Imagine you are driving along a North Carolina highway when another vehicle crosses the center line and smashes into your car. You are pinned in your vehicle for 20 minutes until emergency rescuers can free you. You suffer a fractured collarbone and mild concussion, and ever since your Wilmington traffic accident you have been having trouble sleeping.
The guy who collided with your car? He’s fine. He had a couple of scratches and didn’t even need to go to the hospital.
You’ve read in the newspaper that he’s been arrested for and charged for driving while impaired (DWI) and possession of marijuana. Apparently, the police who investigated the accident scene found a couple ounces of pot in his vehicle, and the driver was clearly intoxicated.
Your first reaction is irritation: somebody should have told you about this. After a while, you start wondering: does the fact that the driver was stoned affect your legal rights? Can you sue him (or his insurance company) for recovery of your medical expenses?
Drugged Driving in North Carolina: How it Affects Your Legal Options
Intoxication is not limited to alcohol. Because marijuana and other drugs can impair the ability to drive, a stoned driver can be arrested for a North Carolina DWI offense without having any alcohol in his system.
Although there are effective breath, blood, and urine tests that can reveal the presence and quantity of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream, the situation is more complicated for marijuana. There is no equivalent breath test. Blood and urine tests exist, but they detect the presence of the marijuana’s compounds in the body up to five weeks after consumption. There is no way to use the results of a blood test for marijuana to determine the precise level of a driver’s impairment at a specific time. Thus, there is no marijuana-specific intoxication number that’s comparable to blood-alcohol concentration for a drunk driver.
For that reason, the testimony of the law enforcement officers at the scene of the accident—along with the statements of any witnesses—will be crucial in determining the level of impairment of a drugged driver.
Now, as a general rule there is little overlap between criminal proceedings and civil personal injury lawsuits in North Carolina. A traffic accident caused by an intoxicated driver may be a key exception to that rule. If you pursue a legal case against the stoned driver, your New Hanover County personal injury lawyer should be able to obtain relevant records about the case from the local prosecutor.
Establishing that the impaired driver was indeed impaired by drugs goes a long way toward proving that he was legally liable for the Wilmington traffic accident in which you were injured. With the determination of liability comes the obligation for the driver—or his insurance company—to make things right by compensating all injured parties for their medical expenses, lost income, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Getting Help from Speaks Law Firm
R. Clarke Speaks and his team of personal injury attorneys in Wilmington stand ready to help you. If you have been injured by a drug-impaired driver, you have the right to compensation for your injuries and other losses. If lost a close family member to a driver under the influence of an illegal drug, you have grounds for a North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit. Contact us today at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 to learn how we can help get you the compensation you deserve.