Is My Car Accident Case Worth More If I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver?
Call (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer in Denver.
Understandably, auto-accident victims who visit or call our office often ask, “Is my car accident case worth more if it was caused by a drunk driver?” The short answer is, “Yes.” Impaired-driving absolutely has the potential to increase damages in a personal injury case; however, notwithstanding this simple answer, the path to compensation is more nuanced.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe every auto-accident victim deserves excellent legal representation, no matter the circumstances. We pride ourselves in providing that representation. If you were hit by a drunk driver, our experienced drunk-driving accident attorneys can help you evaluate your case, navigate the law, and strategize a path toward compensation.
If you or a loved one were hurt by a drunk driver, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our experienced personal injury attorneys in Denver. Our clients pay nothing unless we win their case.
Drunk driving statistics
In the 1980s, jurisdictions across the United States began adopting policies favoring strict enforcement of drunk-driving laws. This approach has significantly reduced the number of drunk-driving accidents and fatalities over the decades. Unfortunately, despite the marked improvement, the numbers remain high.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes every day (one person every 52 minutes). In 2019 alone, 10,142 people were killed in drunk-driving accidents.
Notably, drunk-driving statistics are strongly correlated with age. The NHTSA reported that, in 2018, 24% of drivers aged 15 to 20 years old who were killed in crashes had BACs of .01 g/dL or higher; this trend in alcohol-related car crash deaths persists in the young-adult age range as well. In that same year, 27% of drivers aged 21- to 24-year-olds who were killed in crashes were drunk—legally defined as having a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher—at the time of the accident; this age bracket was followed closely by 25- to 34-year-olds, at 26%.
Drunk-driving statistics correlate with the age of victims as well as that of impaired drivers: children aged 14 or younger are disproportionately impacted by drunk driving. In 2018, of all car-accident fatalities in this age bracket, 22% percent died in a drunk-driving accident. The NHTSA starkly reported that the child’s own driver was intoxicated 55% of the time.
Read More: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Drunk Driving Statistics
does insurance cover DUI accidents?
Typically, yes. It is important to evaluate each insurance policy on a case-by-case basis; however, injuries and property damage from drunk driving accidents are generally covered. In personal injury cases, we look first to the at-fault driver’s “liability” insurance, which may cover damages caused by their negligence.
However, if the cost of your injuries and property damages exceeds the at-fault driver’s policy limits, there may be other avenues to compensation. In the event you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured drunk driver, your own insurance may provide coverage through its UM/UIM benefits.
You should file a claim with the relevant insurance companies soon after the accident. This puts them on notice and puts any suspicion to rest as to why you might not have immediately filed a claim. However, as you negotiate with any insurance company, be sure to exercise caution.
Accident victims in Denver often fail to realize that insurance companies are not neutral third parties. Insurance companies generally prioritize their own bottom line before the wellbeing of accident victims, and they frequently propose settlement offers based on the minimum to near-minimum legal amount they can offer. In this calculation, the adjuster’s perception of what may result at trial may weigh more heavily than the realities of your accident and injuries; in this sense, even your own insurance company is not your closest ally.
Having an experienced attorney evaluate your case can ensure that you know your rights and are being treated fairly. Remember, anything you say to an insurance company or one of its insurance adjusters can be used against you in litigation. Therefore, never sign forms or waivers provided by an insurance company and never admit fault before consulting with an attorney.
Read More: How to Negotiate with an Insurance Company
How an intoxicated driver may raise the value of your case
In order to recover maximum compensation for your accident, it may ultimately be necessary to file a civil suit against the at-fault driver. It is at this stage in particular that the alcohol-induced nature of the accident may raise its value. When you have been hit by a drunk driver, the case value of your claim will depend upon several factors, starting with whether negligence was involved.
Negligence is the most common cause of action in personal injury cases. It is predicated on the notion that we each owe each other a duty to use “reasonable care” in our actions to minimize the risk that we cause each other harm. This theory lends itself well to roadways because the collective safety of all drivers and passengers is based on each individual driver’s safe (or unsafe) driving practices.
Specifically, showing that the defendant—the inebriated driver—who hit you was acting with negligence requires proving that:
1. A legal duty was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff.
2. The defendant breached that duty.
3. The plaintiff suffered an injury.
4. The plaintiff’s injury was caused by the defendant’s breach.
Additionally, Colorado is a “comparative fault” state, which creates an added layer of complexity to the law. “Comparative fault” simply implies that the behavior of each party involved in an accident is weighted comparatively, based on how much it contributed to accident. That is, if one driver was 100% responsible, they are shouldered with 100% of the liability.
If they are 60% at fault and you are 40% at fault, they are shouldered with 60% of the liability. If each driver is 50% at fault, each side side’s liability cancels the other out. Conversely, if you are 51% at fault or more, the other side may have a viable case against you.
Needless to say, driving while intoxicated is a particularly dangerous departure from the duty to use reasonable care. And though your contributions, if any, to the accident will be taken into account, the experienced drunk-driving accident lawyers at Zinda Law Group can help you compellingly argue your case and hold the drunk driver accountable for your injuries which were caused by their reckless behavior.
To understand how the alcohol-induced nature of an accident may raise the value of your case, it is necessary to understand the kinds of damages recoverable through a negligence action. There are two primary forms of damages, economic damages and non-economic damages.
- Economic damages are those that can be reduced to a tangible monetary value. For example, medical bills, pharmacy bills, loss of income (both present and future), and lost earning capacity are all examples of economic damages. To prove economic damages, you should keep good track of all bills associated with treating your injuries.
- Non-economic damages refer to those that cannot be reduced to a monetary value. Among other things, this includes your pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship with a loved one (legally referred to as “loss of consortium”).
Both economic and non-economic damages are available to compensate you for injuries and property damage caused by a drunk driver; however, there also exists a third form of damages known as “punitive damages” or “exemplary damages.” Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which are designed to compensate the victim, this third form is designed to punish a wrongdoer. Courts tend to award punitive damages very sparingly and only in especially egregious cases.
Drunk-driving cases are especially good candidates in which to argue that punitive damages are appropriate. Though jury outcomes are notoriously difficult to predict, drunk driving is universally understood to be extremely dangerous. Accordingly, a jury may tend to be very unsympathetic to the at-fault driver and award you punitive damages accordingly.
Again, there is no science to predicting the temperament of a jury. Notwithstanding, before accepting any drunk-driving accident settlement, you should consult with a drunk driving accident lawyer near you to evaluate the merits of your case.
Dram Shop Liability
In addition to insurance claims and filing a negligence action against the at-fault driver, there exists a third route to compensation in a drunk-driving case. Colorado’s Dram Shop Act requires that businesses with a liquor exercise discretion when selling alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons. If the establishment fails to do so and sells alcohol to someone visibly intoxicated, the establishment can be held liable for accidents caused by the customer who got behind the wheel after drinking.
This liability is in addition to that of the drunk driver. However, the establishment’s liability is capped at $150,000, subject to an adjustment for inflation. Though this amount may not be sufficient to fully compensate you for your injuries and property damage, it nonetheless provides a significant source of additional compensation.
Statute of Limitations
A personal injury lawyer in Denver can help you create the best legal strategy to secure compensation. However, no matter what causes of action you bring, it is important to be aware of the statute of limitations associated with each. A statute of limitations simply sets the maximum time that may elapse after which you can no longer file you case.
In Colorado, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including auto accidents, is two years after the accident. The statute of limitations for filing suit pursuant to the Dram Shop Act is one year after the alcohol was sold to the impaired driver responsible for your accident.
These may seem like relatively long windows; however, do not wait to have an attorney evaluate your case. Letting time pass may create room for adversaries to question the seriousness of your claim. Further, the more time that elapses after the accident, the more unreliable or inaccessible evidence and witness testimony may become.
LET US HELP YOU
Despite the progress over the decades in reducing drunk-driving fatalities, intoxication on Denver Metroplex roadways remains a leading cause of death. If you are a victim of a drunk-driving accident, you may be eligible for enhanced compensation.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe that no victim of a drunk-driving auto accident should have to worry about their ability to afford excellent legal representation. Tell us about your case, and we will tell you how we can help you seek maximum compensation for your injuries and property damage. Our clients pay nothing unless we win their case; that is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with one of our experienced drunk-driving accident lawyers in Colorado.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.