Given the seriousness of drunk driving collisions, the potential compensation can be significant. Financial compensation is a critical avenue for recovery when you’ve sustained injuries in such an incident. However, securing the full amount you deserve is not guaranteed immediately after the accident. Even in cases where it’s clear to all parties involved that the driver was intoxicated, you might find yourself caught in a legal battle.
No matter the specific circumstances, always engage the services of an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer. They will diligently collect evidence to support your case and tirelessly advocate for the compensation you deserve. This becomes especially critical when another driver, with zero regard for the law and your well-being, seriously harms you.
What is Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
Driving under the influence (DUI), also known as drunk driving or impaired driving, involves operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol (or sometimes drugs).
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 13,384 Americans lost their lives in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in a recent year, which was equal to 30 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the U.S. Additionally, an estimated 1.5 million drivers face arrests annually for driving under the influence. This persistent issue poses a significant threat to traffic safety and public health nationwide.
It’s illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher. BAC represents the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream. Individuals with a BAC at or above the legal limit are considered legally impaired. However, every driver should recognize that critical thinking and fine motor skills can start declining from the very first sip of alcohol.
If the driver who caused your accident didn’t have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, they can still be negligent for causing your accident. This is why it’s best to consult with an attorney if you suffered an injury in a car accident, especially if you think alcohol may have been a factor.
The Importance of Evidence in Drunk Driving Accident Claims
Obtaining a settlement offer or a jury verdict in your favor in a car accident case is not guaranteed, even if the at-fault driver is a drunk driver. You are responsible for proving that the driver is liable for your injuries before you can reach any settlement.
The good news is that the burden of proof in a civil case is less demanding than what the prosecutor faces in a criminal conviction. Your attorney’s goal is to establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence. Always understand that winning a civil case remains possible even if the prosecutor doesn’t secure a conviction in the criminal proceedings since the burden of proof is less.
However, in any car accident case, it remains essential to establish several key points for a successful claim, and your lawyer can achieve this through the presentation of evidence.
To substantiate a claim of negligence, you or your attorney demonstrate that the case satisfies the four elements of negligence:
- Duty: The at-fault party had a duty of care, implying a responsibility to drive in a manner that ensures the safety of others on the road, such as refraining from drinking and driving.
- Breach of Duty: The at-fault party breached the duty of care, such as by operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, significantly impairing their ability and jeopardizing the safety of others on the road.
- Proximate Cause or Cause in Fact: The at-fault party’s breach of duty of care directly caused the accident that led to your injuries and losses.
- Compensable Damages: You suffered damages due to the at-fault party’s actions or inactions, including economic and non-economic factors like medical expenses and pain and suffering.
While establishing negligence may seem straightforward, you must have compelling evidence supporting each element. Remember that the at-fault party’s legal representation will likely attempt to challenge your claim and dispute the evidence you present.
Who Participates in Compiling Evidence Following a Drunk Driving Accident?
Several individuals and entities contribute to the process of gathering evidence in drunk driving cases, each fulfilling a distinct role, including:
- Law enforcement personnel investigate the scene, document evidence, and create reports.
- Emergency medical technicians provide medical assistance, and EMTs may document the accident scene and injuries sustained.
- Individuals who witnessed the incident may provide valuable testimonies and evidence regarding the events leading to the accident.
- Professionals in emergency rooms or healthcare facilities document injuries, treatment details, and relevant medical information.
- Investigators employed by insurance companies, law enforcement, or your attorney play a crucial role in gathering evidence to support legal proceedings.
- Legal professionals specializing in drunk driving accidents utilize evidence to build a compelling case on your behalf.
While many of these entities collect evidence for crime investigation, traffic monitoring, and medical attention, your drunk driving accident lawyer can leverage the same evidence to help your case.
It’s advisable to let professionals handle evidence collection. However, you can assist by providing specific evidence without disturbing the accident scene if conditions permit. For example, taking pictures or gathering documents can be helpful. Prioritize your safety during this process, and if capturing the accident scene poses risks, refrain from doing so. Allow the police to perform their duties without interference, as any disruption might hinder the collection of crucial evidence that can support your case.
Ensure that you promptly share any evidence you collect with your attorney after retaining their services.
Understanding and Utilizing Evidence in a Civil Drunk Driving Accident Case
In a civil drunk driving accident case, evidence is necessary to substantiate facts relevant to your situation. The following types of evidence can be vital components of your case:
- Personal Accounts: Your own memories and documented recollections, such as a journal, provide valuable insights into the accident’s impact on your life and well-being.
- Recovery Process: Details about your rehabilitation and recovery contribute to the evidence, demonstrating the extent of the physical and emotional toll caused by the accident.
- Driver’s Account: The drunk driver’s version of the accident can sometimes be helpful. Although obtaining this information might be challenging in certain situations, such as if the driver has passed away, is in a critical medical state, or refuses to cooperate.
- Witness Testimonies: Accounts from individuals who observed the incident, including passengers, other drivers, or bystanders, can provide crucial perspectives on the events leading to the accident.
- Observations by Authorities: Reports from law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians at the accident scene contribute official documentation.
- 911 Calls: Recordings of emergency calls reporting the accident can serve as real-time audio evidence of the immediate aftermath.
- Vehicle Damage: Documentation or images depicting the damage sustained by the vehicles involved offer tangible proof of the collision’s severity.
- Accident Videos and Photographs: Visual evidence capturing the scene, road conditions, and vehicle positions at the time of the accident.
- Data from Electronic Devices: Information from GPS units, smartphones, vehicle computers, dash cams, or other relevant devices that may provide insights into factors like speed or driving behavior.
- Surveillance and Traffic Camera Footage: Recordings from security or traffic cameras in the vicinity that might have recorded the crash or events leading up to it.
- Chemical Test Results: Outcomes of breathalyzer, blood, and urine tests to determine the level of intoxication of the drunk driver.
- Medical Documentation: Bills, invoices, and other medical records related to your injuries or those of other victims involved in the accident.
- Earnings Records: Documentation of income to establish lost income and income resulting from accident-related injuries.
- Occupational Details: Documents pertaining to your profession or occupation that may be relevant to establishing the economic impact of the accident on your livelihood.
Your drunk driving accident attorney will strategically leverage all types of evidence to establish the extent of your injuries, justify claims for damages, and assert the at-fault party’s responsibility for the accident. In jurisdictions allowing punitive damages, this evidence may be instrumental in demonstrating the defendant’s gross negligence or disregard, further strengthening your case.
How You Can Enhance the Success of Your Case
Injured individuals often seek ways to actively build a strong case with their attorney. Even without directly collecting evidence, there are proactive steps you can take to bolster the strength of your case, significantly impacting the outcome of your legal proceedings. Here’s how you can strengthen your legal position:
Prioritize Medical Care:
- Seek prompt medical attention, even if your injuries initially seem minor, as some conditions may show up days later.
- Stick to your prescribed treatment plan to show the severity of your injuries and avoid potential disputes with insurance companies.
Interact Cautiously with Insurance Companies:
- Restrict information provided to insurance companies to essential details only, such as contact information, accident date, location, and attorney’s contact details.
- Don’t engage in discussions about the accident with insurance adjusters; redirect them to your attorney.
- Retain any documents or physical evidence related to the accident, as seemingly insignificant items may prove valuable.
- Submit all evidence to your attorney, allowing legal professionals to assess its relevance and potential impact on your case.
Exercise Caution on Social Media:
- Avoid posting details about the accident or your activities on social media platforms.
- Recognize that insurance companies monitor social media for inconsistencies and may use innocent activities against you.
- Be aware that even private accounts can be vulnerable to hacking, potentially compromising your case.
By taking these measures, accident victims can strengthen their cases and maximize their chances of obtaining fair compensation.
Why You Should Contact an Attorney After Being Injured in a Drunk Driving Accident
- Legal Guidance: A qualified attorney can provide essential legal guidance and explain your rights after a drunk driving accident, helping you understand the legal process, potential courses of action, and the specific laws relevant to your case.
- Investigation: Attorneys have the resources and experience to perform a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the accident. They can identify and collect evidence, interview witnesses, and work with accident reconstruction experts to craft a strong case.
- Determining Liability: Proving liability is crucial in personal injury cases. A skilled attorney can assess the evidence to determine who is at fault for the accident. In drunk driving cases, establishing the impaired driver’s negligence is often a key element.
- Navigating Insurance Claims: Dealing with insurance companies can be complex, especially in cases involving drunk driving. An attorney can handle communication with insurance companies and negotiate on your behalf.
- Court Representation: If both parties cannot reach a full and fair settlement through negotiation, your lawyer will pursue a lawsuit and can represent you in court. They will present a compelling case on your behalf and advocate for your rights during legal proceedings.
Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney is essential to protect your legal rights, navigate the complexities of the legal system, and secure the compensation you deserve after being injured in a drunk driving accident. Since most work on contingency fees, you don’t have to worry about having money up front to pay them for their services. Contact one today to get your drunk driving injury case started.