The statistics on drinking and driving in the United States are alarming. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, gathered facts that assert that between 50 and 75 percent of drivers convicted of DUIs continue to drive even after their licenses are suspended. Furthermore, it is estimated that approximately 27 Americans are killed each day in DUI-related accidents, and every 2 minutes, yet another driver is injured by someone who is drinking and driving.
If you are one of the tens of thousands of victims injured by a drunk driver, you deserve compensation for your injuries. This will allow you time to heal without having to worry about medical bills. At Hardee, Massey & Blodgett, LLP we are experienced in helping clients with these matters. Here are a few ways you may choose to proceed following a DUI accident to ensure that you receive what you are rightfully entitled to.
Criminal and Civil Litigation
Drunk driving accident litigation can result in both civil and criminal suits, unlike other personal injury cases. The purpose of a civil suit is to ensure that the victim receives the financial compensation they deserve after they are injured by a negligent driver. On the other hand, a criminal suit is brought by the state against the drunk driver. This ensures that the general public is not endangered by the same drunk driver in the future.
No one anticipates getting hit by a drunk driver, it happens out of the blue. We all know that the consequences of a DUI accident can be particularly tragic and devastating. Due to the fact that drunk drivers are both mentally and physically impaired, they are more unlikely than other drivers to try to correct a mistake before they hit you. In short, drunk drivers, many times, won’t notice or have the ability to correct an error before a crash.
Fortunately, it is relatively simple to establish a drunk driver’s liability in an accident. Especially if the drunk driver was cited or arrested at the time of the accident.
If the driver is found liable in court, the victim could receive general damages. These damages are meant to compensate the victim for physical or mental suffering; special damages, which could compensate you for financial losses; and exemplary or punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant for breaking the law and driving under the influence. Sometimes, the court will decide to also award the victim punitive damages to further deter the defendant from committing future crimes.
Even if the state does not bring a criminal suit, we suggest that the victim file a civil lawsuit to help offset medical bills, recover lost wages, and receive enough money to deal with any future surgeries or physical therapy that will arise from the accident.
It is also possible that the victim can bring a civil suit against a person who allowed the driver to drive drunk. For example, under a dram shop law, you can bring a case against the bar or restaurant that allowed the driver to leave and operate a vehicle while intoxicated. Some states also have a social host law. This allows the victim to file against an individual, or host, who continued to serve alcoholic beverages to someone who was clearly drunk, especially to a minor.
Remember, drunk drivers are blatantly breaking the law, not just being negligent drivers who are subject to human error. Because of this they are often prosecuted by the district attorney. As the victim, you may be required to testify for the prosecution during a criminal case. It is important to note that you can only receive compensation through a civil suit.
Similar to personal injury claims, the other driver’s insurance company will get in touch with the victim and try to work out a settlement. If you, the victim, were not seriously injured in the crash and have talked to a medical professional who established that you only suffered mild injuries, you may consider accepting a settlement from the insurance company.
The goal of any insurance company is to save as much money as possible, so they will likely lowball the settlement offer. This is why you should never sign anything with the insurance company until you have talked to a lawyer! If you have settled with the insurance company, you will not be able to pursue any type of civil litigation in the future.
In addition to consulting a lawyer, you should also confer with a medical professional before accepting any settlement offer. Even minor neck and back pain can have underlying injuries that may take a while to manifest. So, even though you may feel fine immediately after an accident, more problems can arise in the future. See a doctor to confirm that you truly do only have minor injuries.
Instead of accepting a settlement, the victim may want to pursue civil litigation to ensure that the driver is punished and held accountable for drunk driving.
Many drunk drivers are repeat offenders; therefore, victims are encouraged to consider bringing a suit against him or her to deter the driver from committing the same crime again.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer
Whether you are pursuing a settlement or filing a civil lawsuit, get in touch with a local personal injury lawyer immediately. Remember, your injuries are not your fault, and you shouldn’t have to pay for recovery out of your own pocket! You deserve compensation! Contact Hardee, Massey & Blodgett, LLP for a FREE legal consultation today!