Drunk driving car accidents may cause severe injuries and sometimes fatalities. Various pieces of evidence, including police reports and eyewitness statements, can be crucial when proving the required legal elements of your claim.
In addition to seeking prompt medical treatment after your accident, you should speak with a knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyer in your area as soon as possible. Your lawyer can discuss the circumstances of your accident with you and begin collecting the evidence necessary to prove your case.
In addition to helping you satisfy the required legal elements, your lawyer can assist with settlement negotiations and can help you pursue the maximum amount of damages available for your injuries. If the insurance company does not compensate you appropriately, your lawyer can escalate the matter and file a lawsuit in court.
Legal Limits for Alcohol Intoxication
Given the many dangers drunk drivers cause, including the prospect of severe accidents and injuries, the law severely penalizes drunk drivers. In most instances, a driver is legally intoxicated if breathalyzer evidence reveals they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
Commercial vehicle drivers, including tractor-trailer and big rig operators, are legally intoxicated if they have a BAC of 0.04 percent or more. A zero-tolerance policy exists for drivers who are under 21 years old.
An individual who sustains a DUI conviction may face severe criminal penalties, including fines and jail time. Moreover, if they cause a traffic accident that leads to injuries, the drunk driver and their insurance company may be responsible for civil damages, including paying monetary compensation to the accident victim.
In a personal injury claim, it is essential that the accident victim, through their lawyer, obtain various vital documents, including copies of police reports, written eyewitness statements, traffic citations, breathalyzer test results, and field sobriety test results. Your lawyer can help you recover this documentation—via subpoena, if necessary—and assist you with proving your claim’s legal elements.
How Alcohol Impacts a Driver’s Brain
Alcohol is a depressant. Consequently, it impairs a driver’s brain functioning, slowing down their central nervous system and preventing them from operating their vehicle safely. Many drunk drivers experience physical symptoms, including blurred vision and nausea. Moreover, alcohol intoxication may alter a driver’s ability to concentrate and slow down their reaction time. Consequently, the driver may be unable to stop their vehicle in time to avoid a severe collision.
Types of Accidents that Impaired Drivers Cause
When drivers get behind the wheel after having too many drinks, they significantly increase their chances of causing a severe accident. Some of the most common accidents that drunk drivers cause include rear-end crashes, broadside collisions, sideswipe accidents, and head-on accidents.
Rear-end accidents occur when the front of one vehicle strikes the back of another car. Drunk drivers often lose control of their vehicle and cannot stop in time to avoid a crash. This is especially true if they drive at high speeds and traffic slows down quickly.
Broadside collisions, or T-bone accidents, often occur at traffic intersections, where the front of one vehicle strikes the side of an adjacent car. In many instances, drunk drivers fail to notice a red traffic light or stop sign up ahead. Consequently, they might strike an adjacent vehicle with a significant amount of force, causing the vehicle to overturn or spin around rapidly in the intersection.
Sideswipe accidents happen when the sides of two vehicles strike one another. In the context of drunk driving, an impaired driver may negligently cause their car to veer into another travel lane, pushing the vehicle on the receiving end entirely off the road.
Finally, head-on crashes happen when the fronts of two vehicles collide. An impaired driver might negligently cause their car to cross the median strip or center line, striking another vehicle directly and causing the occupants to suffer serious injuries or fatalities.
If you suffered injuries in one of these accidents that a drunk driver caused, you have legal options available to you. A knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyer can review those options and help you select the best one for your unique personal injury claim. Your lawyer will do everything they can to help you recover the maximum damages for your accident-related injuries.
The Burden of Proof in Drunk Driving Accident Cases
Even when a drunk driver causes a serious accident, it is the accident victim who has the sole legal burden of proof. Specifically, the accident victim must demonstrate that the at-fault driver was intoxicated and that, as a result, they caused the subject accident. Next, the accident victim must show that they suffered one or more injuries that directly resulted from the crash.
A knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyer in your area can help you prove these legal elements. To establish liability on the drunk driver’s part, your lawyer may need to introduce various pieces of evidence, including the police report. At other times, the insurance company may admit fault for the accident. This is especially true in cases where the drunk driver received a traffic citation and liability is clear.
In addition, drunk driving accident victims may need to retain a medical expert in their personal injury case. Medical experts may establish, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the accident victim’s injuries directly resulted from their accident. Moreover, the medical expert can testify that one or more of the accident victim’s injuries are permanent. A permanent injury is one that is unlikely to improve with time and prolonged medical treatment.
Essential Pieces of Evidence in Drunk Driving Accident Cases
An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove fault in your case. First, you or your lawyer should obtain a copy of the police report. If necessary, your lawyer can issue a subpoena to obtain a copy of that report. Moreover, your lawyer can subpoena the police officer to come to court and authenticate the information at your trial.
Police reports are critical pieces of evidence in drunk driving accident cases. These reports typically detail how the accident occurred and whether or not the driver was intoxicated. Moreover, if the police officer issued a citation at the accident scene, the report will typically state that fact and note the reason for the traffic citation.
If the police officer was wearing a body camera at the time of the accident—or shortly thereafter—your lawyer can also subpoena this footage. Similarly, the police officer can appear in court to authenticate the footage, which may show the accident and what happened thereafter.
In addition to police reports and body cam footage, security camera footage from nearby businesses can be powerful evidence in a drunk driving accident case. Many companies leave security cameras running 24 hours a day. If a security camera recorded your accident, the footage might show how the accident occurred, the directions of the vehicles, the at-fault driver’s maneuvers, and who caused the accident.
A personal injury lawyer can obtain copies of this security cam footage by sending a spoliation letter to the business or issuing a subpoena for the camera footage.
Finally, your lawyer can speak with individuals who were eyewitnesses to the crash. An eyewitness may testify as to the vehicles’ respective positions, driving maneuvers, and speeds. Moreover, an eyewitness might have prepared a statement at the accident scene, describing what they observed and detailing how the accident occurred. Car accident eyewitnesses are oftentimes crucial witnesses because they are generally unbiased. A personal injury lawyer can subpoena the eyewitness to testify in court about their observations.
A knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyer in your area can help you gather the evidence you need to successfully prove the fault element of your personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Injuries that Drunk Driving Accident Victims Often Suffer
When drunk drivers cause accidents, victims may suffer severe injuries that require prompt and ongoing medical treatment. The injuries that a car crash victim suffers typically depend upon the force of the impact and the way in which their body moves in the car at the time of impact. Since many drunk driving accidents occur at high speeds, the injuries that accident victims suffer can lead to permanent complications.
Some of the most common injuries that drunk driving accident victims sustain include traumatic head and brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, broken bones, internal organ damage, paralysis, spinal cord injuries, and death.
As soon as possible after a drunk driving accident, you should seek follow-up medical care at a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility. The medical provider on duty can thoroughly examine you, take the necessary imaging studies, and render an accurate diagnosis. You might also need to attend follow-up medical appointments with your primary care doctor, specialist, or physical therapist, after your initial hospital or urgent care visit.
While you complete your medical treatment and focus on getting better, your lawyer can start handling the legal aspects of your personal injury claim. Specifically, a lawyer can gather your lost wage documents, medical treatment records, victim impact statement, and other documents and assemble them into a settlement demand package. Once your treatment is complete, your lawyer can forward these documents to the insurance company adjuster and begin settlement negotiations in your personal injury claim.
Compensable Damages in Drunk Driving Accident Claims and Lawsuits
Victims of drunk driving accidents who suffer injuries may be eligible to recover several types of damages. Since all drunk driving accident cases are different, the damages that one accident victim recovers may differ from those another victim recovers.
Factors that impact a damage award include the severity of the accident victim’s injuries, the extent of their medical treatment, whether they missed work time, and the amount of pain and suffering they endured.
Common damages that an accident victim may recover include compensation for:
- Lost wages where the accident victim was unable to work for a period of time after their accident due to the injuries they suffered
- Loss of earning capacity where the accident victim can no longer continue with their pre-accident occupation due to their injuries and had to switch to a lower-paying job
- Inconvenience for the overall disruption to their life that an individual experienced due to their accident, resulting injuries, and medical treatment
- Mental distress where the accident victim suffered emotional anguish, mental distress, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to accident-related trauma
- Past/future pain and suffering where the accident victim experienced pain and other symptoms between the accident date and the present time—or where the accident victim is likely to experience symptoms going forward
- Loss of use of a body part where the accident victim suffers a permanent injury in their accident, such as full or partial paralysis, which prevents them from using a body part(s) after their accident
- Loss of life enjoyment where the accident victim can no longer enjoy sports, recreational activities, and other activities they enjoyed before their accident
- Loss of spousal companionship where the accident victim’s injuries preclude sexual intimacy with a spouse following their accident
Your lawyer will work hard to maximize the compensation you recover in your personal injury claim by zealously negotiating with the insurance company and, if necessary, threatening them with litigation.
Call a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident, your lawyer can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove your case. In addition to investigating the circumstances of your accident and gathering evidence on your behalf, your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company adjuster and pursue the highest amount of compensation available to you.
If the insurance company does not take your case seriously, your drunk driving accident lawyer can threaten litigation and, if necessary, file a lawsuit in court. Your lawyer can then help you recover the damages you need via settlement, jury trial, or alternative dispute resolution—such as mediation or binding arbitration. The right lawyer will do what it takes to resolve the matter in your favour whenever possible.
Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.