DWI Involving Child in Car?
My dad was driving my 5 yr old back home after she spent the weekend with them 3 hours away, when they were hit out of nowhere driving down the highway. My dad was going 55, the other driver slammed into them at 75 causing my dad to spin and then the car hit them again and went airborne.
My dad and daughter were taken via ambulance to the hospital. My dad had superficial injuries from the seatbelt, and my daughter had a lot of whiplash, but more than anything has extreme separation anxiety and what seems to be PTSD. She is fearful of loud noises, is triggered when she sees a convertible (what hit them), fears being in another accident, and isn't sleeping well. She has been seeing a play therapist for a month to work through her feelings and the trauma, and it's been heartbreaking. Her medical bills are around $2600 now, but I feel she's entitled to significantly more since we can't predict how this will impact her future. Will insurance take that into consideration? Will my dads $25,000 of vehicle damage be calculated into her settlement, or just his?
2 attorney answers
I'm sorry to hear about what happened to your father and daughter. There are a couple of things to note. #1, the property damage payment is completely separate from bodily injury. The standard automobile insurance policy in North Carolina has separate coverage limits for bodily injury and property damage. The minimum per person bodily injury coverage in North Carolina is $30,000. If more than two people were injured, the "per occurrence" limitation in the policy can reduce that $30,000 to a lower amount, but, if only your father and daughter were hurt and no other motorist, she should have at least $30,000 in coverage. There could be more depending upon what coverage limit the drunk driver purchased. That doesn't mean their insurance carrier will necessarily offer the $30,000, or that it would be awarded by a jury, but the coverage is there if her damages are that high.
#2, yes they should take the psychological impact into consideration. Plaintiffs in North Carolina are entitled to compensation for physical pain AND mental suffering, and that includes precisely the type of mental suffering your daughter is experiencing. The fact that she is getting therapy is very helpful in proving those damages.
#3 , there is likely to be available another type of damage for your daughter and that is what's called "punitive damages." These are damages that can be awarded against the drunk driver solely to punish him for his "willful and wanton" negligence in driving drunk. I would highly recommend you speak with an attorney experienced in litigating claims involving drunk drivers. The financial recoveries in these cases can be substantial but only if they're handled properly. Part of that means doing a good investigation on the Defendant. If there is evidence that this wasn't a one time drunk driving occasion but is, instead, part of a pattern, I would argue that the carrier needs to pay its policy limit, whatever it is. For obvious reasons, juries are more likely to punish someone that is continually exposing the public to danger than someone who made a one time mistake.
Almost all attorneys who handle cases like this do so on a contingency fee basis and offer free consultations. I would recommend sitting down and speaking with someone about all the nuance involved in a case like this.
The information provided should not be considered legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. I am not licensed to practice in any State other than North Carolina. The results of your case will depend on the presentation of evidence, the law and other factors that may change depending on an in depth analysis of the facts of the case. Please see an attorney before making legal decisions.
Sorry to hear that your relatives were injured in an accident. The answer to you questions are quite involved. I’d caution you and your father not to provide statements to any insurance company before speaking to a lawyer. Please feel free to call me at(919) 682-4545. If I’m not in, please speak to Gary.