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You've been hit by a drunk driver, now what?

Being involved in a severe car accident is traumatic enough. A collision with an impaired driver can pose dire consequences for the injured and their families-especially if a casualty is involved. In 1983, North Carolina changed the state's laws specific to drunk driving and grouped all impaired driving into one, which is known as driving while impaired or DWI. That being said, someone is injured by a drunk driver every two minutes. So far in 2016, 378 fatalities have occurred in North Carolina.

In the aftermath of an accident, the impaired driver may face criminal charges and could be sentenced to hefty fines, loss of his or her license or jail time depending on the severity of the accident.

What recourse is available?

While nothing can bring back a lost loved one, victims can open a personal injury case, which may include a wrongful death claim, to seek payment for the damages suffered. All damages do not have to be tangible-they can also include emotional and indirect costs sustained from the incident.

Most often claimants will be awarded compensatory damages that are of a specific dollar amount and related to medical bills, damage to your vehicle or other property, loss of wages and/or earning capacity. They can also receive compensation for emotional distress, pain and suffering, counseling services, funeral costs and other more general losses.

Punitive damages are a sum awarded to the plaintiff in a personal injury case that is imposed by the court and meant to punish the defendant. However, contacting an attorney who is well established and familiar with personal injury laws will reduce the headaches in navigating the system.

Where can I seek additional support?

Mothers' Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has a North Carolina chapter located in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can seek support services or information through their website. Additionally, seeking counseling services from a professional or organization that works with survivors who have experienced a tragic loss, injury or suffer from post-traumatic stress due to an accident could be beneficial. These professionals can assist you with the emotional repercussions while a qualified attorney can support you from a legal perspective. 

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