Despite the known dangers of drunk driving, alcohol-impaired accidents continue to account for nearly one third of all traffic related deaths in the U.S. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, every day 28 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.
As with distracted driving, despite the increased safety of automobiles alcohol still presents a grave threat to those on the road.
If you are hit by a drunk driver there are a few things that you should know and be prepared for.
1. Plan on getting involved (if possible) in the criminal process. If the drunk driver who hit you is allowed to plea the charge down it could impact your case. Most judges will not allow significantly reduced pleas in cases where alcohol was involved in an accident that caused injury or death, so it's important for you or your family to speak with the prosecutor if possible and let them know that you oppose a plea bargain. While you may not have a legal right to do so, making your position known will put pressure on the judge and the prosecutor.
2. Notify the driver's insurance company of your potential claim. You should receive this information in the accident report, which you can get from the responding police department. You will want to notify the carrier as soon as possible of your claim and your injuries. However…
3. Think very carefully about settling with the insurance company right away. If you were hit by a drunk driver the insurance company may try to settle with you right away. Be careful. First, you want to be sure that you have explored all available insurance coverage. Second, you want to be sure that there are no significant personal assets that could potentially be available to satisfy your claim (especially if you or a family member have sustained very significant injuries or death). If you accept an early settlement you will be signing a release which prohibits any further claims arising out of the accident. In some cases, it makes sense to settle, and in others it does not. More about that here.
4. Notify your own insurance carrier of the potential for a SUM or underinsured motorist claim. You are required in New York to have minimum SUM coverage, so you will have it. This covers you in the event that the other driver is uninsured or has limited insurance to cover your injuries.
5. Find out, if possible, where the other driver was drinking and track down any witnesses. The New York State Dram Shop law permits a recovery against an entity which sold alcohol to an intoxicated person or person under the age of 21, where the alcohol contributed to the person's intoxication and that intoxication caused the injuries. This means that if a bar or restaurant sold alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, and that person later hit you with their car, the bar or restaurant may be held liable. In this situation, however, quick and thorough investigation is paramount. The bar must be contacted, witnesses interviewed (including the bartender or server), video footage (if any) must be secured. This information – particularly in the bar and restaurant industry – has a way of disappearing very quickly, and if it's not obtained early it may be impossible to track down later.
Alcohol related accidents and death are entirely avoidable. If you or a loved one have been hurt by a drunk driver contact us today.