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Motor vehicle accidents can result in serious injuries, but accidents that involve drunk drivers can be especially devastating for the victims involved. After an accident occurs, the injured person may be distressed and confused about how to move forward. On top of dealing with recovering from injuries, seeking compensation alone can be a burdensome task. Thankfully, the attorneys at Zinda Law Group can help.
Was there a DUI Conviction?
In Colorado, if the driver violates the law and is convicted for driving under the influence, it is presumed that the driver was negligent. This can make the process of seeking compensation easier for the injured party.
A conviction occurs after the driver is charged with a DUI. Even if there is no DUI conviction, you still may be able to recover if you were injured by a drunk driver. This is because criminal cases (cases in which a conviction may result) have different and typically stricter standards of proof than civil cases (cases where you are suing someone).
Drunk Driving Laws in Colorado
A DUI occurs when a person is operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. In Colorado, a driver is considered legally drunk when their blood-alcohol content (BAC) is at least 0.08%. However, even if the driver’s BAC is less than 0.08%, they may still be considered “impaired.”
A driver can also be charged with a DUI if they are intoxicated by illegal drugs, prescription drugs used inappropriately, or other any other medication that causes intoxication.
Who Can I Sue?
If you were
involved in a drunk driving accident, you might be able to seek compensation
from multiple parties. It is not always immediately clear who is at fault. It
is important to talk to your lawyer about this. Common examples of at-fault
parties include the following:
In order for the driver to be at fault, the injured victim must prove that the driver was negligent. To show that, the victim must prove four factors:
There must have been a duty that the driver owed to the injured victim. When anyone drives on the road, they have a duty to operate their vehicle safely.
The driver must have failed to comply with the duty in some way. If the driver was intoxicated, the driver breached their duty.
The victim must show that because the driver breached their duty, the driver caused the accident that resulted in the victim’s injury.
The victim must show that there were damages. For example, someone died, was injured, or was traumatized from the accident.
Another Road User
Another road user might be at fault if they acted negligently on the road. For example, assume you are driving Car A, and you are sober. Car B’s driver is also sober. Car C’s driver is intoxicated. Car B runs a red light and hits Car C. Car C’s driver, being intoxicated, did not notice that Car C was coming towards them; and, had they been sober, they may have been able to hit the brakes in time. Car C swerves when they are hit and hits you in Car A. In this case, Car B may be at fault.
In these situations, the victim must prove that the road user acted negligently, just as they would have to prove in cases in which the drunk driver is at fault. See the previous section for the four elements of negligence that the victim must prove.
The Bar They Came From
A bar, tavern, or club may be held liable if they overserved someone so much that the person posed a danger to themselves or others. If this is the case, the injured victim must prove that the intoxication was a foreseeable cause of the injury and that the intoxicated person was already obviously intoxicated to a dangerous degree.
An establishment may also be held liable if the alcohol was sold or given to a minor and the minor drives drunk. In this situation, the minor does not even have to be visibly intoxicated.
What Compensation Can I Claim After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver?
There are three main types of damages that you may be able to seek for your drunk driving case.
Economic damages are losses that can be calculated in terms of dollars and cents and include the following:
You may be able to recover for emergency room visits, ambulance or helicopter transportation, prescription drug costs, surgery expenses, rehabilitation expenses, and any other medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
Future medical expenses
You may also be able to seek damages for future medical expenses if the injuries suffered will require ongoing medical treatment, such as additional doctor visits, therapy sessions, surgeries, prescription medication, or other care.
If you missed work due to your accident and injuries from it, your lost wages might also be recoverable. Depending on the nature and severity of your injuries, you may be prevented from fully returning to work or may be forced to take additional time off to complete your treatment. In this case, you may be able to recover lost future earnings as well.
Non-Economic (Intangible) Damages
Non-economic, or intangible damages are usually given to compensate for any psychological harm. That means that you may be able to seek compensation for pain and suffering. You may also be able to pursue damages for mental anguish, loss of sexual function, or other physical disfigurements.
Calculating and predicting the value that will be given to your intangible damages can be difficult. When serious injuries occur, it is not uncommon for six- or even seven-figure awards to be sought.
Punitive (Exemplary) Damages
Punitive or exemplary damages are designed to punish the at-fault person in cases of serious wrongdoing. Being injured from a drunk driver is a common example of a situation in which punitive damages may be awarded.
Third parties may also be compensated. Most often, the third party is the spouse of the injured victim. A spouse may be awarded damages if, for example, the injured person has lost the ability to provide emotional support.
What Should I Do if I am Hit By a Drunk Driver?
If you or a loved one has been involved in a drunk driving accident, there are several steps you should follow:
1. Seek medical attention
2. Call 9-1-1 to file a claim with the police so that they can create an accident report.
3. Document any injuries and damages caused by the intoxicated person. Be sure to get the name and number of any witnesses so they can be contacted later.
4. Contact a drunk driving injury lawyer.
Drunk driving injury law can be complicated and may differ by state, so it is important to contact an experienced attorney who knows the laws governing where the accident occurred. An experienced attorney will know the best way to seek compensation not only for your injuries but for any pain, suffering, and mental anguish you experience because of the accident.
How Long Do I Have to Make a Claim?
It is important to act quickly when you are injured. Not only is there a limited time to legally seek compensation after an injury, but also your case may become weaker because of witnesses fading memories.
The legal time limit that you have to file a lawsuit is called the “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations for drunk driving injury cases in Colorado varies widely. If you are suing the server of the alcohol, the statute of limitations is only one year. Otherwise, the statute of limitations for drunk driving injury cases is generally three years, but there are some exceptions.
If your time limit is expiring soon, and you still want to seek compensation, it is time to contact an experienced attorney. If the statute of limitations has run out, you should still talk to an attorney to see if you fall into an exception.
Our Drunk Driving Injury Attorneys Can Help
At Zinda Law Group, our experienced drunk driving injury lawyers have helped many victims. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you seek the full compensation you may be entitled to.
Our firm believes that injured victims should have access to high-quality legal representation, which is why we operate on a contingency fee basis. That means that you won't owe anything unless we achieve a favorable settlement for your claim.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.