Crashes caused by intoxicated drivers can leave you severely injured, angry, and struggling under the heavy weight of medical bills. If the accident was the fault of a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that person should be responsible for the cost of your injuries and the pain you have suffered.
As a result of another driver's choice to drink and drive, you likely suffered severe injuries after your accident. Your car and other personal property were likely damaged or even destroyed. The financial pressure of everything happening at once can be very difficult to handle without help.
With the help of experienced personal injury attorney Quinn Posner of Quinn Posner Law Office, P.C. you can fight for the justice and financial compensation you deserve.
The Issue of Driving Under the Influence
An intoxicated driver is extremely dangerous on the road. Drivers can be intoxicated by:
- Alcohol: Beer, Liquor, or other spirits
- Marijuana: "Pot," edibles
- Illegal Drugs: Cocaine, Heroin, LSD, Ecstasy
- Prescription Drugs: Vicodin, Hydrocodone, sleep medicine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in three traffic deaths are the result of a drunk driver. There was a 14% rise in fatal collisions between 2014 and 2015 in Washington State as a result of drug-impaired drivers.
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal, but people get behind the wheel anyway. If a driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, he or she is over the legal limit to drive. However, a driver may not necessarily be above the legal limit to be intoxicated enough to cause an accident.
Marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use in Washington, but it is not legal to drive while under the influence of marijuana's intoxicating effects. A THC level of 5 nanograms or higher within two hours of driving is considered driving under the influence in this state.
Effects of alcohol or marijuana use on a driver include:
- Decreased reaction times,
- Lack of attentiveness,
- Change in perception of speed or time,
- Inability to remain awake behind the wheel, or
- Changes in mood which may affect a driver's choices (i.e. road rage).
Any of these effects may be the cause of your car accident and your injuries.
Intoxicated drivers may be under indictment for criminal DUI charges at the same time you are pursuing a personal injury action. Evidence from the criminal trial can often be used in your civil case. Even if the driver is eventually acquitted of the criminal offense, you can still file a personal injury lawsuit for your damages.
If an intoxicated driver is the cause of your accident, a Camas personal injury attorney can file a lawsuit to get you the financial compensation you deserve.
Collecting Evidence of Driver Intoxication
A unique aspect of this kind of personal injury case is that your attorney will look at what the impaired driver was doing hours before your crash to determine whether the driver was intoxicated while driving. Usually, only the moments before the crash matter, but here, much more investigation must take place.
Your attorney will
- Look at police reports,
- Look at toxicology reports (blood, urine, breath, or hair tests),
- Review hospital and other medical records,
- Review the other driver's criminal record for prior DUI's, and
- Look at surveillance videos (of the accident or a bar where the other driver became intoxicated).
This evidence can be a crucial part of the proof you need to successfully obtain compensation from the liable party.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Once the evidence is collected, you can file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for your injuries. A personal injury claim is initiated by the filing of a complaint, or a document filed with the court that states the basic facts of the allegations and a generalized request for damages.
At this point, a process called discovery will occur in which the parties exchange information and evidence. A great deal can occur before trial, including the possibility of a settlement. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, the case will eventually go to trial.
Damages in Drunk Driving Personal Injury Cases
Once you are successful in your personal injury lawsuit, you can obtain financial compensation in the form of:
- Medical bills, both past and future;
- Property damage, such as to your car and its contents;
- Loss of income;
- Loss of earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium; and
- Wrongful death.
Sources of Financial Compensation
With the unique facts of DUI related accident, there are also unique places where compensation may be obtained:
- Other driver's insurance company,
- The other driver's personal financial resources,
- Underinsured Motorist coverage,
- The establishment that sold the alcohol to the driver (or the establishment's insurance company),
- The driver's employer if the driver was on duty at the time, and
- The Washington State Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
Filing a Lawsuit Against the Drinking Establishment
Under Washington's dram shop law, victims injured by drunk drivers are allowed to file a lawsuit against the establishment that served the driver if:
- the driver was obviously intoxicated at the time he or she was served alcohol, or
- if the driver was under the age of 21, regardless of whether or not the driver was intoxicated.
Successfully proving a dram shop case means that the establishment can be held jointly or partially responsible for your damages. This provides an alternate source of financial compensation, which can be especially important if the intoxicated driver is uninsured or underinsured.
How long do I have to file my case?
You must file your case within three years of the date the accident took place. If the action is for wrongful death, the statute of limitations is three years after the victim's death. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, you should never count on an exception.
If you fail to file your case in time, your claim will be dismissed if you try to file late, even if your claim would otherwise be successful.
A piece of advice, don't wait. If you want to file or think you may want to file a personal injury lawsuit, you should consult with a Washington personal injury attorney as early as possible.
Consult a Washington Personal Injury Attorney
If you have suffered injuries as the result of an intoxicated driver, you need an experienced attorney who understands the personal injury process and how to effectively prove that a driver's intoxication and negligence is responsible for your injuries. You may be entitled to significant financial compensation.
Experienced personal injury attorney Quinn Posner represents clients in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, and the rest of Clark County. Contact Quinn Posner today to schedule a free consultation.