Nobody wants to get into a car accident, but sometimes, it's unavoidable because of the other driver's actions. When it comes to drunk driving, the at-fault driver is nearly always the person driving under the influence. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident with a drunk driver, keep reading to learn more.
You May Be Called to Testify
Many traffic violations require no witnesses, such as speeding. However, when alcohol is involved, the driver who caused the accident may also face criminal charges, especially if someone was hurt or damages were caused by the drunk driver. While this doesn't affect you directly, you may be called as a witness to testify on behalf of the plaintiff.
While in court, you will be subjected to questions by both the plaintiff's attorney and the defendants, which can be incredibly stressful, especially after a traumatic event like a car accident.
You May Be Allowed to File a Civil Case
In most cases, you can file a civil case against a drunk driver, but it depends on where you live. In pure negligence states, you can typically always sue a drunk driver, and you only have to prove the other driver was at fault to win.
In states that follow no-fault laws, filing a civil case can be difficult. Typically, in no-fault states, you have to have experienced major injuries to qualify for a lawsuit. You can, however, file a lawsuit with your own insurance carrier to help pay for property damages and minor injuries.
You May Be Able to File a Wrongful Death Claim
If your loved one is the victim of a drunk driver and the accident causes their death, you may have a wrongful death claim on your hands. Wrongful death claims arise when the victim would have had every right to sue for their own injuries if they hadn't passed. Wrongful death claims are often brought by surviving spouses, children, and parents.
If the deceased has no close family, or the family is too preoccupied with the loved one's passing, they may promote a representative to file the claim on their behalf or on behalf of the estate.
You May Have More Time to File Your Claim
Depending on where you live, you may have one, two, or three years to file your civil case. If you wait longer than the statute of limitations in your state, your claim will not be considered. If the at-fault driver is also facing criminal charges, however, you may have more time to file.
In some states, the statute of limitations is extended because criminal trials can take months or even years. However, in other states, you may be allowed to start the civil lawsuit before the criminal proceedings have ended.
You May Be Awarded Punitive Damages
There are many types of damages the court may award you. For example, in most cases, the settlement will include medical expenses, but you may also get money for property damages, pain and suffering, future medical expenses, and lost wages. To be awarded these damages, however, you have to prove you suffered loss because of the accident.
Punitive damages, however, are different. Punitive damages aren't about making you whole again; they are about punishing the defendant. Punitive damages aren't always awarded, but it is always a possibility in drunk driving cases, especially if the drunk driver behaved particularly problematic, such as drinking well beyond the legal limit or committing other crimes at the time. You still get the punitive damages.
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to a collision with a drunk driver, it's time to take action. You deserve money to pay for your medical bills. For more information, contact an auto accident attorney in your area today.