I was hit by a drunk driver, does that make a difference in my case?

Yes. If you were hit by a drunk driver, then you may be entitled to recover “punitive damages.” Punitive damages can be awarded when the other driver’s actions were to such a degree, they can be classified as carelessness and recklessness, more than just ordinary negligence. Courts have held that the intentional act of driving while impaired is sufficiently reckless to warrant punitive damages. Ivey v. Rose, 94 N.C.App. 773, 776, 381 S.E.2d 476, 478 (1989).

However, punitive damages are not automatic. There has to be other circumstances beyond mere intoxication in order to award punitive damages. Howard v. Parker, 95 N.C.App. 361, 365, 382 S.E.2d 808, 810 (1989).

If you were hit by a drunk driver, or a driver that was charged with DWI/DUI, contact my office to review your case to see if you could be entitled to punitive damages.

What if you were hit by a driver that was drinking, but not charged with driving while impaired, could you be entitled to punitive damages?

Yes, but it depends on the circumstances. Take a look at the cases below to get an idea of what cases an a court would allow a jury to consider the issue of punitive damages.

  • Driver fell asleep while driving and did not wake up until after his vehicle rear-ended victim’s car. The defendant driver conceded that he had consumed two beers and taken three prescriptions drugs prior to the incident. After the crash, the defendant driver went to a nearby house where he called the police. The police picked up the defendant and returned him to the scene and the state trooper gave defendant an Alco-Sensor test, which indicated defendant’s blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit. The Court of Appeals allowed the issue of punitive damages to go forward. Byrd v. Adams, 152 N.C. App. 460, 462, 568 S.E.2d 640, 642 (2002).
  • Driver caused a collision after consuming two twelve ounce beers and fled the scene to avoid taking the Breathalyzer. Driver spent the entire night at a hotel before contacting police, and no blood alcohol content was ever obtained.   Court of Appeals allowed the issue of punitive damages to go forward. Eatmon v. Andrews, 161 N.C. App. 536, 588 S.E.2d 564 (2003).

If you were hit by a driver that was drinking, contact my office and we can discuss whether you may be entitled to punitive damages.

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