Experiencing a car crash can be traumatizing and incredibly disruptive no matter the circumstances, but when you are hit by a drunk driver, it can be even more horrifying. Surviving a DUI accident will likely leave you with lots of questions as well as plenty of loose ends to tie.
From car repairs to medical bills to legal challenges, it can be a lot to navigate — especially if you are also recovering from injuries sustained in the DUI accident.
A car accident lawyer will know how to get you the best outcome.
Here’s what you need to know to get things back on track as soon as possible.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a Crime in Every State
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that someone who chose to drive while intoxicated on alcohol or under the influence of other drugs was breaking the law. Every single state in America has legislation against driving under the influence (DUI). While the specific threshold for what constitutes a DUI may vary from state to state, the general definition is designed to dissuade those who are intoxicated or otherwise impaired from getting behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, far too many people do not take heed of this legal warning. According to the NHTSA, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 52 minutes in the United States. Anyone who has a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or greater is generally considered impaired, though even smaller amounts of alcohol can disrupt driving abilities. In particular, response times can be slowed by the influence of alcohol or drugs, and that’s often all it takes to turn a close call into a catastrophic accident.
At a BAC of just .02, many people will experience a lack of focus and a loss of keen judgment. These are both skills that someone behind the wheel of a vehicle needs to make the safest, most informed driving decisions. By the time that a BAC of .08 (the legal threshold for DUI in almost every state) is reached, the driver will be experiencing poor coordination, lack of concentration, and impaired visual perception.
A DUI is an accident waiting to happen.
Criminal vs. Civil Consequences for a DUI Accident
As the victim of a DUI accident, it’s important to understand the next steps of the process. First and foremost, the driver will likely face criminal consequences for their actions. Depending on the specific laws of the state in question, a driver convicted of DUI will likely lose their license and will face jail time and fees. They may have to do community service, attend an alcohol education course, or put a device on their car that monitors the driver’s alcohol intake before becoming operable.
While these consequences can certainly help persuade the driver not to re-offend, they do little to address the concerns of the victim of a DUI accident. You are likely facing many costs associated with the accident. The most common include the following:
- Damages to the vehicle
- Medical bills for emergency treatment of injuries stemming from the accident
- Ongoing medical bills for treatment including medication, surgeries, and physical therapy
- Lost wages from missing work due to injury or lack of transportation
- Mental anguish/pain and suffering
The above-mentioned consequences facing the driver are criminal in nature, but those who cause a DUI accident can also face civil consequences for their actions. Through a lawsuit, the victim of a DUI accident can sue for damages in an attempt to recoup some of their losses and ease the burden of recovery.
When Can You File a Civil Lawsuit in a DUI Accident?
Not every accident caused by a drunk driver will be eligible for a civil lawsuit. If the victim has accepted a settlement from the driver’s insurance company, for instance, then they likely waived the right to pursue a civil lawsuit as part of that settlement agreement.
In addition, some states are “No-Fault” states. In these states, victims must show damages that exceed a certain threshold in order to be eligible for a civil lawsuit. Those who only sustain property damage or minor medical injuries will likely have to go through their own insurance company to seek relief. On the other hand, those who have substantial medical damages and losses are likely eligible to file a civil suit — even in a no-fault state.
Those who are injured in pure negligence states will likely have full freedom to file a civil lawsuit. The success of the lawsuit will often hinge on how well the victim is able to demonstrate their losses through documentation and evidence.
If you have been injured in a DUI accident, you’re likely dealing with a lot of moving pieces. Having an experienced and dedicated car accident attorney to help you sort through the evidence of your losses and determine whether a civil lawsuit is the best next step to address those damages can provide a clear path forward.