Getting into a car accident is no fun for anyone no matter how big or small it is. It can change your world in a matter of seconds.
What happens when the driver at fault is drunk? What are your options when hit by a drunk driver? What do you do now?
Seek Medical Attention
Whether you think you are injured or not, you should always seek medical attention even if you have to pay for it out of pocket. Having medical evidence of any injuries will help with a settlement from the insurance company, and if it goes to court, it will help your case. Continue to see a medical professional for any new or worsening symptoms related to the accident.
Determine Who Is Liable
Most accidents involving a drunk driver are deemed as the drunk driver being at fault. However, depending on circumstances, you could be at fault or partial fault. You have to be able to prove that the negligence of the drunk driver is linked to his intoxication and it caused the accident. There are five basic elements of a negligent case:
- Duty: When you are operating a vehicle you must follow all traffic laws, yield to hazards, and respect the safety of others.
- Breach of Duty: Speeding, driving recklessly, and driving impaired
- Cause in Fact: If the drunk driver was not impaired, would you still have suffered injuries
- Proximate Cause: The drunk driver’s impairment cannot be proven to the proximate cause of your injuries if your injuries were not able to be reasonably foreseen by the drunk driver.
- Damages: You must be able to prove you suffered damages (bodily or vehicle)
Do Not Settle Right Away
The other person’s insurance company will try to get to settle sooner rather than later. This is not a good idea because some injuries do not show up immediately or become worse. You want to wait until you are stable. You will also be asked to sign a release of liability at the time of settlement meaning if more injuries show up related to the accident, you will not be able to present them as part of your claim.
You will also have a better chance of getting a higher settlement if the drunk driver is convicted of or pleaded guilty of driving under the influence (DUI).
There are state limits to how much an insurance company will pay, usually in the $50,000 range. If your damages are more than the state limit, you may need to move forward with a civil lawsuit to recover your damages. If there are multiple victims making a claim against the drunk driver, then the state limit will be split between each victim.
Find Out if Your State has a Fault or No-Fault Insurance Law
There are about a dozen states that have a no-fault insurance law meaning your insurance is responsible for paying for your injury claims. In this case, you can either file a lawsuit with the at-fault party or claim with your health insurance policy. You will need to use your injury protection coverage unless your injuries meet your state’s definition of serious injuries or your medical bills are high enough. In this case, you can go outside of the confines of the no-fault system.
Hire an attorney
If you are hit by a drunk driver, you should hire an attorney to help you with your case. Finding one that practices personal injury will help you build a case and determine who is liable.