Here's a sobering statistic: two out of every five people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. Some of these crashes are minor fender-benders, and some of them result in serious injury or even death.
Think of your four closest friends or family members. In the course of your lifetimes, two of you will have contact with a drunk driver, possibly even with tragic consequences.
What constitutes drunk driving?
Nationwide, driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent is considered a crime, though specific laws and penalties vary from state to state.
If you're a victim of a drunk driver
Accidents related to drunk driving occur every 45 minutes in the United States. If you happen to be one of the unfortunate people hit by a drunk driver, there are steps you can take to preserve your legal rights.
- Call 911 - If you are able, summon emergency assistance from police and paramedics. If you are injured, medical personnel will treat you and document your injuries, and law enforcement personnel will document the accident scene.
- Document the accident - This is where your smartphone will come in handy. Photos taken of the accident scene, as well as contact information of any witnesses, can be useful.
- Contact your insurance company - Reporting an accident in which you are not at fault will help you to claim benefits due to you according to your insurance contract. Your insurance company can also help navigate the claim with the other driver's insurance company.
- Obtain a copy of the accident report - Reviewing the report filed by law enforcement will allow you to spot wrong information and request necessary corrections from the responding agency. Be sure to double check such items as time of day, road conditions, accident specifics, and other driver's condition. If the other driver was ticketed or taken into custody, make sure the accident report states this fact. If you were attended to by medical personnel, obtain a copy of their report, as well.
- Have your injuries documented by a physician - Even with on-scene medical treatment, some injuries may not become apparent right away. Having your doctor examine you and document any pain or injuries that result from the accident is important if you need to seek legal recourse.
Contacting an attorney
An attorney can help you to receive compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Pain & suffering
- Lost wages
- Property damage
An experienced attorney will examine the information you've collected and the facts regarding the accident and determine if you have a valid case.
Criminal Suit vs. Civil Suit
A drunk driver may face criminal charges stemming from the accident and if convicted can face jail time as well as being required to provide compensation for his or her actions. However, while a criminal suit is designed to protect the public at large from future harm, a civil suit is an injury lawsuit filed by a victim or victim's family to hold the drunk driver financially accountable for his or her actions. If you or someone in your family are injured by a drunk driver, a civil suit can help you to recover losses for medical treatment, lost wages, damaged property, and other economic damages as well as compensation for pain and suffering.
Remember, even if a drunk driver faces criminal charges in your accident, only a civil claim will ensure that you are properly compensated for your injuries. Pursuing a civil suit against the drunk driver is the only way to assure that the damages and loss that you have suffered will be appropriately and legally addressed. An experienced attorney will examine the facts related to the accident and develop a case that focuses strictly on your loss, separate from any criminal charges the drunk driver may face.
If you've been hit by a drunk driver, you should not rely solely on the criminal courts to protect and preserve your legal rights. An attorney experienced in drunk driving cases will help you to receive the compensation to which you are entitled.