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After an automobile accident, the first reaction is usually to make sure that you and the other drivers are physically fine, and if not, to seek emergency medical attention. Once the dust has begun to settle, however, your thoughts will typically begin to turn to thoughts of expensive repair bills and dealing with insurance companies. If the other driver involved in the accident does not have insurance and was driving under the influence, then you may feel at a loss of what to do. Luckily, getting into an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance does not mean that you are out of options.
You do not have to go through this alone. If you have been in an accident, call the accident attorneys at Zinda Law Group for a free consultation at 512 246 2224. You don't owe us anything unless we reach a favorable result in your case.
What to Do if You’ve Been in an Accident with an Uninsured Drunk Driver
With any automobile accident, even accidents with these additional twists thrown in, it is important to complete a few key steps to make sure that you prevent any further physical injuries and preserve any claim for compensation that you may have.
1. Seek Medical Attention:
Even if you feel fine, it is important to seek medical attention as soon after your accident as possible. For one, certain injuries, such as head injuries, do not present any immediate symptoms and will only get worse if left untreated. In addition, insurance companies and defense attorneys will sometimes use a large gap of time between the accident and your medical appointment to argue that your injuries are not really that serious. When you see medical professionals, ask for a complete copy of your medical records
2. File a Police Report
If you did not file a police report at the scene of the accident due to injury or some other reason, contact the police and file one. It is important to complete this step as soon after your accident as possible so that the details of what happened are fresh in your mind.
3. Document the Accident
It is difficult to determine at the outset what may end up being important in a case, so document your accident as thoroughly as possible. This includes things like obtaining any photo or video evidence that may be available and getting the contact information for any potential witnesses.
4. Contact an Attorney
Unless you have significant experience in the field of personal injury law, hiring an experienced car accident attorney is critical. An attorney will be able to help guide you through the process and craft arguments in support of seeking maximum compensation.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
If the other driver in your accident has no insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, then you will need to look at your own insurance policy to see what is covered. First, look at your uninsured motorist coverage (“UIM”), if that is included in your policy. UIM coverage is an add-on that will protect you in the event that you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
UIM is only required in a handful of states—in the majority of states, insurance companies are only required to offer UIM to their customers. If UIM is a part of your policy, then contact your insurance company as soon after the accidents as possible—typically, there will be a short period of time within which you are allowed to make an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. However, if you do not have UIM as a part of your policy, all is not lost.
What Happens with a DUI Conviction?
In order to explain the significance of a conviction for a DUI to your personal injury claim, it is important to understand the difference between civil and criminal law. Civil law deals with disputes between two or more individuals or organizations, while criminal law deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. In the situation where you were in a car accident with a drunk driver, both types of law will likely come into play. If convicted, the drunk driver can face criminal penalties such as fines or jail time for violating the laws of the given jurisdiction dealing with driving under the influence.
On the other hand, your civil lawsuit is about seeking your damages and putting you in the financial position that you were in before your accident. To this end, a criminal DUI conviction can be very helpful. In order to succeed in your lawsuit, it will be necessary to prove negligence on the part of the other driver, and a conviction for DUI is a very strong proof of negligence. Be sure to follow up on the driver’s arrest and confirm the conviction. To do this, you can contact the District Attorney’s office in your jurisdiction and speak to the prosecutor assigned to the case
Who Can I Sue?
Unfortunately, winning a lawsuit and actually recovering the money for your injuries are two separate processes. If the driver cannot afford to pay what they owe, then it will be a difficult process to seek any money from them. This problem may be exacerbated by the fact that a DUI conviction typically comes with heavy fines and possible jail time, both of which will impede the drunk driver’s ability to pay you back.
The driver is not the only party who may be sued in a drunk driving case, however. Under what is called “dram shop liability”, you may be able to sue the bar who served alcohol to the driver. Dram shop liability holds an establishment liable if they continue to serve a person who is obviously intoxicated, and that person causes a personal injury to a third party. Generally, in a dram shop case, it is enough to prove that the bar was negligent in continuing to serve this patron. The laws regarding this area differ from state to state, so the only way to find out if you may have a dram shop case is to speak with your attorney about the rules that apply to your specific jurisdiction.
How to File a Claim
No two claims are exactly the same, but generally, they follow a similar pattern. The steps in most car accident claims include:
1. Contact an Attorney:
This is by far the most important step in any personal injury lawsuit. There are a lot of pitfalls to fall into and mistakes to make in a personal injury claim, and unless you have extensive experience in this area, it is likely that you may damage your case or not be fully compensated should you try to go it alone. An experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process, handle communications with your insurance company, and craft arguments in support of seeking maximum compensation.
2. Gather Information:
Once you have hired an attorney, they can begin to gather all of the relevant information and evidence. Some of the things they may be looking for include any video or photo evidence that may be available, police reports relating to the arrest of the drunk driver, and any witness accounts of the accident or the bar where the alcohol was served. Your attorney will also know what will likely become important in the case and prevent you from wasting time sifting through piles of paperwork that don’t matter that much.
3. Negotiate a Settlement
Once your attorney understands the facts of the case and has all of the relevant evidence, they can begin to negotiate a settlement. An experienced attorney will know the law applying to your cases, as well as what similar cases have settled for. They will also know how to accentuate the strengths of your case while downplaying any weaknesses that it may have.
4. Go to Trial
While most cases settle before they get anywhere near a courthouse, there are situations where settlement negotiations break down and a trial is inevitable. If this is the case, your attorney will be able to advise you on trial strategy.
After your medical needs are taken care of, one of your first thoughts is likely, “How much is my case worth?” It is difficult to guess what a given case might be worth at the outset, but the damages that you may hope to seek can be broken into two categories.
Economic damages are things like medical bills, damage to property, and lost wages from not being able to work. Simply put, it is the money that you had to spend and the money that you lost as a result of your accident.
Non-economic damages typically refer to the pain and suffering that result from your injuries. These sorts of damages are a bit more difficult to quantify, but they may be recoverable.
Statute of Limitations
Every personal injury claim must be brought within a certain time from the date of the accident that caused the injury. This time limit is known as the “statute of limitations.” The statutes of limitation will differ based upon the type of claim, as well as the state in which the accident took place.
In addition, certain circumstances may alter the statute of limitations. For example, if the victim was a minor, or the accident resulted in a death, then the statutes of limitations will be longer. However, it is generally advisable to contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to ensure that you do not run into problems with the statute and risk having your case thrown out.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CASE
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured drunk driver, you may be entitled to seek compensation. Our lawyers are on hand to provide a FREE consultation and help you understand your position better. Call today at 512 246 2224 to speak with a car accident lawyer today.
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