Yes, if you’re involved in a crash that was caused by a drunk driver and you suffer damages, whether they’re injuries or pain and suffering, you can file a personal injury claim against the impaired driver.
All drivers who use Alabama’s public roads owe a “duty of care” to other motorists, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This means that motorists are required by law to drive in a manner that keeps them and others safe. Engaging in dangerous behaviors such as speeding, running stop signs and red lights, and driving while impaired are direct violations of the duty of care and can result in drivers being held liable for any injuries and damages they cause.
After any crash involving injuries or property damage, you should call 911 right away. It’s not just required by law, but it also dispatches medical personnel and a police officer who will create an official accident report. The responding officer will also question you and any other drivers involved in the crash, and if the other driver was intoxicated, this is when they’ll be cited and even arrested.
There are a few ways that police officers can determine if drivers are drunk shortly after crashes.
These tests involve tracking drivers’ eyes as they follow a flashlight, making them stand on one leg to determine if their balance is impaired, and having them take a few steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line before turning around. Although even some sober drivers are incapable of completing these tests, they provide a reasonable estimation for impairment.
Breathalyzers are devices that measure a person’s blood alcohol content in their breath by detecting chemicals produced by alcohol consumption and the body’s processing of it. Breathalyzers are typically used by law enforcement officers after field sobriety tests, especially when they have reason to believe that drivers are impaired.
A highly accurate way to determine if drivers are intoxicated is to test their blood. Drivers may be required to submit blood samples for alcohol testing if they refuse a Breathalyzer test or if they are too impaired to complete a field sobriety test or Breathalyzer test.
If it’s determined that the driver who caused your crash was intoxicated at the time of the collision, this evidence can be used against them if you decide to file a personal injury claim against their insurance or if you decide to sue them directly.
In most cases, you don’t receive more money if the driver who hit you was drunk. Proving that the other driver was intoxicated can make it easier to get the money you’re owed for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, but it doesn’t increase the value of your claim.
However, you may be eligible to receive additional compensation called punitive damages, especially if the driver who hit you was extremely intoxicated or got behind the wheel of their vehicle while impaired and with the intention of putting themselves and others in harm’s way. These damages are designed to punish negligent parties rather than compensate their victims, but the money can help you pay for many of your accident-related expenses.
Alabama ranks seventh for the highest number of uninsured drivers in the U.S. Nearly 20% of all drivers in the state don’t carry valid auto insurance, which means that they don’t have policies to compensate drivers that they injure when they cause crashes. The state also ranks 17th for the total number of drunk driving arrests.
That means that if you get hit by a drunk driver, there’s a good chance they’re uninsured. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim against it to recoup some of your losses. But if you lack that, your best option may be filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and trying to collect from them out of pocket.
Although it can be easier to get money from the at-fault driver’s insurance or even your own policy if the other driver is convicted of DUI, it’s not a guarantee. Insurance companies are combative even when the evidence seems stacked against them, and crashes caused by impaired drivers are no exception.
At Vance Law Firm, we have no sympathy for people who choose to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, and we work hard to hold them fully liable for the damages they cause to innocent victims. If you or someone you love was hurt in a crash caused by a drunk driver, our Montgomery auto accident lawyers are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.