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Accidents involving drunk drivers can be life-changing events with potentially fatal consequences. Victims of drunk driving accidents may be able to pursue compensation for injuries and other costs incurred as a result of the accident by filing a claim against the drunk driver or another at-fault party.
DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT STATISTICS
- Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes
- Drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year
- Of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver
- Approximately 7% of all drunk driving is committed by adults between the ages of 26 and 29
- Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 29% of the total vehicle traffic fatalities in 2018
WHAT TO DO AFTER BEING INVOLVED IN A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT
The victim of a car accident will likely be confused, hurt, or disoriented in the immediate aftermath of a wreck. Understanding ahead of time what steps you should take following a drunk driving accident may put you in a better position to protect both your health and your legal rights.
1. Seek Medical Attention
The first and most important step you should take after being hit by a drunk driver is to seek immediate medical attention. In many drunk driving cases, the need for medical attention is obvious. For instance, accidents involving broken bones, loss of consciousness, or extensive bleeding require a prompt 911 call. However, even seemingly minor accidents have the potential to lead to long-term health issues. Therefore, you should seek medical attention regardless of the severity of the accident. Getting medical help may help expedite your recovery process.
2. Report the Accident
When possible, be sure to report the accident to local law enforcement. Calling the police and filing a report will create an official record of the accident which may be used to later support any claim you may have. When filling out the report, try to be as detailed as possible by informing officers of important facts such as where the accident occurred, how it occurred, and what injuries you sustained. Also, refrain from admitting guilt or saying that you could have done something to prevent the accident from occurring.
3. Document the Accident
Another important step to take following a drunk driving accident is to document the accident. Documenting the accident means creating and maintaining a thorough and organized record of all important material relating to the accident. This means saving paperwork in a home office or on your smartphone. Materials that should be saved include photographs of the accident, photographs of your injuries, a copy of the police report, witness statements, medical bills, and car repair estimates. These items may help establish the legitimacy of your claim.
4. Call an Attorney
Contact a personal injury attorney who represents victims of drunk driving accidents. An attorney may wish to speak with you in person or over the phone to learn more about the facts and circumstances of your case. After gathering this information, the attorney may be able to provide legal advice by assessing the merits of your claim and informing you of what rights and remedies may be available to you. If necessary, an attorney may act on your behalf by negotiating a settlement with insurance companies. If it is not in your best interests to settle, the attorney may take your case to trial.
WHO CAN I SUE AFTER BEING INJURED IN A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT?
The Drunk Driver
The first and most obvious person that may be subject to liability following a drunk driving accident is the drunk driver. Although many people associate drunk driving accidents with criminal charges and jail time, it is important to remember that drunk drivers may also be sued in civil court. A civil lawsuit is a separate proceeding from a criminal trial. This type of proceeding allows the victim of a drunk driving victim to pursue monetary damages for the costs incurred following an accident.
There are several forms of evidence that may help a victim establish liability against the drunk driver. For example, witness statements, photographs of the accident, and traffic surveillance videos may all serve as helpful pieces of evidence. Another item that may be helpful is the police report that was filed after an accident. Part of the report may include the officer’s observations and the results of a field sobriety test. Finally, a criminal conviction for DUI may also be used in a civil lawsuit to help establish liability.
A Bar, Restaurant, or Other Establishment
All states have “dram shop” laws that set forth the guidelines for lawsuits involving injuries caused by persons who were served alcohol at a bar, restaurant, night club, or similar establishment.
Victims of drunk driving accidents may have the option of filing a dram shop lawsuit. A dram shop lawsuit is a civil case brought against a bar or other establishment by a person who was injured in an accident caused by one of the establishment’s patrons. For instance, if you were injured in a car accident by a drunk driver who had been overserved at a night club, you may be able to file a dram shop lawsuit against the night club.
To prevail in a dram shop lawsuit, the victim must prove that the serving establishing acted negligently or intentionally disregarded a known risk. For instance, if a bartender continues to serve a person who is visibly drunk (e.g., slurred speech, unconscious, etc.), the establishment where the bartender works may be subject to liability if the visibly drunk patron later causes an accident. Certain types of evidence that may support a dram shop case 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;
States also have laws that allow victims of drunk driving accidents to pursue legal action against social hosts. A social host may be subject to liability in cases where the host provided excessive alcohol to a guest and the guest later became intoxicated and caused an accident. Like dram shop laws, proving liability in social host cases requires establishing that the host was negligent or intentionally disregarded an obvious risk.
Suing Multiple Parties
In many cases, there may be multiple at-fault parties that can be subject to liability for a drunk driving accident. These multiple-party lawsuits are actually quite common in DUI accident cases. For example, if a drunk driver was overserved at a restaurant, the victim may be able to file a claim against the drunk driver and the restaurant itself.
These types of cases will rely on the same types of legal standards and evidence mentioned above. Proving negligence by use of witness statements, photographs, surveillance footage, and common or customary practice will be required in these multiple-party lawsuits.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR DRUNK DRIVING CLAIMS
A “statute of limitations” is a legal time limit within which the victim of a drunk driving accident must initiate a lawsuit. If a victim does not file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, the victim is essentially barred from litigating the claim in court.
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. Most states have a two or three-year statute of limitations period. For example, California, Colorado, and Texas all have a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. In contrast, states such as Arkansas, New Mexico, and New York have a three-year statute of limitations.
In certain cases, the statute of limitations may be paused or “tolled.” The effect of tolling is that it gives the victim more time to file a lawsuit. For example, the statute of limitations may be tolled in cases where the victim is a minor.
Because these situations often involve a complex analysis of time frames and relevant dates, you may want to consider consulting with a personal injury or wrongful death attorney. Doing so can ensure that your lawsuit is properly filed on time against all necessary parties.
OUR DRUNK DRIVER ACCIDENT INJURY ATTORNEYS ARE READY TO HELP YOU
At Zinda Law Group, our team of attorneys is ready and willing to offer years of experiencing handling drunk driving accident claims to protect your rights. From negotiating settlement offers on your behalf to litigating your claim in front of a judge and jury, our attorneys take pride in giving every aspect of your case the attention to detail it deserves.
Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford excellent legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced Zinda Law Group personal injury lawyer, or to learn more about your rights and remedies following a drunk driving accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.