Car accidents are the most common type of accident in the US, and like many other types of accidents, most are caused by some degree of negligence. Often, this negligence is the commission or omission of a relatively minor act that leads to an accident. Sometimes, however, the negligence is operating a vehicle under the influence.
Driving under the influence, or DUI can result in incredibly serious accidents. This can be due to the often reckless behavior of the drunk driver, as well as the speeds and circumstances of the accidents themselves. If you have been involved in an accident involving a driver suspected of DUI, you may be wondering about the insurance claim from that accident, if you can claim, and how to pursue it.
What Happens After A DUI Accident
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the officer or officers at the scene will often have two options for how to proceed with the person suspected of DUI. The options depend on the conduct and the results of any accidents that occur.
Charged And Released
If someone is arrested for drunk driving, and they hit a parked car or some other relatively minor property damage that includes no injuries, there is the possibility that the driver will be charged and released. They are often put in a holding cell, sometimes called the “drunk tank”, and can be released on bond or recognizance once sober.
Held In Custody Until Trial
In any DUI accident with injuries, the driver suspected of DUI is taken to the station and booked into jail. In many cases where there are significant injuries or a fatality, the driver will not be eligible for bail. In this situation, they will remain in custody until the date of their trial. In addition to criminal charges, the driver may also face civil suits from the victim.
How To Bring A Drunk Driving Car Accident Claim
Each driver on the road has a duty of care to those around them to behave responsibly and to operate their vehicle safely, following all applicable laws and regulations. In many areas, this also includes proper vehicle maintenance and ensuring that it is roadworthy. If you are involved in an accident with a potential drunk driver, try not to let it get you too upset at the scene, you need to think clearly.
Even if the driver was charged and subsequently convicted of DUI, bringing a claim against them or their insurer will still require you to prove they were the cause of the accident. In many cases, simply being drunk is not enough cause.
Victims in some jurisdictions that use contributory or comparative negligence could even find themselves facing accusations of fault by the other party's insurer. To be sure that you collect the maximum amount owed to you, you should give serious thought to working with an attorney.
Don't Settle Too Quickly
You may find that a few days after the accident, the other driver's insurer contacts you under the guise of “checking up on you”. This is often an attempt to get you to say something on a recorded call that they can use against you. Failing that, they may offer you a lowball settlement.
While your injuries may seem minor, or well-managed, you never know if there will be complications until your doctor decides that you are fully healed. This ensures that you will not have any surprise medical expenses later. Once you agree to a settlement, you will usually sign a waiver preventing you from seeking damages for that same accident or injury.
Convictions Strengthen Your Claim
If there has been a conviction, your case will be in a much better position. The insurance company will do what they can to keep a drunk driving case out of the courts, where a jury will nearly always return a sizeable cash prize. Even the most expensive settlements can be far cheaper than the awards given during a trial.
Try To Settle Rather Than Go To Trial
Every state requires that its drivers maintain a minimum amount of insurance coverage, so if your driver carried insurance, be sure your attorney knows this as well so that an insurance claim can be filed. Filling an insurance claim is often the best route to go, an exception being if your damages were more than the state's limits. If your damages top those limits, you should plan on heading to the courthouse to file a suit.
The Differences Between Fault and No-Fault States
Some states now operate under an insurance claim framework that is referred to as “no-fault”. These “no-fault states” hold that your insurer is responsible for providing coverage for your personal injury claims. These states institute limits on personal injury claims regarding the amount of compensation that the victim can seek.
It is not uncommon for people to carry additional personal injury protection insurance. This differs from “at-fault states”, which direct the victim to file their damage claims with the insurer of the party that caused the crash.
Work With Experienced Professionals
One of the biggest advantages a victim can obtain in the insurance settlement process is to use experienced and local legal help. DUI incidents are responsible for thousands of accidents across the nation.
Based on data from the CDC, about 30 people die each day as a direct result of alcohol-related accidents. This costs our nation upwards of $45 billion every year. The damages from just one accident can be devastating to an individual and their family and can change their entire future.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident that stemmed from a DUI, the incident likely caused significant damages. If the damages were caused by an accident that someone else caused, you can seek compensation for those damages.
Does Gap Insurance Cover DUI Accidents
Following an accident, the financial burden of needing to replace your mode of transportation, cover medical expenses, and potentially deal with lost wages if you are out of work can be overwhelming, but Gap insurance may help, depending on the circumstances.
Gap insurance is only available when purchasing or leasing a brand new car and covers the difference if your vehicle is stolen or totaled and you owe more than it is worth.
It Will Often Depend On Fault
The main factor that insurance companies will look at is who caused the accident. If you were the responsible party, you will not get any help from your Gap insurance company. In fact, there is a good chance that your insurance company will fight any claims in which you were intoxicated and at fault for the accident.
You Will Need To Examine Your Policy
Before you go ahead with filing any sort of claim, it would be in your best interest to give your policy a thorough read-through, ensuring you are familiar with all of your options as far as being reimbursed for damages from car accidents involving a DUI.
Can You Sue A Drunk Driver For Hitting You
Driving drunk is a mistake for many reasons. Not only can you hurt yourself and your own property, but you put the lives of everyone else on the roads at risk. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident involving a drunk driver, not only can the driver be held criminally liable, but you can also sue them in civil court.
No-fault states have different qualifications depending on which state you are in. They generally have a limit in place that prevents suits for car crashes until a certain level of severity or amount of damage is done. Because of this, those drivers do not receive any automatic penalties or punitive measures.
While there is a good chance that your insurance company will reimburse your costs, you can also take the responsible party to court and sue them for additional compensation.
Pure Negligence States
In pure negligence states, you are typically free to sue the drunk driver for the damages you sustained as a result of their negligence. As with any other civil proceedings, you will need to prove that the other driver was at fault. These cases seem like they would be fairly cut and dry, but you may run into a particularly strong defense, so winning could be a challenge.
Wrongful Death Suits
Sudden deaths are hard enough to deal with emotionally, but there are also other challenges that come about when a loved one dies in a drunk driving accident. The family is left with their medical and funeral expenses and if the relative that passed away may have been the financial provider for the family, there are more struggles. Suing the responsible party can ease some of the financial burdens.
I Got Hit By A Drunk Driver, What Am I Entitled To
If you were in a DUI accident with injuries there are generally three categories of damages that victims commonly seek. There are medical expenses, lost wages, and often a component for pain and suffering. These various damages will need to be proven by documentation from the appropriate source.
The medical expenses that you are entitled to include all of the current expenses that you have incurred as a result of the injury caused by the accident, as well as future expenses. This is important for severe injuries that require extensive healing, recovery, or ongoing rehab and therapy.
Another type of damage compensation that victims can seek is lost wages. These are the wages you lose due to being unable to work due to either injury, treatment, or doctor's orders. In some locations, the victim can also seek damages for wages that they would have earned, had their injury not reduced their capacity to earn.
The final component that people seek is pain and suffering. Not allowed in all jurisdictions, this is compensation for the trauma of the accident itself and can be relatively large.
Settlement Timeline After Getting Hit By A Drunk Driver
This is a frequent question, and unfortunately, there is no single answer. The circumstances surrounding each accident will be fully unique, there are also a lot of different variables that can factor in. In most cases, however, if you are working with an experienced attorney, they will be able to give you a general idea of how long they expect it to take, based on their initial impressions. Some other factors are below.
The Point Of Maximum Medical Improvement
The point at which your doctor or other medical professional feels that you have recovered as much, and healed as fully as you are going to, is called your point of maximum medical improvement. It is important to try to wait to accept a settlement until after this point.
This makes it more likely that you will avoid medical expenses or further lost wages after the settlement agreement, meaning you will not be compensated for them.
Just like with any other car accident claim, the person filing the claim for compensation has the burden of proving that the other driver's negligence as well as the number of damages you're seeking. This can mean having to prove that the DUI actually contributed to the accident. If the insurer disputes any of the points of the claim, it could mean significant delays and even litigation.
Documenting Your Damages And Injuries
When seeking damages, you must not only prove your injuries as fact but also your economic damages. This will include your medical expenses as well as any lost wages that you may be seeking. If you are working with an attorney, they can begin to gather a large portion of this information immediately.
Some of it, however, will not be available until after a portion of your medical treatments. This can delay the process in proportion to the severity of the injuries since injuries that require more significant medical treatment can alter your settlement needs greatly.
We are an experienced Hartford DUI Accident Attorneys and we welcome your questions. Call us anytime for a free consultation and there is never, ever a fee unless we win your case.