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Brent Adams & Associates

Q
Can I recover for my injuries if I am in a wreck when the driver of my car was driving under the influence of alcohol?

A

In all probability, no.  

North Carolina is only one of four states in the entire country in which the law of contributory negligence prevails.  

If you are injured as a result of the negligence of someone and it is determined that you yourself contributed to your injuries by some degree of negligence on your part, you will not be able to recover a dime.  

Most people would think that if you got into a car with someone you know has been drinking to the extent that they are under the influence of alcohol, that you should not get in the car with that drinking driver. Most people would feel that you were negligent by doing so. If that is the case, then you recover nothing.  

In this type of case, the issue is always whether the person that gets into the car has a reasonable basis to suspect that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. A number of factors could go into the decision of whether a person is negligent by getting into the car. For instance, if the passenger had been with the driver for several hours and has witnessed the driver drinking five or six cans of beer, certainly it would be hard to argue that that passenger should not have known better than to get into the car.  

On the other hand, if the passenger gets into the car without spending any time with the driver beforehand and if the passenger had no reason to suspect that the driver had been drinking, perhaps it could be determined that there was no negligence on the part of the passenger.  

As in most cases which end up in court, the answer to the issue is uncertain.  

However, one thing is certain in North Carolina and that is if the finder of fact should find that you were negligent, you will not be able to recover a dime from the driver no matter how negligent that driver might have been.