Before you left for your outing, you may have checked your car’s safety equipment—lights, signals, tires. Everything was good, and you hit the road, trying to be as safe as possible.
And then a drunk driver hit you.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that during the course of a year, someone dies in a drunk-driving accident every 53 minutes. During Labor Day weekend, the rate nearly doubles—to one death every 34 minutes. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident with a drunk driver, whether during Labor Day weekend or at any other time, you should take some important steps. If you suffer an injury in that accident, it is critical that you protect your rights.
Steps to Protect Your Rights After an Accident Caused by a Drunk Driver
An automobile accident caused by a drunk driver presents unique issues for the sober driver who is injured by the intoxicated driver. Drunk driving is against the law and the intoxicated driver will likely be prosecuted in a criminal proceeding. While a conviction of the intoxicated driver might assist you in proving liability, the criminal case against the drunk driver will not likely result in your receiving compensation. The criminal court might order some form of restitution, but that may not cover even a fraction of your losses.
Your claim for compensation will have to come in a civil action independent of the criminal case. Your civil claim against the intoxicated driver will seek financial compensation for your injuries and damages. While a criminal conviction of the intoxicated driver can make your civil case easier, you can take steps at the scene of the accident to strengthen your case, injuries permitting. You should:
- Call for emergency medical assistance, if needed.
- Call the police to report the accident.
- Avoid interacting with the driver you believe to be intoxicated. Stay in your car, lock the doors, and wait for the police.
- Write down the other driver’s license plate number. Drunk drivers sometimes flee the scene of the accident.
- Request a sobriety test for the other driver when the police arrive.
- Take pictures of the scene if you are able.
Write down everything you remember about the accident as soon as you are able, including the time, location, and all other details you can remember about the accident. Include the names of any passengers or other witnesses if possible.
Evidence Commonly Used in a Drunk Driving Personal Injury Case
Most people may believe that it is relatively simple to prove that a driver who hit you and caused you injury was intoxicated. In some cases, this is true, as the driver may be clearly drunk, there may be witnesses, or the driver may be arrested and charged with driving under the influence. In other situations, it may not be as clear and there may be questions as to whether the driver was impaired at the time of the crash. In short, it is always imperative to have a law firm on your side who knows how to fully investigate an accident to determine when it is possible to hold a driver liable for drunk-driving crashes.
At an accident scene, one of the most important things you can do to protect your rights is call 911 and wait for law enforcement officers to arrive. Officers will investigate possible causes of the collision and should specifically try to determine whether any drivers involved were intoxicated. If there is any suspicion that a driver has been drinking, officers should perform field sobriety or breathalyzer tests to determine whether the driver’s abilities were impaired or whether the blood alcohol content was above the legal limit of .08 percent.
Evidence gathered by officers that clearly indicates a driver was intoxicated can also be used in your civil claim to prove the driver should compensate you for your losses. In addition, if police determine that a driver was drunk, they should arrest that driver and the prosecutor will likely issue charges of driving under the influence.
If, for some reason, no police officers are called to the scene or the drunk driver leaves before they arrive, there are other ways to prove that a driver was intoxicated. It can be based on witness testimony if anyone saw the driver operating a vehicle in an erratic fashion. This can include swerving, driving the wrong way, departing a lane, driving too fast or slow, driving without lights at night, or other risky, dangerous or unusual behaviors. Witnesses who stopped at the scene or other motorists involved in the accident may also testify to the driver’s condition immediately following the crash. Common signs of intoxication include red or watery eyes, slurred speech, stumbling, the odor of alcohol, and disorientation.
Whether or not the driver was arrested, drunk-driving accidents can involve complex evidentiary issues. It is essential to seek help from a law firm that has specific experience handling drunk-driving cases. An attorney can handle the entire insurance process for you and fight against any questioning about the impaired driver’s liability. If needed, a car accident lawyer can represent you in a legal claim and take every step to ensure you receive the full amount you deserve for your losses.
Contact a Chicago Drunk Driving Lawyer for Help Today
If you have been injured in an accident with a drunk driver in the Chicago area, you should consult a car accident attorney as soon as possible to determine your rights under the circumstances of your accident. The attorneys of Abels & Annes can assist you in protecting your rights when you are involved in such an accident. You can reach us at (312) 924-7575 or .