Recently, a 21 year-old woman pleaded guilty in federal court to driving while impaired and involuntary manslaughter for a December hit and run that killed a Fort Bragg soldier. The driver was caught at a checkpoint when Fayetteville police noticed the damage to her car.
Law enforcement attempts to stop drunk driving before such tragedies occur. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has issued a press release detailing the results of its “Booze It & Lose It” campaign. According to the press release, North Carolina law enforcement officers made 2,866 drunk driving arrests from August 16 through September 2.
If an accident does occur, impaired drivers face not only criminal liability, but they are also subject to civil liability for the injuries they cause. Victims of an intoxicated or otherwise impaired driver may find that the driver’s insurance is insufficient to compensate them for their injuries. Such victims should consider whether there may be additional sources of recovery.
It is important to determine where the driver obtained the drugs or alcohol that led to his or her impairment. An establishment that provided alcohol to the person responsible for an accident may also be liable for the resulting injuries. North Carolina law provides that the local Alcohol Beverage Control Board or a permittee may be liable to an injured person if 1) it served or provided alcohol to an underage person; 2) the consumption of the alcohol it sold or furnished contributed to the underage person being subject to an impairing substance; and 3) the negligent operation of the vehicle while the underage person was impaired was the proximate cause of the injury. N.C.G.S. § 18B-121.
It is also unlawful for an ABC permittee or its employee to knowingly sell or give alcohol to an intoxicated person. N.C.G.S. § 18B-305. While this statute does not specifically provide for civil liability of the seller, the North Carolina Appeals Court has held that it sets the minimum standard of conduct for permittees and violation of this statute could give rise to civil liability if the injured party shows that was intoxicated and that the permittee knew or should have known that he or she was intoxicated when served. Hutchens v. Hankins, 303 S.E.2d 584, 63 N.C.App. 1 (N. C. App. 1983).
Even if the impaired driver was drinking in a private home, the social hosts who provided him or her with alcohol may be held liable under the theory of negligence. Generally, to prove negligence, it must be shown that 1) the defendant owed a duty; 2) the defendant breached the duty; 3) an injury resulted from the breach; and 4) the injured party suffered damages as a result of the injury. The North Carolina Supreme Court has held that negligence may be found against social hosts if the hosts serve alcohol to a person they knew or should have known was under the influence of alcohol and whom they knew or should have known would drive a vehicle soon afterwards. Hart v. Ivey, 420 S.E.2d 174, 332 N.C. 299 (N.C. 1992).
If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an accident with a drunk driver, you should seek the advice of an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney. The North Carolina car accident attorneys at Auger and Auger aggressively seek out all avenues of recovery for their clients. Call Auger & Auger at (800) 559-5741 to schedule a consultation.
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