Alcohol-related accidents account for nearly a third of all car accidents in the United States. If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, there are several things to consider when taking legal action in order to collect damages for possible injury or damage to your car. Read an outline of what to do and what action to take when you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, and how a car accident lawyer can help your case.
Civil Damages vs. Criminal Cases
Getting hit by a drunk driver is very different from other types of car accidents, as driving while intoxicated is explicitly against the law. You definitely have the right to pursue damages if you have been hit by someone driving under the influence.
Still, it’s important to keep in mind that you will not be able to collect damages from a criminal case against a drunk driver. Though a prosecutor or local district attorney may file criminal charges against them, in order to receive compensation, you have to pursue a civil case, as a civil claim is the only way to recover compensation.
Different Types of Damages
Damages from civil claims take on many different forms. “General damages” are meant to compensate you for pain and suffering, both physical and mental, that was caused by the accident. It also includes other more subjective effects of the accident and the injuries caused by it. “Special damages” are more concrete monetary damages, such as medical bills, lost income, and other financial losses.
General and special damages are both “compensatory” damages. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may also be entitled to “punitive” damages, which are meant to punish the driver for their reckless behavior and use them as an example to discourage the same behavior from other drivers in the future.
Other Laws and Liabilities
Depending on the state you live in, the drunk driver may not be the only person liable for your accident. In Texas, the state has what are called, “Dram Shop” laws; these would allow you to bring a civil claim against an establishment—such as a bar or restaurant—responsible for serving or over-serving the driver before they got behind the wheel.
If the drunk driver that hit you was drinking alcohol at a private social event before the accident, you may also be able to make a claim against the host of the event. They could be held liable for providing someone who was noticeably intoxicated or underage with alcohol. These types of “social host” laws hold people accountable for continuing to serve alcohol to someone who has had too much to drink.
Dealing with Insurance Companies
Remember, the insurer covering the drunk driver in a car accident is not on your side. They want to pay as little as possible in damages to you, no matter what the extent of your injuries was. If you are offered a settlement, do not immediately accept it. You may be able to get much more in the way of compensation than the insurance company will let on, but it’s up to you to fight that battle.
If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver in Texas, do not hesitate to find a car accident lawyer. Contact Braker White in Odessa today for a free case evaluation and to learn about your next steps.