A 20-year-old University of North Carolina Student has been arrested on three charges of second-degree murder following the deaths of three people in a wrong-way drunk driving crash on Interstate 85.
The young man was previously charged with DUI, driving the wrong way on an interstate, reckless driving, driving while impaired as a minor, possession of alcohol as a minor and having an open alcohol container in a vehicle.
Witnesses say he was driving the wrong way on the highway for nearly six miles when he collided with a vehicle, killing a a 49-year-old woman, her 6-year-old granddaughter and the woman’s 46-year-old friend. The driver’s 9-year-old daughter, who was also in the vehicle, survived but with serious injuries.
When authorities caught up with the driver, they immediately took note of a box of alcohol in the vehicle. There was also a strong odor of alcohol. His eyes were red. He told officers he was 21 and provided them with an identification card saying so. However, that ID didn’t belong to him. He did have a fraternity ID, and that did have his actual identity and age.
Investigators have gathered evidence indicating the student went to at least two different bars that evening, providing an identification card stating he was 21.
It does appear he was served alcohol at those locations because, by the time he left, witnesses said he was belligerently drunk. In fact, as many as five people testified they tried to stop him from getting behind the wheel of that car that night. It evolved into a physical altercation. One person was knocked onto the pavement. Someone tried to grab defendant’s keys, but they instead took hold of his cell phone. They assumed this would stop him from leaving. It did not. He stumbled toward his vehicle and sped off – changing numerous lives forever.
In a case like this, it’s likely the surviving families will explore the possibility of civil litigation as well.
One of the first things our Charlotte traffic accident attorneys would explore here would be liability under North Carolina’s dram shop law.
It is a crime for vendors and individuals to sell, give or otherwise provide alcohol to persons under the age of 21 in North Carolina. However, under North Carolina General Statutes section 18B-121, only vendors can be held liable for drunk driving injuries and fatalities, and only then if:
- The vendor negligently (without due care) sold alcohol to a minor
- Minor caused a car accident while under the influence of the alcohol served or sold
- Accident and resulting injuries were proximately caused by the underage driver’s negligent driving while impaired.
A lawsuit against an establishment for violation of dram shop laws does not preclude a plaintiff from also pursuing action against the driver personally and against his or her insurance.
There may also be an option to pursue action against the owner of that vehicle, if he or she is someone other than the person driving it.
The goal is not only the financial security of those who have been left behind, but also justice in order to prevent establishments from again being so lax with policies in the future that another family would have to endure this nightmare.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Murder charges filed against UNC student in wrong-way crash, July 24, 2015, CBS News
More Blog Entries:
Hamilton v. Alpha Services – Fatal Crash and Workers’ Comp Death Benefits, July 18, 2015, Charlotte Car Accident Attorney Blog