What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Drunk Driving Accident?January 18, 2021
Getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after having too much to drink is extremely irresponsible, reckless, and potentially deadly behavior. However, even though the dangers of drunk driving are widely known and accepted, too many motorists continue to make the decision to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, car accidents involving drunk driving account for close to one-third of all traffic related fatalities in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 28 people are fatally injured in drunk driving accidents every day in the United States, fatalities that could have been prevented if the drunk driver refrained from getting behind the wheel. If a motorist is injured in a drunk driving accident, an experienced car accident lawyer will protect their legal rights and seek compensation for their injuries.
What Signs Indicate that a Motorist is Driving Drunk or Impaired?
Law enforcement officials take drunk driving seriously and will punish motorists who endanger the lives of other motorists by getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink. Ideally, law enforcement will be able to prevent an accident by pulling a drunk driver over before he or she causes any serious damage. In addition to conducting drunk driving checkpoints, police officers look for driving behavior that suggests that the motorist may be impaired, including the following:
- Weaving in and out of their lane
- Making turns with a very wide radius
- Failure to respond to traffic signals
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- The vehicle is swerving, drifting, or braking erratically
- The motorist is driving well below the speed limit, or stops for no reason
- The motorist comes close to hitting another vehicle or object
If a police officer pulls a motorist for drunk driving, the officer will likely conduct a breathalyzer test to determine whether the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit. Depending on the circumstances, including whether this was the driver’s first offense or if the drunk driver injured or killed another person, the severity of the punishment will vary. For example, if no one was injured, the motorist may be charged, spend some time in a holding cell, and released to await a trial. Once the trial date is set, possible punishments include the following penalties:
- Drunk driver’s license is suspended for a period.
- The drunk driver will be required to take rehabilitation or drug awareness classes.
- An ignition interlock device will be installed in the drunk driver’s vehicle, which will prevent the vehicle from starting until he or she breathes into the device and proves to be sober.
If the drunk driver injured or killed another motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian, he or she will be required to remain in police custody until the trial. The motorist will face charges ranging from criminal negligence to involuntary vehicular manslaughter. Depending on the outcome of the trial, the drunk driver may face jail time and be held liable for the injured party’s medical bills and emotional damage.
How Do I Report a Drunk Driver?
Unfortunately, drunk driving remains a common problem, particularly during the summer months and over the holiday season. For example, more people drive drunk on New Year’s Eve than almost any other day of the year. Super Bowl Sunday and the Fourth of July are also days when many impaired drivers are on the road. Too often, motorists think that they are fine to drive if they have only had a couple of drinks. However, even a relatively small amount of alcohol can have an impact on a driver’s coordination and his or her ability to react quickly to a situation. If a motorist notices that a driver is weaving in and out of traffic lanes, driving on the wrong side of the road, or any other suspicious driving behavior, the first thing he or she should do is to stay away from the vehicle and avoid trying to pass the car. Getting too close can increase the risk of being hit by the drunk driver.
The next step is to report the driver by calling 911 as soon as possible. The driver should provide the 911 operator with as many details as possible, including make, model, and color of the vehicle; the license plate number; and the location of the vehicle. Street names and intersections should be provided if possible. If there is another occupant in the passenger seat, he or she is urged to take a picture of the vehicle. When speaking to the operator, the caller should be prepared to also describe the unsafe driving behavior that was witnessed.
What Steps Should I Take Immediately Following the Accident?
Motorists who are injured in a drunk driving accident are urged to keep the following tips in mind:
- The injured victim should make their position known regarding whether they oppose a plea bargain. The drunk driver may try to plead for lesser charges, which could impact the outcome of the case. By the victim making his or her position on the matter clear, it could put pressure on the judge and the prosecutor.
- The drunk driver’s insurance company should be notified about the potential claim. This information should be included in the police report, which can be obtained from the responding police officer’s department.
- Victims should think twice about accepting an early settlement offer from the insurance company. An accident lawyer can ensure that the victim has explored all insurance coverage and identify other possible sources of income, including significant personal assets that could satisfy the claim. Accepting a settlement will prevent the plaintiff from any future claims that arise from the accident.
- The victim should notify his or her own insurance carrier. All motorists are required to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance. This covers the driver if another driver involved in an accident is uninsured or underinsured, including motorists who are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Someone should find out where the drunk driver was drinking and try to track down any witnesses who may be able to provide important details about the driver, and whether the restaurant, bar, liquor store, or other establishment is partially liable for serving a visibly drunk customer. This information must be collected quickly, as witnesses may no longer be at the establishment or may not remember details clearly if they were also drinking. Servers, bartender, and other employees should be interviewed, and if video footage is available, it will need to be obtained.
How Do I Take Legal Action if I am Injured by a Truck Driver?
Drunk driving accidents often cause significant property damage and severe, often fatal injuries. The victims of these accidents are often left dealing with the impact of these injuries for weeks, months, and sometimes for the rest of their lives. Medical care can be extremely costly, and in some cases, the injury may prevent them from being able to return to work for a period, or permanently if the injury is particularly severe. The victims may wish to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver to obtain financial compensation for the costs associated with the injury. In the state of Maryland, drunk driving accident victims have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim against the other driver. If the victim misses this deadline, the claim will likely be denied. An experienced car accident lawyer can help recover the evidence necessary to prove the claim, including police reports, medical records, witness testimonials, breathalyzer records, and photographic evidence, and assist the victim with the claims process.
A skilled lawyer can also determine whether the vendor or establishment that sold the drunk driver the alcohol was liable in any way, particularly if the drunk driver was under the age of 21. If the lawyer discovers that the establishment sold alcohol to a customer who was clearly intoxicated, the injured victim may be able to sue the establishment for violating dram shop laws. These laws allow injured parties to hold vendors that sell alcohol responsible for serving individuals who clearly should not be served.
What Damages am I Entitled to in a Drunk Driving Accident?
Motorists who have been injured in a drunk driving accident are entitled to pursue financial compensation for their losses. These types of car accidents often cause serious injuries ranging from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries and organ damage. In some cases, drunk driving accidents cause devastating fatalities. Victims of these senseless, preventable accidents are entitled to the following damages:
- Medical bills
- Los wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral expenses
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents
If you were injured in a car accident involving a drunk driver, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We have a proven track record of reaching favorable settlement outcomes for victims of drunk driving accidents. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.