CALL (800) 863-5312 TO SPEAK WITH A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT LAWYER FOR FREE
Thousands of people die each year in accidents with drunk drivers, and even more are injured. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a third of traffic crash fatalities are caused by drunk drivers. If you are involved in a car accident due to a drunk driver, you may be frustrated with insurance companies, hospital bills, and other issues. However, you do not necessarily have to handle the aftermath of a car accident on your own.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident with a drunk driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our drunk driving accident injury lawyers.
The Difference Between a Civil Suit for Drunk Driving and a Criminal Proceeding
There is a huge difference between a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver and a criminal proceeding against a drunk driver. A criminal lawsuit is meant to punish the driver for his or her reckless actions that could hurt others on the road, pedestrians, or property. Even if the driver did not cause any damage, he or she may face criminal prosecution.
However, a civil lawsuit cannot occur without any damage. Victims or their families file civil lawsuits because they want to recover the damages resulting from the accident. Whether or not there is criminal prosecution does not matter with regards to filing a civil lawsuit. As long as there has been damage caused by the drunk driver, you may file a civil lawsuit. Of course, if the driver has been convicted of DUI, your civil lawsuit is much more viable.
Civil Lawsuits in Pure Negligence States and No-Fault States
States follow different rules when it comes to filing a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver. In no-fault states, you may not be able to file a lawsuit against a drunk driver unless the damages you incurred reach a certain threshold.
For instance, imagine that your state is a no-fault state and requires that your medical bills exceed $5,000 before you may file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver responsible. If so, you may not be able to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible driver if your medical bills do not exceed $5,000. Instead, you must depend on your own insurance company for compensation.
If you live in a pure negligence state, there is no threshold requirement. You may file a lawsuit against the drunk driver as long as that person caused injury to you. This type of lawsuit is like any other negligence lawsuit where you must show that the defendant was negligent.
Though you may think that proving negligence is easy if the driver is under the influence, this isn't always the case. For instance, the legal concept of contributory negligence is often used as a defense. If a defense attorney can show that the plaintiff had a role in causing the accident through their own negligence, the plaintiff may lose the lawsuit or get a reduced compensation.
How Long Will My Lawsuit Take to Resolve?
A lawsuit can take weeks, months, or years to resolve depending on the facts and complexity of the case. For instance, if the accident you were involved in had multiple drivers involved and some of them suffered severe injuries, your case would likely take much longer to resolve than if the accident was simply a fender bender.
Dram Shop Laws
You may not be limited to only suing the driver in a civil lawsuit. You may also be able to sue the establishment or host that served alcohol to the driver. For instance, many states have what are called dram shop laws that allow just this. In these lawsuits, the plaintiff must show that the bartender or server of alcohol knew that the driver was visibly intoxicated but continued to serve him or her anyway.
Remember that social hosts who serve alcohol may also be liable. However, social hosts may not be liable if the defendant is of a certain age. For instance, if a defendant is over 21, a social host may not be liable even if he or she served the defendant alcohol while he or she was clearly intoxicated.
Should I Sue a Drunk Driver?
Oftentimes, even after receiving compensation from the drunk driver’s insurance company, the compensation may not be enough to cover for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. You could also sue if the insurance company refuses to give you a fair settlement or if the driver did not carry insurance.
You should understand, however, that even if you have won your lawsuit against a drunk driver, you may not be able to recover much or any money from them. Many drunk drivers may be in jail by the time you win the lawsuit or they may already be paying fines for their criminal charge.
In some states, there are funds for victims of drunk drivers. However, these funds often are limited in both scope and compensation. In the end, if you find that the drunk driver does not have money, you may have to file a claim with your own insurance company.
Common Injuries in a Drunk Driving Accident
Drunk driving, also called driving while intoxicated or DWI, is a crime. It occurs when someone decides to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs. In addition to the damage these substances can cause to the person taking them, driving while drunk or under while intoxicated could result in either you or someone else suffering from injury. The most common injuries suffered from accidents involving drunk drivers include the following:
- Brain injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Internal Organ Damage
How to Prevent Drunk Driving Accidents
Though driving under the influence is highly preventable, people continuously fail to adhere to simple steps to avoid driving under the influence. For instance, if you decide to go to a party that will serve alcohol and you plan to drink alcohol, have a friend who will abstain from drinking that night agree to be the designated driver. On the other hand, if you see someone who is under the influence grab the keys to head home, stop him or her and call an Uber, Lyft, or taxi. If you do not have a designated driver, simply call a rideshare service or taxi. If you are the host of a party, you should feel morally obligated to make sure your guests are not going to drive home under the influence.
If you are on the road and you see a driver who is driving erratically, that driver may be under the influence. You will want to call local law enforcement and report the driver. By doing so, you may not only save the driver’s life, but also others who are in the driver’s path.
Levels of blood alcohol concentration and their effects on your driving ability
Depending on your height, weight, and a myriad of other factors, even a small drink can affect your driving. Depending on how high your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is, your driving may be lightly impaired or severely impaired. Each state determines the level of blood alcohol content at which a person is presumed to be under the influence.
BAC of 0.02 g/dL
At this concentration, your visual functions—such as being able to track moving objects—decline. Furthermore, your ability to multitask declines as well. When you are driving, you are receiving tons of information. You are looking at cars ahead, behind, and at the side of you in addition to all the other visuals on the road. Even at this low BAC, the ability to perceive what is on the road declines.
BAC of 0.05 g/dL
At this level, your coordination decreases further. Furthermore, your ability to steer diminishes, and you will have difficulty responding to emergency situations. For instance, you may not be able to stop in time if a car suddenly pulls up in front of you. In Utah, you may be arrested once you reach this threshold.
BAC of 0.08 g/dL
In all other states, having a BAC of 0.08 means you have broken the law. At this point, it is not simply your motor functions that have deteriorated. It also means that your concentration and short-term memory are impaired as well.
Beyond BAC of 0.08 g/dL
At this point, you are no longer able to drive properly. Your speech is often slurred and your muscle control is severely lacking. If an officer asks you to do a field sobriety test, you will most likely fail it.
Wrongful Death Claim
If the victim of a drunk driver passes away due to the accident, the family members of the victim may sue on his or her behalf by filing what is called a wrongful death claim. The family members who benefit from a successful wrongful death lawsuit are generally those who financially depended on the victim. For instance, the spouse and children would be the beneficiaries of a successful wrongful death lawsuit, but the brother of the victim may not be.
Statute of Limitations
Do not forget that there is also a statute of limitations in every state. The statute of limitations acts as a measure to prevent individuals from filing a lawsuit an unreasonable number of years after the cause of the lawsuit occurred. Be sure to check your state statute to make sure you do not file a lawsuit late, if you are wishing to file one.
CONTACT A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT LAWYER today for free
The experienced attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help you with a drunk driving accident case. After such an accident, you shouldn’t have to worry about affording legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. This is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.