CRASH—then silence, followed by your gasps and cries. In a fraction of a second, one driver’s night on the town can turn into your worst nightmare. Someone goes out, has a few—or more than a few—drinks with friends, then gets behind the wheel. Because of another person’s recklessness, you become the victim of a drunk driver.
Drunk driving accidents happen more often than you might think. Here are some staggering statistics:
- The U.S. ranks as the third-highest country in the world in the percentage of highway fatalities related to alcohol (31%), behind only South Africa and Canada.
- Twenty-nine (29) people die every day in the U.S. from drunk driving accidents. That’s one death every 50 minutes and 10,511 deaths each year.
- In 2019, 36,120 people died in motor vehicle crashes. Approximately one-third (1/3) of those deaths were caused by the irresponsible actions of drunk drivers.
Drunk driving is not just a danger to the person behind the wheel of a car—it’s a danger to everyone on the road. Even a drink or two can impair a driver’s coordination, reaction time, and concentration.
When a drunk-driving accident occurs, that one person’s poor judgment can dramatically impact you, your family, and those around you. While the good news is that the percentage of drunk driving deaths is falling, the startling fact is one in three people will be in a crash involving a drunk driver.
Have You Been Hit By a Drunk Driver?
If you’ve been in a motor vehicle crash and you suspect the driver involved in the accident was drunk, here’s what you need to do.
Seek advice from a personal injury attorney
Once you can safely leave the scene and have received medical treatment, the first thing you should do is to contact a personal injury attorney, who will fight to help you get just compensation for:
- Medical expenses – You may not realize the full extent of your injuries for months, and health care is expensive. Don’t be left with a pile of bills because of someone else’s negligence.
- Rehabilitation – You may need physical therapy or other rehabilitation services. A personal injury attorney can help you make sure these costs are covered.
- Work loss – You will probably need some time off from work to recover. Do you have enough sick leave and vacation time to cover these missed days?
- Damage to your vehicle – When you are physically able to drive again, you will need to have your car fixed or replaced.
Get the driver’s insurance company notified for the potential claim
Police will complete an accident report when they arrive at the scene. From this report, you and your personal injury attorney can get relevant details including date, time, contact information, witness statements—even pictures. Such information will help your attorney build your case against the drunk driver.
The accident report should contain the name of the at-fault driver’s insurance company. While you may think you should avoid talking to their insurance company, it may have its benefits.
By talking to the insurance company, you can find out the amount of insurance the drunk driver has on the policy. Once the insurance company is aware that you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses, they may offer a settlement.
Insurance companies typically prefer to settle out of court. If you’re injured and vulnerable, they may try to get you to agree to a settlement to save time and money. If you settle quickly, they won’t have to pay medical costs that may show up months down the road. They will also save on attorneys’ fees. A quick settlement will most likely be in the insurance company’s best interests, not yours.
Do not rush for a settlement
Your personal injury attorney will look out for you and your best interests and will likely tell you not to rush into a settlement offer.
While thoroughly reviewing all elements of your case, your attorney will review the available insurance to make sure you get the compensation you need. A personal injury lawyer can also examine any personal assets the drunk driver may have, particularly if you were seriously injured. This takes time.
You may be tempted to accept a quick settlement to put the car accident behind you and get on with your life. Remember, the first settlement offer will likely be less than you deserve. If the other driver is convicted of DUI, you will have a stronger case for a larger settlement.
Also, once you agree to a settlement offer, you will be asked to sign a release. Signing off means that you will not be eligible for any additional claims. Don’t sign anything without your attorney’s advice.
If, after consulting with your doctor and attorney, you feel a settlement is right for you, make that choice. A settlement will wrap up more quickly than a personal injury trial, and you will get your compensation sooner.
In case the other driver is uninsured or underinsured
While every state in the U.S. requires a driver to carry a minimum amount of insurance, a driver may be underinsured. This means they won’t have enough insurance to cover your damages. A driver may also be uninsured, flouting the law—and not carrying any car insurance at all.
You should notify your own insurance company of the accident so that it will cover your injuries. If the drunk driver is uninsured or underinsured, your insurance policy will kick in to cover your losses.
Try to track the place where the drunk driver was drinking
If possible, your personal injury attorney will try to find out where the at-fault driver was raising a glass before the drunk-driving accident.
Depending upon your state’s dram shop laws, a bar or restaurant may or may not be protected if they served the intoxicated person enough alcohol to impair them (or served underage individuals). Find out if the establishment can be held liable for their customer’s drunk driving accident. These situations include knowingly serving someone with a history of alcohol abuse or knowingly serving a minor.
Your job right now is to recover from your injuries. Once the name of the business that sold alcohol to the drunk driver is known, your attorney can interview witnesses and obtain any security camera footage. Your lawyer will need to gather this information as soon as possible since it may be helpful to your case.
What to expect if you live in a no-fault state?
Florida is a no-fault state. That means your own car insurance policy will cover any injuries from a car accident—even ones caused by a drunk driver.
However, exceptions exist. If you sustain a permanent injury, or if your injuries total more than $10,000, you will need to pursue a lawsuit against the other driver and their insurance company. Also, if the drunk driver is uninsured, litigation will be your only option.
These matters can be tricky, and since you’re already dealing with the injuries and property damage from the accident, your best bet is to work with a personal injury lawyer.
Contact Us and Demand More®
If you have been injured by a drunk driver in Palm Beach County, FL, please contact me, Brian D. Guralnick, to discuss your legal rights. To learn how our injury team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers can help you Demand More® for your injuries, be sure to call now.
Disclaimer: You should not take any information in this blog as legal advice in any situation. If you need expertise regarding a specific issue, contact a qualified personal injury attorney.