When someone makes the decision to drink and drive, their actions can turn an innocent victim’s life upside down in an instant. If you are the victim, you could have a long road ahead of you to recover from your injuries and get the compensation you deserve from the drunk driver. If, God forbid, you lost a loved one to a drunk driver, you might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to make the driver pay. In both situations, there are some steps you can take immediately after the crash that could make the fight for justice a little easier.
This might seem like a lot to remember, but if you only remember one thing, make it this: Call the drunk driving victims’ lawyers at Pracht Injury Lawyers as soon as possible after the crash, and we will take care of the rest!
What to Do at the Crash Scene or Shortly After
The aftermath of a serious crash is usually very chaotic. If you or your passengers have been injured, it could be very difficult to have the presence of mind to take proactive steps to protect a potential future claim for damages. Fortunately, most of these are actions you—or someone else at the scene—would take anyway. If possible, we encourage you to:
- Call 911. Don’t let anyone talk you out of calling 911, even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured or there doesn’t appear to be a lot of damage. The best way to document the accident and start the chain of evidence you will need later on is to get the police involved as soon as possible.
- Try to observe the driver. If the driver who caused the crash is drunk, they might try to switch seats with a passenger, use breath spray, hide open alcohol containers, or even flee the scene. If you are able to take pictures or video with your phone of the driver’s actions, their license plate, and evidence of alcohol or drug use, that could be helpful.
- Talk to the police. Once the police arrive, tell them immediately that you suspect that the other driver is drunk. If you have witnessed the driver trying to cover it up, let the police know. It’s important to get a breathalyzer reading at the scene if at all possible.
- Get medical care. Even if you do not need an ambulance for immediate treatment, you should get to the emergency room or urgent care as soon as you can after the crash to assess and document your injuries. In order to recover damages for medical care later on, you will have to provide evidence that your injuries were caused by the crash. Getting immediate treatment will help.
- Collect names of witnesses. The police should gather evidence that includes witness statements at the scene, but it can help if you have names and phone numbers so that you don’t have to wait for a police report to get them.
- Call a lawyer. The sooner a personal injury lawyer is involved, the better it is for your claim. They can make sure evidence is preserved and can control communication with insurance companies so that you don’t inadvertently say something that hurts your claim.
Again, do what you can at the scene, but the most important step you can take is to call a lawyer who has experience helping drunk driving victims.
Why Do I Need to Take Action If Drunk Driving Is Illegal?
Driving while intoxicated is illegal in South Carolina—and everywhere else. Drunk drivers face criminal penalties, even if they don’t cause a crash. If a drunk driver does cause an accident that injures or kills another person, they face even steeper penalties, potentially including manslaughter charges. It might feel like justice to see a drunk driver go to jail, lose their license, or pay a fine, but criminal punishments are not intended to compensate the victim. In some egregious situations, a judge might order a drunk driver to pay punitive damages to the victim, but that is not something you can depend on.
In order to hold a drunk driver financially responsible, you will have to file a separate civil claim against them. This process starts by negotiating with the driver’s auto insurance company to try to get them to agree to a fair settlement. If that doesn’t happen, you can file a lawsuit to get a judge to order the insurance company to pay. Either way, an experienced drunk driving victims’ lawyer will fight to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
What Is My Drunk Driving Accident Claim Worth?
Drunk driving crashes can take an incredible toll on victims and their families. If the victim survives, their medical bills can be astronomical. In addition, the pain and suffering they experienced, combined with the wages they lost by not being able to work, add an additional financial burden. If the drunk driving crash was fatal, surviving family members of the victim could file for monetary damages to hold the driver accountable.
Your attorney will fight to recover the full value of your claim, which might include:
- Medical expenses. Emergency treatment, hospitalization, surgery, follow-up care, and future care should be calculated to determine the full medical cost.
- Lost wages. If you were forced to take sick or vacation time to recover from your injuries, your lost wages should be compensated.
- Lost future earnings. If you are unable to ever earn the wage you earned before the accident due to your injuries, that amount should be factored into the settlement.
- Pain and suffering. These are considered non-economic damages because there is no actual price tag for how you experienced physical pain or mental suffering. However, there are formulas that are used to calculate the financial value of your suffering.
- Wrongful death. No amount of money will make up for the loss of a loved one, but a wrongful death settlement can replace the financial support of the deceased and compensate you for your emotional suffering.
As you recover from your injuries and other losses, you do not have to worry about what your case is worth if you have an experienced, aggressive advocate by your side.