When You’re the Victim of a Drunk Driving Accident
According to the CDC, alcohol-related crashes in the U.S. cost approximately 51 billion dollars every year and the Office for Victims of Crimes estimates that 30 percent of Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related accident at some point in their lifetime. Drunk driving has affected countless numbers of lives and are tried differently than traffic accidents where alcohol is not involved. Therefore, it is not only important to know what to do when you are involved in a car accident (see What to Expect When You’re in a Car Accident and How to Preserve Evidence after a Car Accident), but it is essential to seek legal advice to learn about your rights when your life is affected by a drunk driver.
Alcohol is usually considered an aggravating factor in car accidents. An aggravating factor is a reason why someone who has plead or been found guilty should receive a more harsh sentence. It is also something that is used to increase the value of a claim above and beyond what it would have been had the aggravating factor not been a factor in the claim. When aggravating factors are involved in a claim, you are filing for punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to reform or deter the defendant from repeating the reprehensible behavior that caused your damages and/or injury. A drunk driver accident attorney will know how to file for punitive damages and can help you understand different factors that may help you receive the full compensation that you are entitled to.
Another thing to think about when you are the victim of a drunk driving accident is who is liable for the accident. While the obvious answer may be the drunk driver, in some circumstances dram shop liability (see article link) may apply; that is, the party that supplied the liquor may also be held liable. Therefore, it is important to understand that when you are involved in a drunk driving accident, you may have multiple claims to file. An experienced drunk driver accident attorney will be able to investigate your claim and prosecute for the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to.
In addition to civil charges, drunk drivers are often subject to criminal charges. As such, you may be entitled to recover some of your damages through state victim assistance and compensation programs. Some states offer these programs to help reimburse crime victims and offer victim services when a drunk driver does not have liability insurance. An experienced drunk driver attorney will know how to help you recover losses and will be familiar with state programs that offer assistance to victims of drunk driving accidents.
Also be aware that when insurance claims adjustors contact you they are trying to establish liability and limit damages. To avoid inadvertently reducing your damages, it is best to have an attorney with experience handling drunk driving claims handle all communication with your insurance agency. If the other person’s insurance company contacts you, it is best to say that you are not prepared to speak with them at that time and tell them you will have your attorney contact them. Allowing your drunk driver accident attorney to work with the insurance agencies will help you avoid financially painful mistakes.
When selecting an attorney to represent your drunk driving claim, it is important to know how many victims your potential lawyer has represented. You will also want to ask the attorney if he or she is willing to seek damages against the party or establishment that served the drunk driver alcohol and if they are willing to pursue criminal charges against the drunk driver. It is also good to know the success the attorney has had representing victims of drunk driving accidents. Hiring an attorney with expertise in trying drunk driving claims and a proven track record of success will increase your chances of obtaining a fair recovery.
Drunk driving accidents cause tremendous amounts of suffering and there are several organizations that are working to not only reduce alcohol-related accidents but eliminate drunk driving accidents. These organizations also offer programs and information for people whose lives have been affected by drunk drivers. If you would like more information about resources for victims of drunk driving accidents, you can contact the following organizations: Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, Impaired Driving (Drugs & Alcohol) Safety Program, Remove Intoxicated Drivers-USA, and Witness Justice.