You do not need to hire a lawyer if you were injured by a drunk driver. If you want to seek compensation for the damages you’ve suffered, you can pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver who hit you and represent yourself. Without legal training and experience dealing with drunk driving accident lawsuits, however, you might make some costly mistakes that prevent you from receiving any compensation for your injuries at all.
Hiring a DUI accident attorney gives your case a much better chance of succeeding. Your lawyer can help you through the entire process — which can be lengthy — and stand by your side in court. They’ll also help you avoid any errors and stand up for your rights.
What to Do After Getting Hit by a Drunk Driver
Your life can change dramatically after getting hit by a drunk driver. The actions you take directly after a drunk driving collision have an impact on your potential personal injury case.
Call emergency services
Health and safety are priorities at a crash site. If you or someone else is hurt, call 911 immediately to get the proper medical attention. Your injuries and treatment will also be documented, which you can use when building your case later on.
Call the police
You should always call the police after a car accident, whether the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or not. A police officer on the scene can create a police report documenting the facts of the collision. They can also administer sobriety or breathalyzer tests.
Exchange insurance information
Have the police officer help you get the insurance and contact information from the other driver, as well as their driver’s license number and license plate number.
If you’re well enough, take photos of your vehicle, street signs, traffic signals, lighting conditions and other details you can think of. Try to get the names of witnesses if there were any, too. While gathering evidence is important, you should also avoid getting in the way of the police investigation at the scene.
Call a DUI accident attorney
Once things are wrapped up at the collision and you’ve started your recovery, contact a lawyer about your accident. If you were hit by a drunk driver, you might think you can easily win a civil case on your own. In reality, filing a lawsuit isn’t so simple, and you may actually be entitled to more compensation than you think — and an attorney can help you get it.
Is a drunk driver always at fault in an accident?
If a drunk driver hit you, you might assume they’re automatically the one at fault, but that’s not always true. It can help your case if the other driver gets ticketed for a DUI, but you and your attorney still need to prove fault if you want to go after compensation.
Proving fault in a car accident case requires showing that the drunk driver owed the plaintiff (you) a duty of care and violated that duty and that you suffered harm (damages) as a result. When we get behind the wheel of a car on public roads, we have a duty of care to operate our vehicles in a safe way. If we drive while intoxicated, we violate that duty of care. But that doesn’t mean an accident that occurs is the direct result of intoxication.
You may be the one who caused the accident, and if you are, the drunk driver may not have to pay for your injuries and losses. If the two of you share fault, then modified comparative negligence may apply and you can receive compensation for a percentage of the accident.
How to sue a drunk driver
If you are hit by an intoxicated driver and injured in the crash, you may be able to sue the drunk driver for damages. You will need to use evidence such as the driver’s intoxication to show that they were negligent, and that you were injured as a result of that negligence. If you can do that, you may be able to get compensation.
The first step before bringing a lawsuit against a drunk driver is filing an insurance claim. Your auto insurance policy should cover some of your medical bills and other expenses, but probably not all of them. The other driver’s policy should apply at this point to help cover your remaining expenses but it’s possible their policy limit won’t be enough.
When the money you get from insurance (your policy and the other driver’s) isn’t enough to cover your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and other damages, your next option may be filing a lawsuit. You can speak with a personal injury lawyer about your drunk driver accident to see if taking legal action against the other driver is the best option for your situation.
The Average Settlement for a Drunk Driving Accident Case
There’s no average amount for drunk driving accident cases, as each one differs substantially. A variety of factors may help determine which damages you can recover, such as the road conditions, the extent of your injuries, and damage to your vehicle, if any.
An experienced DUI accident lawyer can help you calculate the costs of the damages you’ve suffered and give you a good idea of what your settlement amount may be. Typical damages you can receive from a drunk driving car accident include:
- Lost wages if your injuries caused you to miss work
- Medical expenses for emergency room visits, hospital bills, doctors’ visits, and medications
- Repairs to or replacement of your vehicle
- Reducing earning capacity if your injuries are permanent and force you to change careers
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish or trauma
Some damages, such as medical bills and lost wages are easy to quantify — but how do you put a price on the loss of enjoyment of life? An attorney who’s handled many drunk driving car accident cases before will be able to help with calculating non-economic damages to ensure you’re compensated for everything you’re entitled to.
In most car accidents, there’s no crime committed. If there’s a case, it’s a civil lawsuit. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a crime, however, so if you are injured by a drunk driver you are the victim of a crime. Therefore, you may be entitled to victim restitution. This money would be separate from a settlement or court-ordered award you could receive from a civil lawsuit.
The Benefits of Hiring an Attorney for a DUI Accident
You may not need an attorney to sue a drunk driver after an accident, but the benefits of hiring one greatly outweigh the risks of going it alone:
- An attorney can help you accurately calculate damages, even for non-economic damages.
- A personal injury attorney that works on contingency won’t accept payment from you unless you get a settlement or court-ordered award.
- An attorney can take your case to trial and represent you in court if your settlement negotiations fail.
To have the best chance of getting a favorable outcome for your drunk driver accident case, work with an experienced attorney. Not only will they have the skills and knowledge to handle your case, but they can also advise you on the best steps to take and offer support as you go through the arduous recovery process.
If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver and would like to explore legal representation, call us at (317)-334-9200 us and we’ll help you understand your options.