With the increased consumption of alcohol during the pandemic, it is only expected that the number of drunk driving accidents will increase. Before the pandemic, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that drunk drivers caused one-third of car crash fatalities. In Missouri alone, drunk driving accounts for about 20% of car crash fatalities.
But not all drunk driving accidents result in fatalities, of course. Many result in serious, life-changing injuries such as:
Victims of drunk drivers may require a lifetime of care. There are ways to hold the correct parties responsible for a loved one’s injuries for victims of drunk driving accidents or surviving family members. One method is a personal injury lawsuit.
In order to file a personal injury lawsuit against a drunk driver, you will need a few things.
- A copy of the police report. If your vehicle is hit, you want to call emergency services for help. Call 9-1-1 if you need an ambulance (or if a passenger does), and call the local police to come to the scene. The cops will file a police report, and you will want a copy of this for your lawsuit. The report should say what the drunk driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was, which can be invaluable for your case.
- Medical treatment. Even if you do not need an ambulance, go to a doctor as soon as possible. A compete medical record of your injuries is a critical tool in your case, and delaying treatment may hurt your chances for a claim.
- Pictures. If you can, take photos of the scene, of your injuries, and of you vehicle. If you cannot, ask someone else to take those photos for you.
- A personal injury lawyer. Under the law, you are never required to hire a lawyer – but it is a smart move. Insurance companies are notorious for offering lowball settlements, and if the case goes to trial, you can be assured that they will have lawyers on their side. The Hayden Law Firm has experience specifically handling car accident claims; we know how to advocate for drunk driving victims.
You should know that The Hayden Law Firm takes all its injury cases on contingency. This means that it costs you nothing upfront to hire us – even the initial consultation is free – and nothing while we are working on your case. We do not get paid unless we win. Then, we will take our fee and expenses from your total award, as opposed to charging you hourly fees while we work. We practice this way because we know that while you are recovering from an injury, the last thing you need is an additional financial burden.
What if my loved ones dies because of a drunk driver?
In the event that the worst comes to pass, family members can seek justice through a wrongful death claim instead of a personal injury lawsuit. Note, though, that the statute of limitations for these claims is a bit shorter than for typical personal injury claims, so you should speak with an attorney as soon as you can.
How can a drunk driver be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit?
In a personal injury lawsuit, damages are dispensed to an injured party by the person or organization that is legally liable for the victim’s accident. Both parties have the opportunity to agree upon and negotiate a settlement. If no settlement can be reached, the injured party may choose to take the defendant to court.
What damages can you seek after a drunk driving accident?
In Missouri, damages fall into one of two categories:
- Compensatory damages are one of the most common types of damages victims of drunk driving accidents can recover. These are designed to compensate the injured victim for anything that was lost from the injury or the accident. The purpose of compensatory damages is to ensure that the injured victim is “whole” again from a financial standpoint. There are three types of compensatory damages:
- Medical expenses, both current and expected (future)
- Loss of wages, both current and expected (loss of future earning potential)
- Emotional distress / pain and suffering of the victim, though spouses may file an additional claim for “loss of consortium”
- Another type of damage that victims of drunk driving accidents are entitled to includes punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that stem from the rationale that the defendants should be punished for their conduct. Most states have set a cap for punitive damage awards, but Missouri does not. (For the record, neither does Illinois.)
How can the injured victim’s actions impact their damages awards?
In some cases, the injured victim’s role in causing the accident can reduce the number of damages that the injured victim is entitled. This is called “comparative negligence,” and it basically means that if you are 20% responsible for your own injuries, then your award will be reduced by 20%.
For example, say you are hit by a drunk driver and you are not wearing your seat belt. As a result, you suffer severe injuries to the neck and shoulder – injuries that may have been avoided (or less severe) if you were harnessed in. If a jury decides that your lack of seat belt made your injuries worse, it can reduce your overall award.
What if the driver isn’t legally drunk?
Just because the driver has not reached the legal BAC does not mean he or she cannot be held liable for your injuries. In fact, even a driver who is not charged criminally or given a ticket at all can be held liable in civil court.
Drunk driving accidents and collisions can be catastrophic or deadly. An attorney from The Hayden Law Firm can help when you are injured from another driver’s negligence. Please call our offices at 314-480-3100 or fill out our contact form for a free, no-risk consultation. We are based in St. Louis and proudly serve clients throughout Missouri and Illinois.
Attorney Amanda L. Hayden has dedicated her legal career to fearlessly advocating for clients and their families after their lives have been devastated by the careless and/or reckless conduct of others.
Read more about Amanda L. Hayden