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Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only dangerous for a driver, but it creates a serious danger to others on the road as the intoxicated driver may be unable to safely operate the vehicle.
It can be difficult to tell what to do after being involved in a drunk driving accident. Contact the experienced drunk driving injury attorneys from Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation to explore your options. If we are not able to win your case, you will not owe us anything.
CAN YOU SUE IF YOU GET HIT BY A DRUNK DRIVER?
If you have been in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may have several legal options, which your attorney may help you better understand. If the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your accident, this intoxication may make it easier to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. Your potential options for pursuing this compensation may include:
Filing an Insurance Claim
In many automobile accident claims, filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company may be an ideal starting point for pursuing compensation, even if you ultimately still file a lawsuit. By filing a claim with the insurer first, your attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement without the need for an expensive lawsuit. The possibility of a satisfactory insurance settlement may be increased in drunk driving accident claims given the impact that a driver’s intoxication may have in establishing the driver’s liability for the accident. The insurer knows that a DUI or DWI conviction may ] make defending a lawsuit very difficult, especially if the case goes before a jury. As a result, insurance companies may be more willing to negotiate a fair and satisfactory settlement before you file a lawsuit to avoid the expenses of a trial and the risk of an even higher jury verdict.
It is a good idea to hire an attorney to assist you in this first step. Your lawyer may be able to help you level the playing field with the insurer and its team of lawyers.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
While filing an insurance claim is often ideal before filing a lawsuit, a lawsuit may help ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to as your lawyer negotiates with the insurance company. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a satisfactory settlement, your lawyer may assist you in filing a personal injury lawsuit to seek maximum compensation. A drunk driving lawsuit may require your lawyer to prove that the other driver breached a duty of care and caused the accident that led to your injuries. In a drunk driving case, evidence of a DUI or DWI conviction can often be used as evidence that the driver breached the duty of care owed to other drivers.
Pursuing Compensation in States with “No-Fault” Laws
Finally, approximately a dozen states may limit your initial options after an accident through the use of “no-fault” car insurance rules. In these states, you may have to first use your own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage to pay for your medical expenses resulting from the accident. However, each of these states has set a threshold that may allow you to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver who caused the accident. If the injuries you suffered in the crash meet your state’s definition of “serious injuries,” you may be able to exceed these thresholds and seek compensation from the drunk driver outside of your state’s no-fault system.
NO-FAULT VS. AT-FAULT STATES AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU
When pursuing compensation after a drunk driving accident, this process depends upon whether your insurance policy may be governed under a “no-fault” or an “at-fault” insurance regime. Indeed, the key difference between these two regimes is whether an accident victim has the right to sue the party responsible for the crash as well as who will pay for the victim’s damages.
No-Fault Insurance System
States with a “no-fault” system attempt to lower the overall costs of vehicle insurance by removing the number of small claims resulting in lawsuits. In these states, an accident victim is generally unable to file a lawsuit against the party who caused the accident if the victim only suffered minor injuries or damages. Instead, the victim’s insurance company would provide compensation to the victim for these minor injuries regardless of who may be liable for the accident. Unlike a trial, however, the victim generally will not have to prove the other driver was liable for the accident before receiving compensation. These states generally will not allow a victim to sue the party who caused the accident unless the victim’s injuries meet a threshold in terms of total damages suffered or in terms of the severity of those injuries. States that follow this “no-fault” regime include Massachusetts, Michigan, Kansas, Hawaii, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Utah, and North Dakota.
Meanwhile, most states use the “at-fault” system for vehicle insurance and car accidents. Under this system, compensation is often based on tort liability, meaning that the party responsible for the accident, or who was “at fault,” will generally be liable for any injuries or damages sustained in the crash while his or her insurer may pay this compensation up to specified policy limits. For drunk-driving accidents, this system operates the same, as the drunk driver will generally be liable for the accident while the victim files a third-party claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company or files a personal injury lawsuit against the intoxicated driver.
DO I NEED A LAWYER AFTER A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT?
While it is not required to hire a lawyer before filing a claim for injuries suffered in a drunk driving accident, an attorney may often strengthen your case and ability to pursue compensation. After an accident, insurance companies will often move to quickly offer a settlement amount to settle your claim and avoid a lawsuit. Without an attorney, the insurer may often try to take advantage of your need for compensation to cover medical expenses and other costs by offering you an amount that is significantly lower than the compensation you may be entitled to. Before discussing the accident with the insurer, speaking to an attorney may help you better understand your position and the insurer’s goals. Further, an insurer may also try to speak with you before you hire an attorney in an effort to obtain any statements that can be used to weaken your claim. As a result, hiring an attorney to speak with the insurer on your behalf may be especially helpful in preventing the insurer from attempting to obtain and use any statements against you.
Further, an experienced attorney may be able to better help you understand the compensation you may be entitled to. For example, an attorney may help you understand non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering damages for the physical pain and emotional trauma you have suffered as a result of your injuries. Your attorney may also be able to help you include a claim for punitive damages, which may be available in drunk driving accidents in many states to discourage intoxicated driving. Finally, an experienced drunk driving lawyer may negotiate with the insurer on your behalf.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT
1. Seek Medical Attention
The first step you should always take after any accident is to seek medical attention as soon as possible to diagnose and treat any potential injuries you may have suffered in the accident. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, but it is still crucial to seek medical attention to identify, treat, and document the extent of your injuries.
2. File A Police Report
In drunk driving accidents, notifying law enforcement of the accident is especially important. Law enforcement can perform field sobriety tests or blood alcohol tests to determine if the other driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. A DWI or DUI conviction for the accident may provide your attorney with very strong evidence proving the other party’s liability for the crash.
3. Hire an Experienced Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Perhaps the most important step to take after a drunk driving accident is to contact and hire an experienced attorney to help you understand your legal options and pursue any compensation you may be entitled to. Quickly hiring a lawyer after your accident allows your attorney to begin gathering evidence and ensure your lawsuit is filed before the statute of limitations runs out.
Learn More: Why Hiring a Lawyer Will Help Your Case
GET HELP FROM A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT LAWYER TODAY
At Zinda Law Group, our drunk driving injury attorneys may help advise you what to do after a drunk driving accident. Our attorneys have years of experience helping our clients seek the maximum compensation they may be entitled to after they or their loved one was injured in a drunk driving accident.
Call (800) 863-5312 today for a free consultation with one of our experienced drunk driving accident lawyers. You will not pay anything unless we can win your drunk driving accident case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
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