Who is Responsible in North Carolina Drunk Driving Car Accidents?

Drunk driving in North Carolina has increased over the last several years. The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that in 2017, 11,342 drunk driving accidents occurred in North Carolina. Drunk driving car accidents resulted in 368 fatalities and 7,922 injuries that year. Drunk driving fatalities constitute 26.4% of all traffic fatalities.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries resulting from a drunk driving accident, we can help. The experienced drunk driving personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have helped many North Carolina residents recover compensation after a car accident. Determining who is at fault in a drunk driving accident is not always as straightforward a process than many would think. Our attorneys have helped many clients recover compensation for their injuries. Contact our Charlotte personal injury law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

Who is Responsible in a Drunk Driving Car Accident?

The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC help our clients determine who is at fault in their drunk driving accident. We conduct a thorough investigation of the facts of our clients’ motor vehicle accidents.

We interview witnesses and examine the police reports and any other evidence that demonstrates who is at fault. In some cases, when available we secure any video or security footage of the car accident. After we review all of the relevant evidence, we advise our clients as to their best legal options. In drunk driving accidents, the following people or companies may be at fault:

  • The drunk driver
  • The employer of the drunk driver
  • The restaurant or bar who served the drunk driver alcohol
The Drunk Driver is Often Responsible for the Car Accident

Drunk drivers are responsible for car accidents caused by their intoxication. As long as no intervening force caused the accident, proving the drunk driver’s guilt is typically straightforward. Those who drive while intoxicated breach the duty of reasonable care that they owe other drivers. As long as their negligent or reckless behavior caused the car accident, defendants can hold them legally responsible for any injuries that occur.

The Drunk Driver’s Employer May Also be Responsible for the Accident

If the driver caused an accident during his or her employment, the employer might be liable for the injuries he or she caused. Under North Carolina law, employers can be held vicariously responsible for the negligent actions of their employees.

To succeed in a lawsuit under the theory of vicarious liability, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the accident was foreseeable in the scope of employment. The element of foreseeability requires that the driver did not deviate too much from the work he or she was supposed to be doing when the accident occurred.

It can be challenging to prove that the drunk driver drove within the scope of his or her employment, though not impossible. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help you determine whether you can bring a lawsuit against the employer of the drunk driver who caused your car accident.

The Restaurant or Bar That Served the Drunk Driver May be Responsible

North Carolina’s dram shop law allows an injured person to bring a lawsuit against alcohol vendors when:

  • The vendor negligently serves or sells alcohol to a minor under the age of 21
  • The minor caused an argument while under the influence of alcohol served or sold by the vendor, and
  • The minor’s negligent driving proximately caused the accident and resulting injuries

Negligently serving alcohol typically means the server failed to check the customer’s ID. Servers who continue to serve alcohol to someone appears to be intoxicated also meet the requirement of negligently serving alcohol. Injured parties can sue the server and the server’s employer.

Many states allow injured parties to hold alcohol vendors liable for the injuries drunk driver's cause regardless of their age. North Carolina is different because its dram shop laws only apply to damages caused by drunk drivers under the age of 21. If the drunk driver was age 21 or older when the drunk driving accident occurred, the injured party could not sue the restaurant or bar that served him or her alcohol under North Carolina’s Dram Shop Act. However, under ordinary negligence principles, i.e. 1. Duty; 2. Breach of the duty; 3. Proximate cause; and 4. Damages, a social host serving alcoholic beverages to a noticeably impaired person of any age could serve as the basis for liability under North Carolina’s common law. As the North Carolina Supreme Court wrote in a famous case from 1998, Estate of Mullis by Dixon v. Monroe Oil Co., Inc., “Furnishing alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated person who is going to drive would constitute a breach of [the duty to exercise reasonable care], and a jury could determine that this breach proximately caused harm.”

We can Help Determine Who is Responsible for Your Car Accident

The first step in seeking compensation for your injuries is to speak with a skilled drunk driving personal injury attorney. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our attorneys can help you determine who is at fault in your drunk driving car accident. Contact our Charlotte law firm today to schedule an initial consultation.

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