DUI Injury and Fatality: What You Should Do Following an Accident
Everyone knows the dangers of drinking and driving. Alcohol causes impaired judgment, blurred vision, and decreased attention spans, and factors into 7% of all accidents and approximately 35% of all fatal auto accidents. Because alcohol depresses the nervous system, the response time of drivers and passengers is slowed, leaving them physically less able to protect themselves during a crash. Today, drunk driving remains the number one cause of death on our nation’s roads—and yes, it’s still worse than distracted driving, often involving texting, which may cause more accidents but not more fatalities.
In recent years, drunk driving has claimed the lives of almost 11,000 people, according to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Another alarming number is that 3 out of 10 Americans will be involved in an accident related to drunk driving at least once in their lives. These accidents take place at a rate that averages one every 45 minutes.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates that 50% of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license, and an “average” drunk driver will get behind the wheel drunk 87 times prior to their first arrest. While we hope that knowledge, ride-sharing, and perhaps the adoption of self-driving cars will cut down on these numbers, it’s going to take a while. In the meantime, we’ve outlined some things you should be aware of when you’re stuck sharing the road with drunk drivers.
What to Do After a DUI Accident
While it helps to know the signs of an impaired driver in order to stay away or report them, accidents happen. Following an accident with a DUI driver, you may be confused and disoriented, or worse, injured. Here are the steps you should take to ensure your safety and potentially make a case for court.
1. Address Safety
The first and most important thing to do following a DUI accident is to address safety. Make sure you and any passengers are out of the way of danger by pulling your vehicle out of oncoming traffic if possible. If you’re unable to physically move or have an injured passenger, stay put and wait for support. If you’re physically able but the vehicle is no longer operational, make sure the roads are clear and then walk to safety to the side of the road.
2. Call 911
Today, most of us have a cell phone. Call 911 as soon as you can to inform them of the accident and your location so that they can send medics and police to help you. If you don’t have a phone or are physically unable to call, there’s a good chance someone will do it for you as long as you’re in high-traffic areas where there are witnesses.
3. Identify Injuries
Once you've called 911, identify if you or any of your passengers have injuries. Once you have confirmed everyone in your party is okay, check with the other vehicles involved in the accident to determine their well-being. This will help the medics and the ambulance personnel administer their care when they arrive.
4. Get Contact Information
Once you are safe, and if you’re able, make it a point to get the names and contact information of any witnesses at the scene of the DUI accident. Police will obtain this information upon their arrival, but it’s possible that a witness will have left by then. If you’ve already obtained the information, your DUI accident lawyer will be able to use this information to corroborate statements should you hire one.
5. Photograph the Scene and Injuries
Again, if you’re out of harm's way and able to do so, take photos of the scene and the roadway. It’s also a good idea to take shots of all vehicles involved (showing the license plates) as well as all personal injuries.
6. Seek Medical Care
If you are hurt or there has been a serious collision, you will want to make sure you seek medical care. Often, if the DUI accident does involve a collision, you will be taken in the ambulance to the emergency room. Let the doctors and professionals do their job and follow through the course of the treatment.
7. Call a Qualified DUI Accident Attorney
As soon as you are safe and have addressed medical concerns, call a qualified DUI accident attorney. An experienced and passionate firm that handles DUI crash cases will give you their full attention immediately and advise you on what to do next while answering any questions or concerns you may have.
8. Don’t Sign Anything
After the accident, there will be a ton of paperwork coming at you, from insurance documents to police statements and medical records. Do not sign any of these until you've spoken with and are in the presence of your DUI accident lawyer. Anything you sign will be immediately entered into record and could affect the outcome of your DUI accident case.
Legal Action You Can Take As a DUI Accident Victim
If you or a loved one are, or become, a victim in a drunk driving accident, there are legal actions you can take to receive compensation for property damage, medical treatment, and insurance coverage; afterall, you shouldn’t have to pay for the reckless behavior of someone else. Plus, pursuing legal action can help reduce the financial strain for DUI accident victims.
Criminal and Civil Action in a DUI Case
In the state of Florida, drunk driving accident cases typically consist of two components:
- Civil claim (to settle reward compensation for the victims involved)
- Criminal case (to prove criminal negligence and/or reckless behavior on the drunk driver’s behalf)
For both of these types of cases, proving intoxication at the scene of the accident and obtaining a detailed police report following arrest for DUI/open container is essential. A successful drunk driving claim relies on hard evidence, and an arrest for intoxication in your accident is the strongest piece of evidence you can have.
Of the roughly 1.4 million drivers arrested annually for DUI, an estimated 30% are repeat drunk driving offenders. In these cases, pursuing criminal action following a civil claim may be necessary. If DUI is proven during a civil claim by extensive evidence (police report, arrest, open container, etc.), this will significantly strengthen a later criminal case.
Compensation You Can Receive in a Civil Claim
One thing many DUI accident victims fail to realize when pursuing civil action for damages is the amount of things they can be compensated for. In the event of a drunk driving accident in which DUI is proven by substantial evidence, victims can fight for full reward payments for all of the following:
- Medical treatment and ongoing rehabilitation; this includes treatment for all of the most common DUI accident injuries, including whiplash, broken bones, spine injury, brain injury and paralysis
- Damage to property
- Automobile repair services
- Lost wages due to prolonged medical treatment
- Transportation to and from medical treatment facilities
- Child care required during medical treatment
Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim
If you have not been in a severe drunk driving accident yourself, but rather lost a loved one due to a drunk driver, there is legal action you can take to bring those responsible to justice, and receive compensation for the financial insecurity resulting from the accident. In a majority of wrongful death claims stemming from DUI, the following are grounds for reward compensation a family member may pursue:
- The individual filing the wrongful death claim is considered a dependent of the deceased (typically, a surviving child or spouse)
- The accident has caused significant financial damage/loss, or has long term financial implications on the dependent involved
- There is a party (the drunk driver) directly responsible and liable for the death of the family member in question; driver negligence has directly resulted in the death
Have You or a Family Member Suffered Because of a Drunk Driver?
When pursuing legal action following a DUI accident, either as a victim or surviving dependent, reaching out to a trained attorney can be critical to your success. Before your ever provide an official statement for the accident, or interact with insurance agencies of the parties involved, we urge you to speak with a DUI accident attorney first. You’ve been put through enough already; there’s no need to endure the complications of the legal system and claim filing on your own.
At Lowman Law Firm, our experienced DUI accident attorneys can gauge how much your eventual claim will be worth, as well as how your proceedings will be handled in court. In many accident cases, victims (drivers and passengers alike) are often eligible for more reward compensation than they initially believe. In addition to basic coverage, we can help you file a compensation claim for any of the following:
- Medical fees and coverage for short- or long-term injuries
- Property loss
- Property damage
- Automobile repair
Studies reveal that every 52 minutes, someone is killed in a drunk driving crash. Our team is here to reduce that number—and help you get the compensation you serve. Contact us today to discuss your case with one of our compassionate attorneys. And don’t worry about cost—we don’t get paid unless you do.