By: Emily Stringer
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Options If You Are Hit By a Drunk Driver
If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you have multiple legal options during this difficult time depending on the situation of the accident. Most likely, a personal injury suit can be filed with a personal injury lawyer which means you have a good chance of compensation for your injuries stemming from the crash. Sadly, if a death occurred because of the accident, there is the possibility of a wrongful death suit.
Here are several options for handling the legal aspect of a drunk-driving related accident.
Before proceeding with a lawsuit, sometimes an insurance claim is the better option. Insurance claims are faster to process than lawsuits. Claiming a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider and stating you are seeking full compensation for injuries and losses, will more often than not result in a large settlement. Insurance companies do not want to deal with a lawsuit and it is much easier for them to payout a settlement than go through the courts. If there is a DUI or DWI conviction, you have a much better case as the issue is now criminal. This conviction is more likely to get insurance companies to pay. If a lawsuit against their insured customer goes to trial, the juries more likely to side with the plaintiff who has been injured by a drunk driver.
A DUI is a criminal charge and the defendant will have to go to criminal court for their actions. The injured party can also file a civil suit to collect damages. Civil suits are for recovering damages for the injuries, property damage, lost wages, or medical bills. If the accident resulted in a death, the victim’s family can file a civil wrongful death suit and seek damages. Some states offer punitive damages in a wrongful death suit. Civil suits are the best option when you’ve been hit by a drunk driver.
If your state has a pure negligence statute, you can sue the drunk driver for injuries. You must prove the driver’s fault in the case and prove they were negligent and seek full damages. These cases are usually easy to win for the plaintiffs unless the defendant can prove that the plaintiff shares some fault for the accident. This is called comparative negligence and the courts determine the amount of damage each party is responsible for, resulting in a smaller payout.
If you live in a no-fault insurance state, your legal options are limited. Victims of drunk drivers in no-fault states are required to obtain damages from for personal injury protection insurance, even though the drunk driver is at fault. However, if your injuries meet your state’s standard definitions of “serious injuries” you and the threshold for medical bills, you can sue.