Steps To Take After Being Hit by A Drunk Driver
Being a victim of a drunk driving accident is a traumatic and often overwhelming experience. However, remember you have rights, and there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. Taking the time to understand those steps before an incident can help you respond in the best way possible after a car crash.
Crucial actions after being hit by a drunk driver include gathering evidence, calling authorities, seeking medical attention, and contacting one of the best car accident attorneys in St Louis MO to file a personal injury lawsuit.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2021, there were 10,945 deaths due to alcohol related crashes in the United States. This accounted for 28% of motor vehicle traffic deaths in the country that year.
On average, someone is killed in an alcohol-impaired driving crash every 50 minutes in the United States. In addition to the human toll, these crashes also have a significant economic impact, with the cost of alcohol-impaired crashes estimated to be around $44 billion per year.
Steps to Take After Being Hit By a Drunk Driver
Take the following steps as soon as possible after being hit by a drunk driver. However, before taking these steps, try to stay calm and assess the situation, then ensure you and anyone involved in the DUI crash is safe and out of harm’s way.
1. Call 911
Calling 911 is the first and most critical step to take after being hit by a drunk driver. Not only will this ensure that you receive urgent medical treatment, but it also allows police officers to begin investigations and collect evidence that you can use to incriminate the drunk driver.
Additionally, police officers can perform a sobriety test on the other driver, which can provide critical evidence in the event of a lawsuit. Remain calm and give a detailed statement, so first responders and authorities can move quickly and efficiently to help you.
2. Gather Evidence and Speak With witnesses
After calling the authorities, the next step is gathering evidence and talking to witnesses, such as other drivers and bystanders. If you are able, take pictures of the car used by the other driver, the license plate number, and any visible injuries you or your passengers have sustained.
Additionally, take photos of skid marks, street signs, and other evidence that could be helpful if you decide to pursue legal action.
Also, collect contacts from any eyewitnesses, as they may be able to provide more detailed information later. Moreover, if you have a camera or dashcam in your car, save the footage so that it can be reviewed by the proper authorities when needed.
Furthermore, document the pain and suffering you experienced due to the accident. Such information is crucial for potential legal proceedings that you may take in the future.
3. Seek Medical Attention
After you have taken the necessary steps to document the incident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you do not feel any immediate pain, the trauma of the accident could cause delayed symptoms.
Additionally, it's incredibly important to keep track of all medical records and bills related to the car accident, including expected future medical expenses as this can help in any potential legal proceedings against the drunk driver.
4. Contact an Attorney
Next, contact an attorney specializing in drunk driving accidents. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and ensure your rights are fully protected. They can also help you determine the best course of action and advise you on how to seek compensation for any damages or injuries caused by the car accident.
5. Contact Your Auto Insurance Provider
After the above steps, contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible to report the incident and begin the process of filing a claim. Your insurance provider will provide more information on the coverage available to you and the process for filing a claim. They can also help you determine if the other driver has sufficient insurance coverage to cover any damages or injuries you may have suffered.
Depending on your car insurance policy, your own insurance company may not be obligated to cover any damages or injuries that result from an alcohol impaired driver. However, it is generally the case that the other driver's insurance company is obligated to pay for damages caused by the policyholder who drove while intoxicated.
The specifics of an insurance policy and the state where the accident occurred will determine the extent to which the insurance company is required to cover the damages.
Suing for Damages After Being Injured by a Drunk Driver
After taking all the above steps, you may decide to take legal action against the intoxicated driver to seek financial compensation for your injuries and other damages. In more serious accidents, you may even get a concussion. It is good to know what signs to look for if you think your car accident gave you a concussion. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim.
You could also sue for compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In some cases, punitive damages against the drunk driver may also be available. A qualified attorney can help you determine the best course for seeking maximum compensation.
These damages are less likely to be contested and can include medical bills, lost wages, and repair costs for your vehicle. In some cases, you may recover more if you prove the drunk driver acted with gross negligence or intentional malice.
A qualified attorney can assess the economic damages and ensure that you are provided with the most comprehensive recovery for your losses.
In addition to economic damages, it is possible to seek compensation for other losses, such as mental anguish and emotional distress. These damages are often hard to quantify but can be just as debilitating as any physical injury. Since they are subjective, the attorney must portray the accident's impact on the quality of your life.
Lastly, if you are successful in your claim, you may receive some form of punitive damages, which are intended to punish drunk drivers for their negligence or recklessness.
Also called exemplary damages, these are different from compensatory damages because they do not seek restitution from drunk drivers. Instead, they're awarded to the victim if there's clear proof of the defendant being a drunk driver.
The drunk driver's insurance company covers financial and non-economic damages but doesn't cover punitive damages. Instead, drunk drivers are obliged to pay the damages legally as punishment. Your auto collision lawyers will analyze your case and determine what kind of proof will give you monetary punitive compensation.
Victim Restitution vs. Civil DUI Lawsuits
In addition to seeking compensation through a civil lawsuit, victims of an alcohol related crash may also be eligible to receive restitution from the criminal court. This restitution is intended to help the injured person cover the costs associated with their injuries, such as medical bills and lost wages. Additionally, they may be eligible for compensation for suffering and emotional distress from intoxicated drivers. Remember the judge could also order restitution, even if the drunk driver is not convicted of a crime.
It is also crucial to understand the difference between victim restitution and civil DUI lawsuits. Victim restitution is similar to DUI lawsuits in that it is a form of compensation for losses and damages caused by the at fault driver. However, it does not involve pursuing legal action. On the other hand, civil DUI lawsuits involve seeking compensation for losses through legal action. These types of lawsuits are typically more complex.
Settlements for Drunk Driving Accidents
If you are unable to pursue legal action against the drunk driver, you may still be able to seek compensation through a settlement. A settlement is a negotiated agreement between the victim of drunk driving and the negligent driver. It is typically less formal than a lawsuit and allows for quicker settlements. The goal of settlement negotiations is to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible while allowing both parties involved in the car crash to receive what they are owed.
Settlements typically involve the defendant paying the victim in exchange for them agreeing to forgo any further legal action. The amount of money depends on the injury's severity and other factors such as the age and health of the person affected.
Generally, the more severe the injury, the more money will be awarded in a settlement agreement. However, note that settlements are not always successful and may not be an option in some cases.
Civil Lawsuit Vs Criminal Action
Victims of drunk driving may benefit from pursuing both civil and criminal actions. Civil actions may be pursued through a lawsuit or restitution which is ordered through the criminal court.
Criminal actions involve pursuing the drunk driver through criminal court proceedings. This type of action is more serious and requires more experience than civil actions. Criminal charges may include vehicular homicide, DUI, hit and run, and more.
Most times criminal actions are the only way to pursue justice for the victim. However, they are also more expensive and may not be an option in all cases.
Both these actions have their benefits and limitations. Understand them and choose the best option for your specific situation.
Is a Drunk Driver Automatically Liable for a Car Accident?
The answer to this question depends on the specifics of the case, such as the state in which the accident occurred and the level of intoxication of the driver.
Generally, a drunk driver is liable for an accident if they were legally drunk at the time of the accident and the accident was caused by their negligence or recklessness.
If a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, they are considered legally drunk and can be held liable for any damages caused by their negligence. However, a drunk driver can be liable for a car accident even if the other party was partially at fault.
Can Family Members of People Hit by DUI Drivers Get Compensated?
Injuries and losses caused by driving under influence may extend far beyond the immediate victims. Often the driver's relatives suffer losses and have to pay damages. Family members of people hit by DUI drivers may be eligible for compensation, depending on where the car accident happened.
In some states, family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one dies due to a DUI driver's negligence. This type of lawsuit is intended to seek compensation for the survivors' losses, such as the loss of financial support, the cost of funeral and burial expenses, and the loss of companionship.
Additionally, family members may be able to seek compensation for pain and suffering caused by their loved one's death. The amount of compensation a family member can receive will depend on the facts of the case and the laws of the state where the lawsuit is filed.
Why You Should Get a Lawyer After a Drunk Driving Accident
A personal injury lawyer is an essential part of a successful drunk driving case. They will be able to provide the necessary knowledge and experience to handle the case, from filing the claim and attending court dates to gathering evidence and speaking with witnesses. Accident lawyers will also ensure that a victim of an auto accident receives maximum compensation for injuries, pain and suffering, and more.
An experienced attorney can also provide advice on how to best protect your rights in a drunk driving accident, as well as how to navigate the complex web of insurance coverage that can often be tricky to understand.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been in a drunk driving accident, seek legal help as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate the complex insurance coverage issues, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. No one should have to bear the financial burden of a car accident caused by someone else's recklessness. Get a personal injury lawyer on your corner today.