Being injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver can be devastating. Not only are you left to deal with severe injuries and financial losses, but you also have to cope with your suffering being entirely preventable.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, you may be wondering what legal rights and options you have. Can you file a lawsuit against a drunk driver to recover compensation for your injuries and damages?
This guide will provide an overview of DUI accidents and how you can go about filing a personal injury lawsuit after being hit by a drunk driver. We’ll discuss key steps like establishing fault, finding legal representation, negotiating with insurance companies, and ultimately reaching a settlement in your case.
With the right legal approach, you can hold a drunk driving motorist fully accountable and obtain the maximum compensation allowed under the law.
Background on DUI Accidents and Lawsuits
A DUI accident refers to any motor vehicle crash that occurs due to a driver being impaired by alcohol or drugs. These accidents are also commonly referred to as drunk driving crashes or DUIs.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 29 people in the United States die daily in motor vehicle crashes involving an intoxicated driver. This amounts to one death from a drunk driving incident every 50 minutes.
Beyond fatalities, tens of thousands more are seriously injured every year in accidents caused by intoxicated drivers. Victims often suffer terrible injuries like brain damage, broken bones, internal bleeding, and paralysis.
When a drunk driver causes an accident and injures another person, the victim has legal grounds to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This includes both criminal and civil penalties against the driver.
Legal Options After a DUI Accident
After being struck and injured by a drunk driver, you have a right to sue the driver for injuries and other damages. There are two main legal avenues to pursue:
Criminal charges – The driver may face criminal DUI charges for driving under the influence and causing an accident. However, this alone does not guarantee compensation for victims.
Civil lawsuit – Victims can directly file a personal injury lawsuit against drunk drivers to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages.
The civil lawsuit is often the most direct way for DUI accident victims to recover losses. Lawsuits can be filed against the drunk driver as an individual or their insurance company.
Common lawsuits after a DUI crash include:
- Personal injury lawsuit – Seeks compensation for physical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and other damages.
- Wrongful death lawsuit – Filed by surviving family members when a DUI accident results in a fatality.
- Property damage lawsuit – Covers repair or replacement costs for damaged property.
Pursuing civil action against a drunk driver allows injured victims to take control of their recovery and hold the at-fault motorist fully accountable. Damages recovered can help pay medical bills, replace lost income, and compensate for pain and suffering caused by the driver’s negligence.
Establishing Fault in a DUI Accident
The key to winning compensation in a DUI accident lawsuit is proving that the drunk driver was at fault and directly caused the crash. Plaintiffs must show that the driver acted negligently by driving while impaired.
Common ways to establish fault include:
- Police reports – Official crash reports showing the driver was charged with DUI support because he was under the influence.
- Witness statements – Accounts from passengers, bystanders, and others confirming the driver appeared intoxicated.
- Blood alcohol tests – Results over the legal limit prove the motorist was impaired.
- Field sobriety tests – Failed coordination exams help show the driver was too intoxicated to drive safely.
- Expert testimony – Crash reconstruction experts can analyze evidence and conclude the drunk driver’s impairment caused the collision.
In a civil injury lawsuit, the fault only needs to be shown based on a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than the stricter criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Pursuing Compensation in a DUI Accident Lawsuit
Victims injured by a drunk driver have the right to pursue two main forms of monetary compensation through a lawsuit:
This covers quantifiable financial losses like:
- Medical bills – Both current and future expenses for medical treatment related to crash injuries.
- Lost income – Wages lost due to missing work during recovery.
- Loss of future earnings – Reduced income potential if disabilities limit future employment.
- Property damage – Repair or replacement costs for a damaged vehicle or other property.
This covers intangible, quality-of-life losses:
- Pain and suffering – Physical and emotional distress caused by injuries.
- Loss of enjoyment of life – Diminished ability to participate in activities previously enjoyed.
- Loss of consortium – Loss of intimacy, companionship, etc. for the spouse of an injured victim.
Punitive damages may also be pursued in egregious cases to further punish the drunk driver’s behavior. An experienced attorney can help identify all applicable damages to maximize your payout.
Finding Representation for Your DUI Accident Lawsuit
Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is complex and requires navigating insurance negotiations, compiling evidence, determining damages, and presenting a strong legal argument in court if necessary.
An experienced DUI accident attorney levels the playing field and handles the legal process for you while you focus on recovery. Look for an attorney with a proven track record of:
- Successfully litigating DUI injury cases.
- Recovering multi-million dollar settlements for clients.
- Fighting aggressively against insurance companies.
- Having resources to investigate accidents and build strong cases.
Many reputable personal injury law firms offer free, no-obligation case evaluations to determine how much compensation you may be entitled to under the law.
Building Your Case Against the Drunk Driver
With an attorney on your side, key steps in developing a convincing DUI accident injury lawsuit include:
- Collecting evidence – Gather police reports, medical records, crash site photos, footage, witness statements, and anything else related to the accident, injuries, and fault.
- Proving intoxication – Use blood alcohol tests, field sobriety results, and witness observations to prove the driver was legally impaired.
- Demonstrating negligence – Show how the drunk driver’s impairment directly contributed to the cause of the crash through data, expert assessments, and other evidence.
- Documenting damages – Thoroughly record details of physical injuries, vehicle repairs, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the accident.
- Understanding liability laws – State laws vary on factors like comparative negligence and joint liability. An attorney will determine the best approach under applicable statutes.
- Filing timely – There are strict statutes of limitations on filing personal injury lawsuits, usually 1-2 years from the accident date.
Thorough case preparation and investigation help obtain the maximum recovery and prevent leaving compensation on the table.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
To recoup DUI accident damages, injury claims typically need to be negotiated with one or more insurance carriers, including:
- The at-fault driver’s auto liability insurer
- Your own auto insurer if filing an underinsured claim
- Government benefits like worker’s compensation
Insurers have teams of adjusters who will look for ways to minimize claim payouts. An experienced personal injury lawyer levels the playing field by aggressively negotiating for a fair settlement. Key advantages of having an attorney include:
- Understanding common insurance tactics and loopholes
- Knowing what a reasonable settlement value is
- Being able to credibly threaten to take the case to court
- Having resources to handle demands, paperwork, calls, and negotiations
Without knowledgeable legal representation, accident victims often settle for far less than they deserve. Don’t let an insurance company take advantage of your situation.
Filing and Settling Your DUI Accident Lawsuit
If insurance negotiations stall or can’t reach an adequate settlement, taking the drunk driver to court through a personal injury lawsuit may be necessary. Key steps include:
- Officially filing the lawsuit and serving notice to the defendant
- Engaging in discovery to exchange evidence and take depositions
- Presenting a demand letter with a settlement value
- Filing motions to compel action from resistant defendants
- Heading to trial if no reasonable pretrial settlement is reached
- Letting a judge or jury decide on liability and damages if necessary
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit in a DUI Accident?
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil case filed by someone injured in a DUI accident seeking compensation from the drunk driver who caused the crash and injuries. The lawsuit pursues damages like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage.
Q. Can You Sue a Drunk Driver for Personal Injury?
Yes, you can sue a drunk driver who caused an accident and injuries. Their negligence in driving drunk makes them liable for damages suffered by victims. A personal injury lawsuit holds the driver accountable.
Q. What Compensation may You be Entitled to in a DUI Accident Lawsuit?
You may be entitled to economic damages like medical expenses, lost income, and property damage. You can also recover non-economic damages for pain/suffering, emotional distress, and reduced quality of life. Punitive damages may also be awarded to punish egregious drunk driving.
- A drunk driver can be sued in a civil court for injuries and damages they caused, regardless of the outcome of their criminal case.
- Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial in navigating the legal process and ensuring your rights are protected.
- Evidence gathering is a critical step in preparing for your lawsuit.
- Negotiations with insurance companies can be challenging, but a lawyer can help you secure a fair settlement.
- A law firm specializing in DUI-related accident cases can provide invaluable support and resources.
- Victims of DUI accidents may be entitled to compensatory and punitive damages.
- You have the right to sue a drunk driver for injuries, and in some cases, establishments that served the drunk driver may also be held liable.
Suffering injuries in an accident caused by a drunk driver can be devastating. While no amount of money can undo the damage, filing a personal injury lawsuit can hold drunk drivers fully accountable and help victims move forward.
Pursuing financial recovery takes a significant burden off of victims and their families. Compensation can pay for urgent medical care, replace lost wages, properly repair vehicles and property, and help start the rebuilding process.
With strong legal representation guiding you through each step, victims can obtain rightful compensation and justice after being harmed by a negligent drunk driver. Thoroughly exploring all your legal options after a DUI crash helps protect your best interests both now and into the future.