What I Need to Know First

Before we dig deep into a drunk driving personal injury claim, it’s essential you understand this first:

Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not automatically make that driver responsible for the crash. The negligent act that caused the accident does. It’s the negligence that will need to be proven to the insurance company and the jury if your case does go to trial.

Example: John leaves a bar and is intoxicated. Because John is drunk, his judgment and vision are impaired. He neglects to notice the red stoplight. He doesn’t stop and collides into Jane, who has a green light, the right away, and is driving through the intersection.

The fact that John is intoxicated is not what caused the accident. The act of him running the red light is. Now that we have that established, let’s talk about your injury claim.

Will the Insurance Company Help Me Through This?

Fortunately, a drunk driving accident is handled much the same way other personal injury accidents are. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will assign an adjuster to your claim. The adjuster, who represents the insurance company, will investigate the accident, and negotiate a settlement with you.

Insurance companies may offer higher settlements for drunk driving accidents. The hope is to “close” the case quickly to avoid a lawsuit and going to trial. An insurance company knows the jury, and/or the judge will be sympathetic to the victim of a drunk driver collision. Sometimes resulting in high verdict amounts for the victim.

It will be important to prove two facts so your case can move forward

  1. negligence
  2. alcohol or drugs were involved.

ALERT: Although the insurance company will want to quickly resolve the claim, there is something to keep in mind.

Drunk driving collisions can cause horrific injuries that may take months or years to recover from; for some, they will never improve within their lifetime. Your health is the priority. Do not let an insurance company force you into a settlement before you have healed or know the full extent of how your injury will affect your life.

How Do I Prove The Driver Was Intoxicated?

A police report is an excellent start to proving intoxication was a factor in the crash. At the accident, take note of any smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or uncoordinated movements by the other driver. Inform the police immediately when they arrive. Often a ticket for an open container or conviction for DUI/DWI is enough proof.

Anyone can obtain a copy of a police report. The police station in the county of the accident should have it on file. Police reports are cheap to purchase and can be picked up in person or mailed to you.

An experienced attorney can help you gain additional proof you may not have access to, including results of alcohol and toxicology tests given to the at-fault driver, their driving records, finding potential witnesses, and other case building resources.

What If More Than One Person Caused The Accident?

To recap, proving the driver was drunk or under the influence does not prove negligence. Sometimes their actions were not the cause of the collision, but their inability to react and make sound judgments contributed to the accident and injuries you sustained.

Example: Jane was driving down a two-lane road. She was texting and driving. While reading a text, she swerved into the opposite lane and sideswiped a car. John, the driver of the vehicle, was driving home from the bar. He was unable to react to Jane’s driving, and the two collided.

Luckily, Missouri is a pure comparative fault state. That means, even if you are partially liable for the crash you can still recover damages. A person’s percentage of fault reduces his or her recovery by that percentage. So, a person who is 99% at fault and who sustains $100,000 in damages will still be entitled to a judgment of $1,000 in a pure comparative fault jurisdiction.[2]  It helps you receive some compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

What About The Bar, Are They Responsible?

Thanks to Dram Shop Laws, an injured party can seek compensation from a bar and nightclub owners serving alcohol to patrons who drive drunk. Commercial businesses typically have more liability coverage than a personal auto insurance policy and can help pay for extensive and expensive medical treatments.

It won’t be easy to prove the bartender or waitress knew the person was drunk. That’s why it’s important to seek the advice of a Missouri personal injury lawyer. They can help you navigate Dram Laws, how they apply in your state, and to your injury claim.

Do I Need An Attorney?

You very well may be able to handle your injury case on your own. Do your research and don’t back down under the pressures of the insurance company. However, if you or someone you know is severely injured, suffered a traumatic brain injury, death, or the insurance policy limits do not cover your injury cost, you may want to consider the support of an attorney.

Until you accept a settlement check and sign a release, you have the legal right to request representation from an experienced personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer can help you find compensation from sources other than the driver’s auto insurance, including but limited to:

  • Coverage from additional policies including a parent’s policy or a company policy
  • Money from the at-fault driver’s estate if they died in the crash

Resources To Help Me

Mothers Against Drunk Driving: MADD is a valuable resource for those who are affected by a drunk driver. If you are a victim, know someone who was impacted by a drunk driver, or know someone who drives drunk, they will help you. To learn more about MADD and how they support others, visit https://www.madd.org/get-help/.

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[1] Hayashi, K., Miki, K., Ikemoto, T., Ushida, T., & Shibata, M. (2019). Factors influencing outcomes among patients with the whiplash-associated disorder: A population www.nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812013.pdf-based study in Japan. PLoS One, 14(5), e0216857.

[2] More information available at https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/personal-injury/introduction-to-personal-injury-law/what-is-the-difference-between-pure-and-modified-comparative-fault.html

[i] The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only. The information provided should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon an advertisement.

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