Drunk driving can ruin lives. No one is a good driver when they're drunk and choosing to drive while under the influence is one of the poorest life decisions any of us can make.
Over 30% of all crashes involve an alcohol-impaired driver. These accidents lead to almost one death every hour. Though this is much less than the total even ten years ago, it is still too high. If you or someone you know was involved in a crash that included a drunk driver or someone under the influence of alcohol or another illegal substance you may be entitled to compensation for any or all of the pain and suffering, you have been caused.
This may amount to as little as your medical bills being paid or as much as compensation for lifestyle changes, the inability to work, loss of future income, or other changes to your lifestyle.
What You Must Do First
Before anything else, make sure that you are in the best health you can be in. Get an official medical report and make sure your doctor dictates some detail of the accident. These records will prove invaluable once you file your claim. Once you do decide to file a claim, make sure you know what you need to get covered or reimbursed for. Make a list of the alterations you have had to make.
Have you missed work or school? What injuries or conditions have you or your family suffered after the accident? Don't forget to list mental health concerns, too. Accidents like these have been observed to cause everything from OCD to panic disorders in their victims.
How These Crashes Happen
It is illegal in every state to have a Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC of 0.08 or greater and drive. Though the risk of a collision greatly increases at this threshold, it is possible to be drunk at a much lower concentration. Though it may not be illegal to drive, individuals can be affected by alcohol to the extent that their coordination and judgment is significantly impaired at a BAC of just 0.02. Depending on the person and their resilience to alcohol, that percentage could be even lower. It is even possible that the alcohol content in the blood of the driver at fault is so low that it can't be detected on a standard test but still could interfere with their driving ability. This could be due to a weak reaction to alcohol consumption or because of an interaction with medication. For instance, several antidepressants and anxiolytics have been observed to greatly amplify the effects of alcohol on the body and vice versa.
Your Next Steps
You must realize before you begin to collect evidence to prove your claim, the focus of proof is not to prove that the other driver was intoxicated or under the influence. The goal is to demonstrate that while this was happening they were negligently operating their vehicle and that led to their crash with your car. In short, their drinking didn't cause the crash but the behavior they displayed because of the drinking did. In any case, as a victim of a drunk driver, you have a strong position to negotiate from. There is clear, well-documented evidence in your favor from the initial police report and arrest record.
This evidence will make it much easier for your attorney to get the most compensation possible for you. Alternatively, if you decide to negotiate your claim by yourself, you still start with this advantage. In some cases, things may not be this straightforward. Crashes can be disorienting. Try to remember as much detail about the events leading up to the accident, the crash itself, and what happened immediately after.
Pay attention to the actions of the other driver, especially if you suspected them to be under the influence and they were never tested. Did they smell like alcohol or smoke? Did they try to dispose of or hide any cans or containers before the police arrived? Did a sober passenger try to take the place of the driver? If any of these answers alert you to the possibility that the other driver may have been impaired in some way, make a note of it and tell the police, even after the fact. Records like these may be critical as the case progresses.
Why You Need an Attorney on Your Side
If you are injured in a drunk driving crash, it is crucial that you have someone to support you through the claims process. It can be hard to process everything you need to do while you are in pain. The pain may be emotional as well as physical especially as the stress of paying additional medical bills or caring for injured family members builds. As you move forward, an attorney will be on your side and fight for you.
Even if evidence or a clear conviction is lacking, they may still be able to present enough evidence to prove the liability of the other driver. Further, an experienced attorney will not allow you to accept an offer or settlement of less than what you deserve. They will negotiate with the other parties to make sure you receive everything you and your family needs to remain as comfortable as possible during this traumatic time and in the future.
Keep in mind that the compensation you need isn't just for right now unless your injuries were very minor. If there are any long-standing consequences or any that have the potential to be long standing, make sure you are prepared. Consult with your doctor about future possibilities and the likelihood that any of your injuries will persist.
Make sure that you don't agree to anything too soon. Your attorney will walk you through this process, too. When you go to hire an attorney, ask questions. Make sure you feel comfortable working with whoever you choose. Do they offer a fee structure that you feel comfortable with? Have they handled cases like yours
Deadlines You Must Be Aware Of
Every state has slightly different laws and regulations that you must follow. In a few, you have as little as three months to file your initial claim from the time of the accident. Others allow up to two years or even longer, depending on your circumstances.
It is critical that you be aware of these deadlines and do not miss them. There are no second chances to initiate your claim. However, in many cases you may file an appeal should your claim be denied. An appeal must be accompanied by additional and significant evidence. If you are concerned that you may miss a deadline or have insufficient evidence at any time, do contact an experienced attorney.
You Deserve to Be Compensated for Your Pain or Loss
Accidents that involve a drunk driver can be traumatizing. Worse, they are likely to result in severe injury or the possibility of death. Choosing to drive under the influence of any substance is a life-altering decision, but it is a decision. This decision, made by another driver and most likely a stranger, could change your life forever in a matter of seconds.
If this happens or has happened, do not hesitate to ask for help. Most law offices allow you to come in for a free consultation. Many times, they won't ask for any type of payment until they win your case. If the crash you were part of led to any sort of significant injury or even death, you deserve everything a qualified attorney can help you get. Anyone could be the victim of a drunk driving accident, that's why there are systems in place to help every victim.