Hit by a Drunk Driver that Came from a Bar – Who Do I Sue?
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A car accident in and of itself can be a frustrating situation. A car accident in which you were hit by a drunk driver can be downright frightening. Following these types of accidents, you will likely be left in a state of shock and bewilderment. In addition to worrying about your health and well-being, you may also be left wondering how you can seek compensation for your losses. This article will explain what can be done in these situations, including who you may be able to sue and what steps you will need to take to file a lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has been hit by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call (512) 246 2224 for a free consultation with a car accident attorney. You will not owe us anything unless we win your case.
Who Do I Sue?
All states have legislation referred to as "dram shop" laws. Dram shop laws set the guidelines for lawsuits over injuries caused by people who bought alcoholic drinks at bars, restaurants, taverns, or other similar establishments.
A dram shop lawsuit is a civil case brought against such an establishment by a person who was injured in an accident caused by one of the establishment's patrons. For example, if you were hit by a drunk driver who had been overserved at a bar, you may be able to file a dram shop lawsuit against the bar.
In order to win a dram shop case, the injured party typically needs to prove that the establishment acted negligently in some form or fashion. Most of the time, this can be accomplished by proving that the bartenders/servers continued to serve a patron which the bartenders/servers knew or reasonably should have known was drunk. For instance, if a bartender continues to serve a person exhibiting slurred speech or unruly behavior, the establishment may be held liable if that intoxicated person later causes an accident which leads to injury.
Certain types of evidence can be helpful in succeeding in a dram shop case. Examples of evidence which can help prove negligence include:
- The establishment continued to serve someone who was visibly intoxicated;
- The establishment served an underaged individual;
- The establishment served someone without asking for identification;
- The establishment served someone after closing time;
In contrast, there are certain types of evidence which may show that the establishment was not negligent but rather acted in a reasonable and appropriate manner. Examples of evidence which may be helpful to the bar include:
- The establishment trains or pays a third party to train its staff on responsible serving
- The establishment refuses to allow intoxicated guests to enter
- The establishment promotes responsible drinking and designated driving
- The establishment promotes the availability of non-alcoholic beverages
A lawyer hired to represent you will investigate the facts of your case by interviewing witnesses and experts, reviewing bar protocol, and possibly watching surveillance video. The lawyer will then use this evidence to build a case that is intended to prove that the bar or establishment's negligence caused your injuries.
In addition to dram shop laws, states also have laws that allow an injured party to file a lawsuit against social hosts. These "social host liability laws" allow an injured person to seek damages from a party host when the host is responsible for providing excessive alcohol to a guest, and the guest later causes an accident which injures somebody.
Most states limit these laws to instances where alcohol was provided to minors. For instance, if a party host provides alcohol to an underage teenager, and the teenager causes an accident which leads to injury, the injured parties can hold the party host liable for the resulting damages.
Some states have even broader social host liability laws. In these states, the law is not limited to just minors, but to anyone who was encouraged or allowed to drink excessively. If the intoxicated individual causes an accident that leads to injury, the injured parties may file suit against the host.
Like dram shop laws, proving liability in social host cases requires establishing that the host was negligent. Establishing negligence can be accomplished by showing that the intoxicated person continued to be served even after it was known or should have been known that the person had already had too much to drink.
The Drunk Driver
Although many people associate drunk driving accidents with criminal charges and jail time, it is important to remember that drunk drivers are not immune to a civil suit. In other words, a victim of a car accident caused by a drunk driver can file a civil lawsuit against the driver. This suit is a separate and distinct proceeding from the criminal trial. A civil lawsuit can be a way to seek monetary compensation for a victim's economic and non-economic losses.
Several important elements can be used to prove another person's liability in a drunk driving accident. One example of critical evidence the police report that is filed after an accident. These reports, which are filled out by police officers responding to the accident, will describe the circumstances of the accident. Part of the report may include the officer's observations and results of a field sobriety test. Together, these elements can help establish that the drunk driver was liable for the accident.
Another important piece of evidence is a criminal conviction for DUI. Although an arrest for DUI is strong evidence of liability, a subsequent DUI conviction can make your claim stronger. Therefore, it is important for you to follow up on the driver's arrest to confirm a conviction. A follow up can be accomplished by contacting the District Attorney's Office and speaking with the prosecutor assigned to the case.
Finally, witness statements, photographs of the accident, and traffic surveillance videos can also serve as helpful pieces of evidence. A witness who observed the crash may be able to testify that the drunk driver caused the accident. Photographs and video surveillance footage can also show first-hand that the drunk driver was the at-fault party.
Suing Multiple Parties
It is also possible that more than one party is liable for the accident and your resulting injuries. In fact, multiple party lawsuits are a common occurrence in DUI accident cases. For instance, if a drunk driver was overserved at a bar or a house party, the injured party may be able to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver and the establishment or homeowner.
These types of cases will rely on the same types of legal standards and evidence mentioned above. Proving negligence by the use of witness statements, photographs, surveillance footage, and common or customary practice will be required in these multiple-party lawsuits.
What Do I Need to File a Lawsuit?
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver and would like to pursue legal action, it is critical to your case that you keep and maintain a thorough record of the accident and resulting costs incurred. This means holding on to important things such as:
- Photographs of the scene of the accident
- Photographs of your physical injuries
- Photographs of damage to your vehicle
- A copy of the police report
- Witness statements and witness contact information
- Medical bill statements
- Car repair estimates
- Court records
Creating and maintaining a thorough and running record of these documents will be necessary when it comes to filing your lawsuit. These documents can serve as important pieces of evidence that can strengthen the value and viability of your claim.
How To File a Lawsuit
Listed below are the steps and stages which comprise the lawsuit filing process.
1.) Call a DUI Accident Lawyer
If you have been hit by a drunk driver and are interested in taking legal action, the first step you should take is to contact a DUI accident lawyer. A DUI accident lawyer will meet with you to discuss the facts and circumstances regarding your accident. For instance, the lawyer will be interested in when, where, and how the accident occurred. The lawyer will also ask about any injuries you may have sustained due to the accident. Based on the facts of your case, the lawyer will provide legal advice regarding your best options moving forward.
The next step in the process is the investigation phase. During this phase, your lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation into your case. The purpose of the investigation is to strengthen the value and credibility of your claim. Part of the investigation may involve your lawyer gathering important details about the accident by means such as interviewing witnesses, reviewing police records and surveillance videos, and developing the best legal strategy. The investigation process will also involve accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
3.) Case Settlement and Litigation
During or after the investigation phase, it is possible that the drunk driver's insurance company will attempt to settle your claim. This settlement process will consist of back-and-forth negotiations between you, your attorney, and the insurance company. During this process, your attorney will advocate on your behalf to get the insurance company to pay the full value of your claim. If the insurance company refuses to pay an amount that is fair and satisfactory, it may be necessary to litigate your claim in court. Should this happen, your lawyer will be prepared to file a formal lawsuit and begin the continue the process of preparing your case for trial.
How Long Do I Have to Make a Claim?
In order for your lawsuit to be timely filed, it must be filed within the applicable "statute of limitations." A statute of limitations is essentially a time limit in which a person must initiate a lawsuit. If a person does not bring a claim within the statute of limitations, that person is effectively barred from arguing the claim in court.
Statutes of limitations for car accidents vary from state to state. However, most states have a two- or three-year statute of limitations for such accidents. For instance, Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for claims following a car accident. This means that a party that is injured in a car accident must file a lawsuit against the other driver within two years of the date of the accident.
Because these situations often involve a complex analysis of time frames and relevant dates, you may want to consider consulting with a personal injury attorney following your accident. Doing so may allow you to file your lawsuit in a timely manner against all necessary parties.
GET HELP FROM EXPERIENCED AUSTIN DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT LAWYERS
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, the Austin car accident attorneys at Zinda Law Group have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek maximum compensation for damages.
We are a personal injury law firm that has helped numerous drunk driving accident victims get their lives back on track after a wreck, and we can handle the entire legal process for you while you focus on what is most important: your recovery.
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