What Damages Are Available To Victims Of Drunk Driving Accidents?
Drunk driving is a major safety concern for road users. Accidents due to reckless driving cause numerous deaths and serious injuries each year. As a result of these accidents, substantial sums of money are paid out as settlements. A drunk driver accident lawyer plays a major role in the legal proceedings preceding such settlements.
Driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, or operating under the influence; these scenarios all refer to the same thing. The unpredictability and recklessness that characterize such driving make this type of crime a very serious one.
Serious car damage in accidents means serious physical injuries, some of which may not become apparent immediately. Victims of traumatic head injuries, for example, may not feel the full extent of such injuries in the aftermath of a car collision. However, like mood swings, inability to focus, and other nondescript symptoms begin to manifest, the harsh realization of one’s injuries dawns.
A personal injury lawyer can assist victims of reckless drunk driving by;
i)Requesting a copy of the incident report from the local police.
Such a report should include all the necessary information about the incident and the arresting officer's actions. A field sobriety test is standard procedure for traffic incidents that may involve recklessness due to a controlled substance. Sometimes, the at-fault driver may make incriminating statements at the crime scene. All this information should be included in the incident report.
- ii) A blood alcohol test is vital to such cases.
Additionally, the at-fault driver may be a repeat offender. His name is run through official databases to determine if he has prior arrests or convictions related to drunk driving.
iii) Video surveillance is crucial in any investigation.
If available, all such content (including audio) should be presented as evidence. Many police departments now require their officers to wear body cameras. Such cameras may capture critical footage that can prove to be useful during settlement negotiations.
- iv) During the process of gathering forensic evidence at the crime scene, other potential aspects relating to the defendant are investigated. For example,
-Was the drunk driver on duty or not? If he was on duty, the possibility of naming his employer in the lawsuit increases.
-Does the drunk driver have a history of carelessness and reckless driving? Past drunk driving charges and other citations for dangerous driving can be used as strong leverage points to force a settlement.
-Was the at-fault driver driving in their car or was it a friend’s? This helps to set the tone for filing legal action.
-Did the person that loaned the car know that the driver was intoxicated and therefore unfit to drive?
Seeking the services of an attorney that specializes in personal injury and wrongful death claims becomes a necessity at this point. Such will know how to handle your case. Seeking compensatory damages can be a long and tedious process, requiring numerous court appearances and presenting the necessary paperwork.
Such compensatory damages include recompense for costs incurred directly as a result of the accident or injury. These may include medical bills and prescription charges. Because serious injuries can prevent some people from resuming employment, lost wages are also considered part of such compensatory packages.
Pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional, also becomes a major factor for compensation.
Sometimes, the scope of liability extends far beyond the drunk driver. All parties that may have contributed to the accident in whatever capacity are investigated too.
Dram Shop Liability
As a classic example of contributory negligence, dram shop liability aims to bring liquor store owners to account in the event of an accident involving their customers. These laws extend liability to the establishment as an entity. All establishments that serve alcohol including restaurants and clubs, may be held accountable if a patron causes an accident after having left their establishment.
The term “dram shop” derives from a measurement unit that bars would use to dole alcohol out to customers.
The objective of dram shop laws is to ensure that victims of drunk driving accidents can get compensation from businesses that may have contributed indirectly to the accident. Injuries sustained during such accidents are usually severe. The limits on an insurance policy may not be enough to cover all the costs incurred by the accident victim.
Such dram shop laws are generally implemented at state levels. The degree of liability extended to an establishment that serves alcohol to a drunk driver varies:
- The Legal Standard
Several variations exist in the interpretation of the extent of liability. The typical cases involve a plaintiff trying to prove that an establishment acted negligently. Such a plaintiff is required to demonstrate that the person that served alcohol to the at-fault driver was fully aware of the driver’s intoxication level. Other scenarios involve the selling of alcohol to underage patrons. Depending on the specific incident, an accident victim may allege and prove that the establishment knowingly sold alcohol to a minor. Some states put a limit on the maximum settlement amount for such cases.
- Notice Requirements
Some jurisdictions require that a plaintiff notify the alleged offending establishment within a specific period before initiating a dram shop liability suit.
- Social Host Liability
Alcohol is not only consumed at licensed establishments like bars but also at private residences and other recreational venues. When most people host events that may involve alcohol consumption, such hosts may not fully understand the potential ramifications.
Just like in drinking accidents involving establishments, some states make legal provisions for bringing a civil suit against any individual ( host) deemed to have acted irresponsibly in facilitating alcohol consumption at their event.
Investigating All Possible Insurance Coverages
Scarcity of funds becomes a major concern for most drunk driving accident victims. An experienced personal injury attorney can help alleviate this financial burden by investigating other avenues. The at-fault driver may have other insurance policies other than car insurance. Such policies can be brought to the attention of the court; these funds could prove useful in compensating the victim.
At the end of the day, a victim of a drunk driving accident can expect some form of monetary compensation if liability can be proven.