America has a drinking problem. Alcohol-related deaths are the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States; and every two minutes, a person is injured in an alcohol-related crash. Although drunk driving is a crime in all states, victims of drunk driving incidents are not compensated for their injuries through criminal actions. Instead, victims (or their loved ones) must sue the drunk driver in civil court to recover for their losses. In these types of cases, there are a few important points to keep in mind:
Beware of Settlements from the Driver’s Insurance
If you were hit by an insured drunk driver, it is likely that driver’s insurance company will attempt to contact you and settle your claim. This means the insurance company will offer you a specific amount of money intended to compensate you for your injuries and property damage. If you accept this settlement, it is very unlikely you will be able sue the driver (or their insurance company) to recover anything else. Frequently, these settlement offers are low-balls and do not account for future medical expenses or pain and suffering. So, it is important to speak with an attorney before cashing any checks or signing anything from someone else’s insurance.
Be Aware of Dram Shop Laws
Unfortunately, not all drunk drivers will carry adequate insurance to cover your claim, or they are uninsured. The driver may be judgement-proof—meaning if you prevail in a lawsuit, you cannot recover anything since the driver doesn’t have enough (or any) assets to pay the judgement. In this situation, it is important to know if you can bring a Dram Shop claim against the bar or restaurant who may be partially responsible for the driver’s intoxication. Depending on your insurance, you may also have the choice of bringing a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage—you should check with your insurance carrier if this is part of your policy.
The State You Live in May Impact Your Case
Some states have no-fault insurance laws. This means to bring a civil lawsuit for automobile-related injuries, your damages must exceed a certain cost threshold. In these states, if you do not meet the “threshold,” you may be prevented from bringing a claim. Only 12 states are no-fault states (California is not one of them). In the other 38 states, automobile accident claims proceed as any other negligence action. Click here for more information about no-fault laws.
Drunk driving lawsuits are complicated, and you should get help from an experienced attorney. At Kershaw Talley Barlow, we only represent victims of drunk driving accidents, not the drunk drivers—so rest assured that we look out for your best interest. If you or a loved one is a victim of a drunk driving accident, we can help. Call our office for a free case evaluation.