It is one thing to lose a loved one or be seriously injured due to unavoidable circumstances. But when the injury or death is due to preventable behavior, it makes it that much harder to deal with the loss. Car accidents caused by drunk drivers are a great example.
On October 4, 2012 in Charlotte, a jury awarded a couple $1.7 million in a 2010 case in which a driver, with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit, crossed the center line and hit their vehicle. The drunk driver, David Canter Huffman, was killed; his victims, Matt and Meredith Eastridge, were seriously injured. Mrs. Eastridge was six months pregnant and lost the baby due to the crash.
In this particular case, the lawsuit was filed against the estate of the driver and included as a defendant the bar that served Huffman the alcohol. North Carolina has legal statutes that are referred to as “dram laws.” These laws require that establishments selling alcohol stop serving an individual if they show any sign of being intoxicated and a risk to others. Video taken at the bar the night of the crash showed that Huffman was served at least eight drinks. The bar claimed they stopped serving Huffman once he appeared intoxicated; they also claimed they had arranged for Huffman to ride home with others. When he left the bar, however, he got in his own car to drive home.
The North Carolina Supreme Court is currently reviewing a similar case from 2004 in which a Durham jury held a local restaurant liable under the dram laws. The initial verdict was set aside by a judge but appealed by the plaintiff. A ruling is expected by the end of the year. This ruling will likely lead to changes in the dram laws to better clarify responsibility.
Ultimately, there are no winners in a DWI case such as this one. The Eastridges hope that their case will result in changes to the law that will prevent others from being injured or killed in alcohol-related crashes. If you have been injured or a loved one killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you may wish to speak to a North Carolina auto accident attorney to learn your rights.