On average, more than 30 people pass away from drunk driving accidents every day, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). People who drive under the influence can wreak havoc on the roads, leaving victims and their families dealing with immense loss.
Even if the drunk driver faces a criminal case, you won’t receive any form of compensation from it. However, you could take legal action after a drunk driving car accident and recover compensation to pay for your medical costs, lost income, and other damages. If you lost a loved one, you could seek justice through a wrongful death lawyer.
Read on to learn more about drunk driving car accidents, your legal options, and how an attorney can help you hold a drunk driver responsible.
Your Legal Options After a Drunk Driving Accident
Drunk driving accidents often leave victims and families overwhelmed. When you’re dealing with doctor appointments, a totaled vehicle, or other stressful challenges, you may not have the time or energy to think about your legal options.
A drunk driving accident lawyer can explain your legal options and the next best steps in detail.
Generally, you may:
- File an insurance claim against the drunk driver’s policy
- File a civil lawsuit
Again, even if the driver faces criminal charges, the results of a criminal case won’t get you a payout. To get the compensation you deserve, you must file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit through their policy.
Is a Drunk Driver Automatically at Fault?
Unfortunately, compensation from a drunk driving accident won’t come to you automatically. Instead, you will have to show that the drunk driver caused the crash.
The driver will bear fault for the accident if their careless or reckless actions—also referred to in legal terms as negligence—directly caused the crash.
Examples of negligent actions include:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Improper lane change
- Wrong-way driving
- Distracted driving
- Failure to yield the right-of-way
In some situations, a drunk driver could argue that they do not bear liability. For example, if you hit them in a rear-end crash and they had a high BAC level, that doesn’t mean they caused the accident. A lawyer can gather evidence to show that the drunk driver bears fault and liability for the accident that harmed you.
Why You Should Hire a Lawyer After a Drunk Driving Crash
Even in the most devastating accidents, victims don’t always have an easy time getting the compensation they need. An attorney can manage every facet of your case, including:
Navigating the Insurance Claim or Lawsuit Process
After a drunk driving accident, you’ll have to take certain steps to begin the insurance claim or lawsuit process.
Here’s a brief summary of the process from start to finish.
- Contact your own insurance company to inform them of the accident.
- Submit a demand letter to the drunk driver’s insurance company that outlines your losses and how much you require to cover them.
- The insurance company may launch its own investigation and offer you a settlement.
- If you want more money than they offer or the insurance company denies your claim outright, you can attempt to negotiate a fair settlement or file a lawsuit.
A lawyer can handle all these steps for you. They know how the process works and how to prepare your case for the best possible results. Your attorney can guide you at every step, make sure all paperwork is done correctly, and protect your legal rights.
Ensuring You Seek Fair Compensation
Car accidents involve many types of losses, and knowing how to put a number value on all these losses can be a difficult endeavor. A car accident lawyer knows how to calculate the damages in your case, including non-financial losses.
Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company if you receive a low offer, using evidence to demonstrate how the drunk driver caused the crash and how much compensation you deserve. If the insurance company doesn’t make a fair offer, your attorney can file a lawsuit and present your case before a judge and jury and get you paid after your car accident.
Speaking With the Liable Party for You
A drunk driving accident can be especially traumatic for victims. A personal injury lawyer can handle all the calls, emails, and other communications with the liable party for you.
Gathering the Necessary Paperwork
A great deal of paperwork goes into any car accident case. From documenting your injuries and losses to demonstrating liability, they all require paperwork. Your lawyer can gather, organize, and submit the appropriate documentation at every stage of your case.
Handling Any Pushback
Even in the most devastating accident cases, victims can still get pushback from insurance companies. Many will face aggressive and unfair tactics.
For example, the insurance company may tell you that:
- Your injury resulted from a pre-existing condition, not the DUI car accident
- You caused the accident, not the drunk driver
- Your injuries aren’t as serious as you claim
- You didn’t seek medical care promptly
Ultimately, insurance companies want to pay the lowest settlement amount possible. Don’t be fooled by insurance. A drunk driving accident lawyer knows how to count these claims and get fair settlements for their clients, even in the most challenging situations.
DUI Accident Victims Can Get Compensation for Injuries and More
You may be home from work, recovering from surgery and watching the medical bills pile up. Whatever losses stemmed from your accident, you don’t have to deal with them all by yourself. An attorney can help you seek compensation from a negligent drunk driver and get damages such as:
Medical Costs: Past, Present, and Future
Whether you have broken bones or a traumatic brain injury (TBI), car accident injuries can leave victims in extreme pain—and often with equally crushing medical costs.
However, you can get compensation for:
- Emergency care if you needed an ambulance, stabilization, diagnostic testing, surgery, or other services immediately after the accident.
- Ongoing treatment, including medications, follow-up visits, future surgeries, physical therapy, rehabilitation, or long-term hospitalization.
- Medical devices, such as a wheelchair, walker, neck brace, or other assistive devices.
Sometimes, car accident victims believe they only deserve compensation for their existing medical expenses. However, you could get a payout for all treatment costs necessary for you to heal and recover, including your future expected costs.
As your doctor monitors your recovery after the accident, they will determine your prognosis and ongoing treatment plan. With this fuller understanding of your injuries, a lawyer can fight for the fair compensation you need to pay for all your care needs.
Income Losses, No Matter How You Earn a Living
Healing from your injuries can take time. You may miss work for a few days or several weeks or months. An attorney can help you recover compensation for your lost earnings, whatever your line of work may be.
These may include:
- Paychecks (salary or hourly pay)
- Gig or contract work
Some accident victims are left with lasting challenges to their mobility or working capacity as a result of their injuries. In some cases, they have to take reduced hours or work a lower-paying job after the crash. If so, they can also get damages for reduced earning capacity.
Months of lost earnings can range into tens of thousands of dollars and more, depending on your career and expected income. A drunk driving car accident lawyer can fight to include these damages in your settlement or award.
Non-Financial Losses for Effects on Your Life
The consequences of a car accident often go well beyond physical challenges. Dealing with life after a drunk driving crash can leave victims facing mental and emotional challenges as well.
These may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Reduced enjoyment of life
A lawyer can help show your challenges and prove that you deserve compensation. For example, your lawyer could use statements from your mental healthcare provider to confirm a PTSD diagnosis and the need for continued treatment.
What to Do if You Lost a Loved One in a DUI Crash
Families who lose a loved one in a drunk driving accident can also take legal action to seek justice for the many losses they now face.
For instance, your family could recover damages for:
- Income losses that your loved one can no longer contribute
- Loss of companionship and guidance
- Your loved one’s final medical costs
- Funeral, burial, or cremation expenses
Each state sets unique laws regarding wrongful death cases and what surviving family members can recover. A lawyer in your state can explain everything you need to know.
Drunk Driving Crashes Are on the Rise Nationally
NHTSA reports that fatal accidents increased significantly in recent years. Alcohol impairment was named as one significant reason for these fatal crashes.
Many families have been affected by drunk driving accidents. If yours is among them, a lawyer can help you take action and seek justice.
Why Drunk Driving Crashes Are Such Serious Accidents
These crashes often prove devastating, even when drunk driving accidents don’t lead to fatalities—mostly because of the effects of alcohol on the body.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 or lower can lead to physical deficits such as:
- Poorer recovery from glare
- Poorer performance in complex visual skills
- Poorer peripheral vision
- Poorer performance in multitasking
Recent studies, including this one published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, also repeatedly show that alcohol consumption impairs decision-making.
In other words, alcohol seriously impairs most of the skills that drivers need, even after just a few drinks. When a driver is drunk, they may hit oncoming traffic after being blinded by nighttime headlight glare. They may not see someone crossing the road in their peripheral vision. Or they may make poor road choices, driving recklessly or speeding.
Drunk Drivers Face Steep Fines and Penalties
Every state makes its own laws and penalties for driving under the influence. In most states, having a BAC of 0.08 or higher can land drivers with a DUI charge. Stricter laws often apply to minors or commercial drivers. In some states, people under 21 can face DUI charges for a BAC of over 0.02. Commercial drivers can generally get a DUI if they have a 0.04 BAC or higher.
If a driver has a record of DUI, they can face even steeper penalties.
For example, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the consequences in Georgia are:
- First-time DUI: Up to one year of jail time, up to $1,000 in fines, and license suspension of one year
- Second-time DUI: Minimum 48 hours in jail and up to one year behind bars, up to $1,000 in fines, and license suspension of three years
- Third-time DUI: Minimum 15 days in jail, up to $5,000 in fines, and license revocation for five years
Other fees and penalties may apply—but again, these fines do not go to victims of drunk drivers or their families. Accident victims must bring an insurance claim or civil lawsuit against the drunk driver to recover compensation.
Contact a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today to Learn More
If you or your family need help with your case, contact a law firm with experience in drunk driving car accidents and other personal injury cases. Many law firms offer free consultations, where you can discuss the details of your case and learn more about your legal options.
A drunk driving car accident doesn’t have to ruin your life. Find out how a personal injury attorney from a reputable law firm can fight for you and get the justice you deserve.