You are traveling on U.S. 158 headed towards the beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (NC). A speeding drunk driver fails to see your vehicle in their blind spot and side swipes you. Your vehicle is totaled and you suffer serious, debilitating physical injuries.
In North Carolina, if you are injured as a proximate result of another driver's negligence, you may be able to pursue monetary damages through a personal injury claim. Typically, monetary damages recoverable through this type of civil claim are economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include tangible, itemized expenses incurred as a result of the accident such as your medical bills and income lost because you could not work. For intangible harms such as missing an important family occassion due to your injuries and having to endure blinding headaches in the middle of the night, you can pursue non-economic damages (also known as pain and suffering).
Punitive Damages = Punishing the At-Fault Driver
In addition to monetary damages, you may be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded to punish a defendant for egregiously wrongful acts, and to deter the defendant (and others) from committing similar wrongful acts. Punitive damages is “extra-compensatory damages,” and may be awarded if your Kitty Hawk car accident lawyer can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant driver is liable for the wreck and acted recklessly.
Cap on Punitive Damages
In general, punitive damages awarded against a defendant cannot exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages, or two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000), whichever is greater. However, this monetary cap does not apply to a personal injury or wrongful death claim involving a drunk driver. There is no monetary cap for a punitive damage claim if a person is injured or harmed as a result of a defendant operating a vehicle while intoxicated.