The questions on this page were answered by our team of lawyers. The questions are categorized by practice area such as car wrecks, medical malpractice, traumatic brain injuries, etc. If you have specific questions about your situation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an actual attorney.
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Does North Carolina cap damages in dram shop cases?
Yes. No matter how many victims of an underage drunk driver file injury or wrongful death file claims against the business or party host who provided the alcohol, the defendant cannot be made to pay more than a total of $500,000 for all types of damages.
Can a drunk driving victim sue a party host for injuries in North Carolina?
North Carolina courts have recognized liability for party hosts who knowingly served alcohol to underage drivers. Since no law directly addresses this, the question is answered on a case-by-case basis.
To succeed with a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a party host, the plaintiff must show all the following:
- The drunk driver was younger than 21 and consumed alcohol at the defendant’s party.
- The party host provided the alcohol consumed by the underage driver.
- The driver caused the crash in which the plaintiff suffered injuries or died.
- The injuries or death resulted directly from the crash.
- The party host knew of should have known that the driver was under the legal age to consume alcohol.
- The party host knew or should have know the driver would be driving after consuming alcohol.
What is the North Carolina dram shop law?
North Carolina, under General Statute 18B-121, makes it possible for the injured victim of an underage drunk driver to file injury or wrongful death claims against the bar, restaurant or store that sold the at-fault driver alcohol.
This is called a dram shop law because a dram is a measure of liquor roughly equal to a normal-sized shot. The law places these restrictions of dram shop lawsuits:
- Claims must be filed within 3 years of the date on which the crash happened or the death occurred.
- The at-fault driver was provably intoxicated, was definitely under the age of 21 and clearly caused the crash.
- The victim/plaintiff suffered injuries or died as a direct result of the crash caused by the drunk and underage driver.
- The seller of the alcohol knew, should have known or made no attempt to determine whether the person buying alcohol was younger than 21.
What besides texting causes distracted driving?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a distraction behind the wheel as “anything that takes your attention away from driving.” The agency also identifies three types of distracted driving: visual, mental and cognitive.
Activities other than texting that take a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel and mind off road and traffic conditions include
- Talking on a phone
- Eating and drinking
- Fiddling with the radio
- Applying makeup/Shaving
- Using a GPS device
- Speaking with passengers
- Reaching for a dropped object
Why is texting and driving dangerous in North Carolina?
Between 2011 and 2015, North Carolina saw 356 people die in distracted driving crashes. While just 31 of those deaths could be directly associated with cell phone or smartphone use, state and local police admit that they cannot be sure that phone use did not play a role in any of the other 287 fatalities attributed to “carless/inattentive” driving.
The real problem, as explained on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s distracted driving webpage is that “sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph.”
A lot of bad things can happen when traveling 300 yards without full control of one’s car or truck.
What is the North Carolina law on texting and driving?
Section 20-137.4A of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it illegal for a driver to manually enter multiple letters or text into a mobile device while moving along a public road or highway. The statute also makes reading emails and texts while driving illegal.
The state does not prohibit the use of hands-free technology behind the wheel. It also provides exceptions to the texting while driving prohibitions for police, firefighters and ambulance drivers who are carrying out their official duties.
Violations of the texting while driving law is a primary offense, meaning police can pull over and ticket drivers just for using a smartphone. The penalty is a $100 fine and court costs.
Can private hosts be held responsible for a drunk driving accident?
In addition to dram shop laws, North Carolina also has social host liability laws. A victim of a drunk driving accident can pursue damages against a host who served the drunk driver the alcohol. The elements needed to be legally proved include:
- The host is the person who served or otherwise proved the drunk driver the alcohol.
- The host knew, or should have known, that the drunk driver was intoxicated.
- The host knew the drunk driver they were serving alcohol to would be driving a vehicle when they left.
What signs of impairment are bars and restaurants required to look for when determining if a customer has had too much to drink?
Under North Carolina alcohol beverage control laws, the following are signs that indicate a customer should not be served any alcohol:
- The customer has issues with physical coordination, including clumsiness, spilling drinks, unsteadiness, bumping into tables, unsteady walking, and clumsiness with money.
- The customer exhibits behavior changes, such as happiness, anger, withdrawal, or sullenness.
- The customer exhibits speech patterns which are loud or slurred. The customer may be loud, argumentative, bragging, and swearing
Can a bar or restaurant be held liable for a drunk driving accident?
Under North Carolina dram shop laws, if a victim of a drunk driving crash can prove certain elements, they can recover financial compensation for the losses their injuries caused:
- The victim must prove that the drunk driver obtained alcohol at the establishment they are suing.
- The alcohol the establishment sold the driver caused the driver’s intoxication.
- The driver was legally drunk at the time of the crash.
- The accident was a result of the driver’s intoxication and the victim’s injuries were caused by the crash.
What are signs that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol?
If you see a driver that exhibits any of the following behaviors, avoid driving near their vehicle. Pull over to a safe area and call 911 to report the vehicle to police:
- Excessive speeds
- Swerving between lanes
- Constantly changing lanes without signaling
- Falling asleep while driving