: If it weren’t for their actions, you wouldn’t have suffered harm;
- Proximate cause: Their breach was the direct cause of your injury; and
- Damages: You incurred damages.
Besides economic and non-economic damages, there’s a third type you could pursue in a lawsuit. Unlike the other two types, punitive damages don’t compensate an injured victim for their losses. Instead, it punishes the individual responsible for an accident and deters similar behavior in the future.
According to North Carolina statute 1D-15, a jury will only award punitive damages under the following circumstances:
- The accident victim can prove the other party is liable for economic and non-economic damages;
- The other party exhibited an aggravating factor of fraud, malice, or willful conduct; and
- There’s clear and convincing evidence of at least one of the aggravating factors.
DeMayo Law Offices, LLP has a team of experienced Charlotte car accident lawyers. We use our knowledge, resources, and skills to fight for the compensation our clients deserve. We know a car accident can be traumatizing. When you suffer injuries and spend months recovering, it causes tremendous stress. You can depend on us to take the responsibility off your shoulders by handling every legal aspect of your case.
If a drugged driver caused your car accident and injuries, call (704) 333-1000 to schedule a free consultation. We’ll help you get back on your feet and move forward with your life.
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