Drunk Driving Accidents
According to NHTSA, although drunk driving accidents have declined over the past few years, they still claim the lives of almost 29 people each day. Drunk driving laws are strict, and their enforcement has increased over the years. However, drunk drivers remain on our roadways, and they frequently cause accidents. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury in a drunk driving accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately to help navigate the complex legal process. Call the Law Office of William W. Hurst today at (317) 636-0808, or contact us online, to learn how we can help.
At the Law Office of William W. Hurst, our goal is to provide you with quality representation and legal assistance that will help you recover the full cost of your injuries. In many cases, we have been able to secure settlements that include the full amount of the insurance policies involved in the accident. In the past, we have recovered compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. You deserve to be compensated for your injuries, and we are here to provide you with the quality legal representation that you need to seek such compensation.
What Are Drunk Driving Injuries?
Drunk driving injuries stem from drunk driving accidents, which are car accidents that involve a drunk driver. These accidents can involve multi-vehicle collisions, as well as those that involve pedestrians, bicyclists, or others out on the roadway. Furthermore, drunk driving accidents are not limited to cars and trucks—they can also involve snowmobiles, boats, ATVs, and other motorized vehicles operated by individuals who are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A wide range of injuries can occur as a result of drunk driving accidents, depending on the severity of the accident, including:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Soft tissue injuries
- Broken and fractured bones
- Strains and sprains
- Cuts, abrasions, burns, and contusions
- Neck & Back Injury
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident, it’s important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
Who Is at Fault?
Most individuals assume that if they have been involved in a drunk driving accident, the drunk driver is the one at fault for the accident. Oftentimes, however, the drunk driver’s insurance policy is not high enough to cover the full amount of the damages sustained as a result of the accident.
This is when having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side can be beneficial; your attorney can seek other sources of compensation, including filing a dram shop liability claim. Indiana, unlike many states, is a dram shop jurisdiction, which means that a server of alcohol can be found liable for “foreseeable damages” caused by serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who proceeds to drive away and cause an accident.
If drunken guests or customers injure a third party due to their intoxication, the server—and potentially the server’s employer—may also be found liable for those injuries. Accordingly, both the drunk driver and the shop that furnished the alcohol can potentially be found liable for your injuries, which is good news if the driver’s insurance policy alone cannot cover the cost of your injuries.
What Damages Can Victims Recover?
If you’ve been involved in a drunk driving accident, there are several types of damages that you may be eligible to recover, which are meant to allow you to move forward with your life, including:
- Funeral and burial expenses for loved ones who died as a result of drunk driving accidents.
- Medical expenses, including foreseeable future medical expenses, from injuries received in the accident.
- Compensation for pain and suffering.
- Lost wages as a result of time off for the accident or while in recovery.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be eligible to recover an amount equal to the full amount of the insurance policies involved in your case. Working with an experienced attorney is the most effective way to ensure that you receive compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
How Do Those Who Are Liable Try to Avoid Paying Damages?
Generally after a drunk driving accident, no one wants to claim responsibility. There are several strategies that responsible parties may attempt to employ in an attempt to get out of paying their fair share. We discuss some of the most common strategies below.
- The drunk driver’s insurance company may try to prove that you were partially at fault for the accident. If you are ruled more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, the insurance company may be able to avoid a payout entirely. The insurance company may also try to reduce the amount of the payout by proving you were partially at fault for the accident.
- The insurance companies will offer a lower settlement than you’re due. In many cases, insurance companies will offer a low settlement amount early in the process. If you sign this settlement offer, you may give up your right to seek additional compensation. Contacting an attorney immediately after your drunk driving accident is the best way to ensure that you won’t miss out on any potential compensation.
- Insurance companies may attempt to prove that the individual or facility that furnished the alcohol didn’t know the driver was intoxicated or planning to drive. In most cases, defendants will try to prove that they made every reasonable effort to prevent excessive intoxication and/or intoxicated driving. Hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to ensure that you are able to fight this potential defense.
Helping Drunk Driving Accident Victims Recover Compensation
If you live in the Indianapolis area, chances are that you’ll be getting into a car at some point in the near future. As soon as you do so and get on the road, there is a good chance that you will be in the vicinity of a drunk driver.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates your odds of being on the road at the same time as a drunk driver to be 300,000 to one. That is to say, about 121 million times per year somebody on the road overindulges on liquor or drugs and makes the decision to get onto the road and drive. Drunk and drugged driving results in 29 deaths per day, which means in less than an hour’s span or every 50 minutes someone will become yet another fatality statistic for MADD’s never ending counter.
On a smaller scale, Indiana government has indicated that an average of 4,803 accidents occur when one or more driver involved in the accident had consumed alcohol. In a four-year span, Marion County alone has seen more than 600 cases of DUI related accidents per year. In each of those four years, more of the average 600 yearly DUI accidents have claimed at least one life. As can be seen, driving-related accidents due to drugs or alcohol are extremely prevalent
Fortunately for victims, people who are injured in accidents caused by drunk drivers are almost always entitled to compensation under Indiana law. To schedule a free case evaluation with one a car accident attorney in Indianapolis, call our office today at (317) 636-0808 or contact us online.
The Legal Limit
Indiana follows the law of most other states and considers adults older than 21 to have violated its DUI laws if their blood alcohol count (BAC) is 0.08 or greater. A person younger than 21 cannot exceed a BAC of 0.2. An individual’s BAC is affected by:
- Body type
- If they ate while drinking
- How long they waited from the time they drank to the time they got behind the wheel
If You Suspect that the Driver Who Struck You Was Drunk, You Should Make Sure the Police Respond to the Scene
In order to recover compensation for your injuries, you need to be able to show that your accident was caused by the negligence of another person. In Indiana personal injury law, “negligence” refers to a person’s failure to use the degree of care that would ordinarily be exercised by a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances. Typically, proving negligence involves establishing what a reasonable person would do in a particular situation and then showing how the person who caused an accident failed to live up to that standard of care.
Under a legal doctrine called “negligence per se,” however, individuals can often be deemed negligent as a matter of law (that is, without any additional evidence being presented) if they violated a law designed to keep others safe and their violation resulted in the type of harm that the rule was designed to protect against.
Drunk driving will almost certainly result in a person being deemed negligent per se, as laws prohibiting drunk driving are designed to protect other people on the road and an accident is exactly the type of harm the law is trying to prevent. As a result, when a driver involved in an accident is arrested for drunk driving, it is extremely difficult for his or her insurance company (or the driver themselves) to avoid liability.
Consequently, people in drunk driving accidents must summon the police to the scene—even if the accident was not particularly severe and only resulted in minor property damage. If the police share your suspicion that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will conduct sobriety testing in order to determine whether the driver is, in fact, drunk and gather evidence in support of their assertion. In addition, if the driver is determined to be under the influence, he or she will be arrested, charged with violating the law, and possibly face significant criminal penalties.
Common Injuries Suffered in Alcohol-Related Car Accidents
Car accidents caused by impaired drivers can leave victims with extremely serious injuries. Some of the more common include the following:
- Broken or fractured hand, leg, back, finger or neck bones
- Harm to your back and neck short of partial or total paralysis or broken bones
- Serious soft tissue injuries
- Internal Bleeding
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Accidental amputations
- Crush injuries
In many cases, these injuries result in weeks, months, or even years of medical treatment and pain and suffering. Victims are often required to take significant time off of work, resulting in lost income and potential loss of career advancement. Furthermore, the medical bills associated with a serious car accident can rise well into the six figures or more. As a result, anyone hurt by a drunk driver should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
It’s well established that drunk drivers are dangerous drivers who make our roads less safe. While every car accident is frightening and upsetting, car accidents caused by drunk drivers can be that much more unsettling. Another driver’s utter lack of regard for your safety, after all, caused you or someone you care about to be injured, and comprehending that level of neglect can be a difficult emotional hurdle.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Drivers understand that getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol is both illegal and extremely dangerous, but many motorists continue to engage in this practice nonetheless. Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol endanger both themselves and others. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relays alarmingly significant statistics as they relate to drunk driving:
- Nearly one third of U.S. traffic fatalities in 2015 were alcohol related
- Sixteen percent of children’s traffic fatalities (up to 14 years old) in 2015 involved an impaired driver
- Only about 1 percent of the self-reported cases of impaired driving in the U.S. result in charges of driving under the influence
In other words, there are a lot of drunk drivers out there and they’re dangerous. If you or someone you care about has been injured by such a driver, you need an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney. At the Law Office of William W. Hurst, we understand what you’re going through, and our dedicated personal injury lawyers are here to help guide your claim toward just compensation.
Drunk Drivers and Blood Alcohol Content
A driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is usually determinative of whether that driver is under the influence of alcohol and, if so, to what degree. Currently, a BAC of 0.08 percent is the threshold for being over the limit in every state (for noncommercial drivers). Drivers who’re involved in serious accidents, however, aren’t always tested for BAC. If you’ve been injured in an accident in which you think the negligent party may have been under the influence, don’t hesitate to bring that up with the officers on the scene.
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by a driver who was demonstrably under the influence of alcohol, you are entitled to bring a claim of damages in a civil suit against that driver. If such a driver caused you to lose a loved one in a car accident, you are entitled to pursue a wrongful death case. While it’s important to be able to successfully illustrate that the other driver was under the influence—which is usually determined by BAC testing—there are a variety of additional means of demonstrating that a driver was too intoxicated to safely operate a motor vehicle:
- Eyewitness testimony related to the accident
- Evidentiary photographs and videos that were taken at the scene of the accident
- Police reports and documents that emanate from the accident
Alcohol impairs the physiologic responses that a driver needs to proceed safely, and there are a variety of studies that succinctly illustrate this point. In fact, the effects alcohol has on motorists include highly specific impairments:
- Decreased peripheral vision
- Diminished ability to recover from glare
- Poor performance when tracking anything visually complex
- Poor performance when attention is divided by competing factors (as is common when driving)
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, there are a compendium of common damages upon which you may recover:
- Your medical expenses—including emergency transport, surgery, doctor care, specialist care, physical therapy, medications, and adaptive medical equipment
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Treatment for psychological effects
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (or spousal relationship)
The damages related to accidents caused by drunk drivers are often considerable, and your experienced personal injury attorney will ensure that your comprehensive damages are adequately represented in your claim.
Identifying Drunk Drivers on the Road
Drivers who get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol impair their ability to drive safely. Learn how to identify such drivers and steer clear of them. There are several telltale signs that a driver you share the road with may be drunk:
- Erratically changing speeds or driving too slowly in the fast lane
- Drifting in and out of lanes, straddling two lanes, or driving too near or on the shoulder
- Stopping far short of stop signs or signals, overshooting stop signs or signals, or running stop signs or signals completely
- Stopping unexpectedly in the middle of the road
- Failing to signal or signaling deceptively
- Failing to use headlights at night or failing to dim high beams for approaching vehicles
If you spot someone whom you believe is driving under the influence, alert the authorities. It’s the right thing to do, and you could help save a life.
If a drunk driver has caused you to be injured in a car accident, seek immediate medical attention and then consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Drunk driving claims are complicated, but your case matters. Your attorney will compile the physical evidence associated with your accident along with all documentation and eyewitness testimony in defense of your claim. Because every accident is unique, whether you settle your claim or proceed to court will depend on the specifics of your situation—and your skilled personal injury attorney will guide you every step of the way.
Call Us Today to Speak with an Indianapolis Injury Attorney
If you have been the victim of a drunk driver, it is important that you retain an attorney right away. At the Law Offices of William W. Hurst, we are committed to representing victims’ rights and will do everything we can to get you the compensation you deserve. If we do not recover compensation on your behalf, we will not collect any legal fees from you. Period. To schedule your free consultation with one of our lawyers, call our office today at (317) 636-0808 or send us an email through our online contact form.