The devastating implications of a drunk driving accident reach beyond physical injuries and emotional distress. They often extend to a complex mess of legal issues victims must navigate to seek compensation for their damages and pursue justice against the party responsible.
A vital part of this process involves collecting evidence to prove your case, a step a victim often overlooks during the immediate aftermath of a destructive collision. Without sufficient evidence to support and prove your claim, you may not get the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses and other losses.
A drunk driving car accident lawyer can investigate the accident’s cause and gather relevant and substantial evidence to prove your claim or lawsuit, improving your chances of a successful outcome and ensuring you receive justice.
What Is Drunk Driving?
The law defines drunk driving as the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, including recreational drugs and prescription medications. This impairment must be to a degree that renders the driver incapable of driving safely. Specific drunk driving laws and thresholds can vary by state.
The legal blood alcohol concentration limit in most states is 0.08 percent, and exceeding this limit creates grounds for a drunk driving charge.
For a civil drunk driving claim, an individual does not need to face criminal charges to be liable for a drunk driving accident. As a victim, you can prove a driver caused an accident under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if they were within the legal limit. The drunk driver’s actions may still rise to the level of negligence and become the basis for a valid claim for damages.
The potential consequences of drunk driving to accident victims are significant and can encompass physical injuries, emotional distress, and financial strain due to medical expenses and loss of income. Victims might also endure property damage and experience long-term consequences, such as disability or psychological trauma, stemming from the drunk driving collision.
Drunk Driving Statistics Relating to Injuries and Deaths
Drunk driving is a grave issue, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reporting that over 13,000 people die in one year from drunk driving accidents, which equals 37 lives lost daily. Thousands of more victims suffer injuries with potentially lifelong effects in alcohol-related traffic accidents.
Steps to Take After a Drunk Driving Accident
The days and weeks following a drunk driving accident can be overwhelming and disorienting. As a victim, it may feel like a blur as you get your bearings and face the challenges of the crash and your injuries. Staying calm and focusing on your recovery is crucial as you plan the steps to benefit your claim and case.
Complete Your Medical Treatment
Your health and safety should be your top priority. When you suffer an injury in an accident, you must seek immediate medical attention, follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment plans, and attend all follow-up appointments. This ensures your well-being and establishes a clear medical record immediately, which could be vital to your claim.
Medical professionals can provide documentation of injuries, which is essential to building a strong case against a drunk driver. These steps also aid in evidence collection for a claim.
Contact a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
After addressing your imminent medical needs, immediately seek legal advice.
A lawyer specializing in drunk driving accidents can explain your legal rights and guide you through the complex process of filing a claim. They can collect necessary evidence on your behalf, identify the laws applicable to your case, determine the value of your claim, and negotiate with insurance companies.
Your lawyer can also represent you in court if needed. Your lawyer’s knowledge and experience could significantly improve your chances of receiving full and fair compensation for your losses.
Documenting the Accident Scene
After a drunk driving accident, document the accident scene. While you may not have obtained evidence of the scene yourself immediately after the crash, you can still gather crucial testimony to support your claim.
Documenting the accident scene allows you to create an irrefutable record of what happened, which can provide valuable insights into the cause of the accident and the parties involved. This tangible evidence can corroborate your version of events, validate your claims, and contradict any misinformation or false statements from the drunk driver or their insurance company. Concrete evidence from the accident scene can strengthen your case by proving the drunk driver’s culpability.
Document the Scene Effectively
Adequate documentation starts at the scene of the accident. If you have photographs you captured of the location, damage to vehicles, or your injuries, it can help your claim. Evidence of skid marks, road conditions, traffic signs, and anything else you deemed pertinent when you took the photographs can be crucial to your case. Your lawyer can also investigate whether there is traffic cam footage or eyewitness testimony that could support your claim.
Once you have a moment, write a detailed account of what happened while the incident is still fresh, including the date, time, location, and weather conditions. Note any observations you may recall about the drunk driver, such as slurred speech, unsteady movements, or the smell of alcohol. You can refer to this journaling when recounting events to your lawyer, the police, or in court.
Gather Witness Testimonies
Witness testimonies are crucial in drunk driving cases, as they can provide an unbiased account of the events that occurred and the behavior of the at-fault drunk driver. Witnesses can corroborate your version of the incident, helping establish the other driver’s liability.
Witnesses may also provide additional details about the accident you might have missed due to the surprise and shock you experienced in the immediate aftermath. They can describe the drunk driver’s behavior, the sequence of events, and any other pertinent information about the accident.
Witnesses can provide an external perspective of the incident, often instrumental in discrediting any false claims made by the drunk driver or their insurance company. Your lawyer can ask a witness to cooperate and recount their version of events in as much detail as they can remember. This information can be a powerful tool for building your case.
Collect Medical Records
Collecting your medical records after a drunk driving accident can serve as crucial evidence to demonstrate the severity of your injuries and provide concrete proof that those injuries indeed arose from the accident. Medical records can also show the negative effect of the injuries on your everyday life, including limitations to your ability to work or enjoy day-to-day activities.
Medical records provide an objective report of the injuries you sustained, the treatment you received, and your recovery process. They can help you assert the validity of your physical and emotional suffering and that the drunk driving accident caused these injuries.
Comprehensive medical records provide solid evidence and can play a vital role in calculating the compensation you deserve.
Obtain Police Reports
One of the most essential records after a drunk driving accident is the police report. This document, written by the officer responding to the accident, offers an objective recounting of the facts, the parties involved, and any observed or reported law violations, including suspicion of drunk driving.
Obtaining a complete and accurate police report can significantly aid your claim. The report’s details, observations, and diagrams can provide pivotal evidence of the other driver’s fault. It can substantiate your account of the accident, prove that the other driver was under the influence, and establish a connection between the accident and your injuries. A police report can show whether the police charged the other driver with drunk driving or traffic offenses.
Working With a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Call a lawyer as soon as possible after a drunk driving accident. Your lawyer can navigate the complex legal system and guide you through the process of claiming compensation for your losses. Engaging with a lawyer early in the process allows them to collect evidence, interview witnesses, and build your case while the accident details remain fresh.
An experienced drunk driving lawyer collects evidence for your claim. They understand the types of evidence they need to create a strong case and have the resources to obtain and preserve this evidence correctly.
Your lawyer can collect evidence, such as police reports, medical records, and witness or expert testimony. They can deal with insurance companies and negotiate settlements on your behalf.
Using Evidence in a Drunk Driving Case
Comprehensive evidence plays a pivotal role in a drunk driving case. It can prove liability, validate the severity of your injuries, and show the detrimental effects of the accident and your injuries on your life.
The evidence can also establish the drunk driver’s negligence and the financial compensation you deserve based on the damages you incurred, including current and future economic and non-economic losses.
Presenting evidence effectively can make or break a drunk driving case. This is where your lawyer’s experience and know-how come into play. They understand how to use the evidence to build a compelling case. This may involve presenting the evidence chronologically, focusing on the most persuasive elements, or using expert testimonies to substantiate your claims.
The quality and quantity of the evidence you gather could determine the outcome of your drunk driving case. A well-documented case can lead to a favorable settlement or court verdict, which may include compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Who May You Hold Liable in a Drunk Driving Accident?
While the drunk driver is typically the primary party responsible for a drunk driving accident, understanding liability can be complex. Other parties may also share legal responsibility. Your lawyer can evaluate the evidence to determine who may be responsible and if other parties may share the blame for the accident and subsequent damages.
If a bar or club over-served the drunk driver, for instance, that establishment might hold some liability under dram shop laws. The employer might also share responsibility if the drunk driver operated a company vehicle.
Dram shop laws allow victims of drunk driving accidents to hold alcohol vendors responsible for selling alcohol to someone showing visible signs of intoxication who then causes an accident. Your drunk driving lawyer can provide detailed information on your state’s specific dram shop laws and how they may apply to your case.
After a drunk driving accident, collecting evidence could strengthen your ability to claim compensation for your losses and ensure you receive justice.
Navigating the legal complexities following such an incident may seem daunting, but remember, you do not have to do it alone. A dedicated personal injury lawyer in Atlanta can collect the evidence to strengthen your case.