Being involved in a DUI accident can be both scary and stressful. You may be injured both physically and emotionally. The aftermath of the accident may make it difficult to get back to life as normal.
If you have been involved in a DUI accident, it’s important to understand what your options are and how to move forward.
6 Things You Need to Know if You’ve Been in a DUI Accident
1. It’s Important to Take the Right Steps Following the Accident
If you were involved in a DUI accident, the first and most important step is to get medical attention.
Here are just a few types of injuries that can occur:
Some injuries take a while to show symptoms, so even if you don’t think you’re injured or you feel that your injuries are minor, see a doctor anyway.
Get medical attention, and document your care.
Other important steps include:
- Getting the driver’s contact information: license plate number, driver’s license number, insurance information, etc.
- Taking photos and/or videos of the scene and injuries.
- Writing down every detail you can remember relating to the accident.
- Getting the contact information of witnesses.
- Calling a lawyer.
If you plan to pursue compensation, a lawyer will help you achieve the best possible outcome.
2. You May Be Able to Recover Damages Through a Lawsuit
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to recover damages through a lawsuit, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Lost earning capacity
- Rehabilitation costs
A civil lawsuit is different and separate from any criminal proceedings that the driver may face. While criminal proceedings may give you justice, your best chance of recovering your injury costs is through a civil lawsuit.
3. A Conviction is Not Necessary to Seek Compensation
Remember that a lawsuit is separate from DUI criminal proceedings, so a conviction is not necessary to sue a drunk driver in a DUI accident.
The purpose of a lawsuit is to compensate victims of negligence or reckless behavior. You’re not trying to prove that the driver was intoxicated. You’re simply trying to prove that you were injured because of the driver’s negligence and that injury has led to damages financially, emotionally, and/or physically.
The burden of proof is very different from a criminal case. In a criminal case, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt – and a jury must agree – that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
That said, a DUI conviction can help your personal injury claim. The conviction may be used as proof of negligence. However, the defendant may still argue that the accident was not caused by impairment, or that your injuries weren’t caused by the accident.
4. You Must Be Able to Prove Negligence if You Want to File a Claim
If you’ve been involved in a DUI accident and you want to pursue damages, you must be able to prove a few things:
- The driver owed you a duty of care.
- The driver breached that duty (i.e. was negligent).
- You were injured.
- Your injuries were caused by the driver’s negligence (breach of duty).
It’s easy to assume that a lawsuit involving a DUI driver would be an open-and-shut case, but that’s not always the case.
Driving while under the influence doesn’t automatically equate to a breach of duty. And other factors in the accident may make it difficult to prove that the driver’s intoxication was the cause of the accident. For example, if you’re rear-ended by a drunk driver who happened to have their brakes fail, it will be difficult to prove that the accident was caused by intoxication alone.
Proving negligence can be challenging. A lawyer can look at the details of your accident and help determine whether you have a case.
5. You May Be Able to File a Wrongful Death Claim if a Loved One is Lost in the Accident
Drunk drivers kill about 28 people every day in the U.S. If you lost a loved one in a DUI accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death suit can help surviving family members recover damages to ensure they have some financial stability.
While different from a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death suit generally follows the same path. You may be able to recover economic (medical expenses, lost wages, etc.) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering, etc.). You must also prove that the driver’s negligence caused your loved one’s death.
6. A Lawyer Can Help You File a Claim
Personal injury and wrongful death suits are complex. They require a special understanding of the law and experience handling these types of claims. If you want the best possible outcome for your case, you need to work with an experienced lawyer who has a track record of success handling cases similar to yours.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case and pursue compensation for the damages you’ve suffered.