What If I Am Injured by a Drunk Driver in an Accident?

someone driving while drinking a beer bottle

Drunk Driving in Virginia and Across the Nation

According to the 2017 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts put out by the Virginia DMV, there were 7,285 car accidents caused by impaired drivers—a 2.6 decrease from 2016. These alcohol-related accidents led to more than 4,000 injuries, many of them extremely serious. MADD statistics for the entire nation find that each and every day there are as many as 800 people injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver. Further, while it is estimated that drivers get behind the wheel while drunk more than 300,000 times a day, there are only about 2,800 DWI arrests per day. About twice as many alcohol-related fatalities occur on the weekends as occur during weekdays, with considerably more drunk driving accidents occurring after dark. Perhaps most alarming is that from 50-75 percent of drivers convicted of a DWI continue driving on a suspended license. The rate of drunk driving is the highest among those between the ages of 26 and 29, however, in 2017, the highest percentage of drunk drivers responsible for fatalities was for drivers between the ages of 21 and 24. 

What Should I Do if I’m Injured in an Accident with a Drunk Driver?

If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, you will need to cooperate fully with the police at the scene of the accident, while also obtaining as much information as possible regarding the other driver. This information will include his or her name, address, and the name of the impaired driver’s insurance company. Be sure you see a doctor immediately following the accident to determine the extent of your injuries. Afterward, keep a thorough record of every detail associated with the accident, including all your medical expenses related to the accident.

What Are My Rights When My Car Accident Was Caused By A Drunk Driver?

If you have been involved in a Virginia car accident which was caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. Virginia is considered a “fault” state, meaning your first option is to file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. If the negligent driver was uninsured or underinsured, you may file a claim with your own insurance company if you carry uninsured/underinsured coverage. You have the option to buy Med Pay coverage in the state of Virginia which could be helpful in the early stages following your crash, however, it is rare that Med Pay covers all your losses. Your next option is to sue the impaired driver who was at fault for the collision; an experienced Tronfeld West & Durrett personal injury attorney can help you determine whether a lawsuit is the right course of action for your specific circumstances. What If A Drunk Driver Caused My Accident, But I Was Also At Fault? While many states have moved to a system known as comparative fault in which the injured person’s own level of negligence simply reduces the amount he or she can recover, Virginia is one of the few states left where any fault at all on the part of the victim could bar him or her from recovering anything at all. This system is known as pure contributory negligence and has led to insurance companies trying to argue the victim was at least partially to blame for an accident. 

Should I File A Civil Lawsuit If My Accident Was Caused by a Drunk Driver?

Whether or not you should file a civil lawsuit following a car accident caused by a drunk driver is a conversation you should have with an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney. Driving under the influence is a crime in every single state, and a driver convicted of DWI or DUI will face a variety of consequences, potentially including a license suspension, fines, and time in jail. If you are unable to come to a mutually agreeable settlement with the insurance company, you and your lawyer might decide a civil lawsuit is warranted. Most personal injury claims against drunk drivers are based on the theory of negligence. This means you must show the drunk driver owed you, the victim, a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached, that you were injured as a result, and that it was the drunk driver’s breach that directly caused your injuries. In the state of Virginia, you may also be able to establish negligence per se, which means the defendant’s negligent act was also a violation of the law, i.e., drunk driving is against the law in the state.

How Long Do I Have to Bring a Civil Lawsuit Against the Drunk Driver Who Caused My Accident?

Each state has its own statutes of limitations, or period of time to file a lawsuit. In the state of Virginia, you have two years from the time of your accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver who caused your accident. It is important that you not take the statutes of limitations lightly—there are few ways around these statutes, and if you exceed the statutes you could be forever barred from filing a personal injury lawsuit. What Damages Can I Expect In a Civil Lawsuit Against A Drunk Driver? Damages in a personal injury case are meant to make you “whole” following your accident and injuries. In some instances, making you whole is not possible, and it can be difficult to place an exact dollar figure on such things as pain and suffering. You may be entitled to the following damages:
  • Compensation for medical expenses;
  • Compensation for lost wages;
  • Compensation for lost future wages;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Wrongful death;
  • Loss of companionship or consortium, and
  • Punitive damages (in cases where the defendant exhibited particularly egregious behavior).

How Can a Tronfeld West & Durrett Attorney Represent You as the Victim of a Drunk Driving Accident?

If you have been involved in a car accident with a drunk driver, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced auto accident attorney from Tronfeld West & Durrett as quickly as possible. You could find yourself in a difficult situation, unable to pay for your injuries, lost wages, and other damages without the assistance of a knowledgeable auto accident attorney. Contact Tronfeld West & Durrett today for outstanding legal representation when you need it most.