Drunk drivers pose a serious risk to other drivers and pedestrians on the roads. They also typically result in injuries ranging from serious to fatal. What if a drunk driver hits my car in Fort Lauderdale has hurt you, our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers can help you recover compensatory damages. Here at the VG Law Group, we aim to ensure that you get the best settlement for your losses in a DUI crash. Call us today to discuss how much your claim is worth.
When involved in a drunk driving accident, it is important to understand how you should act in the wake of the crash. You should also know how you can prove your claim and the damages you can recover for your crash-related losses. Here is a look at these aspects of an accident caused by a drunk driver.
If you have been involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver, it is important to take the right steps in the wake of the crash. The right steps will ensure that you stay safe and on the right side of the law while safeguarding your own rights. These steps include:
- Report the Crash. This is a critically important step to take following a DUI crash. Once you report the crash, law enforcement officers will likely arrive on the crash scene to document the incident. The report which officers then the file is known as a police report or a traffic crash report. This report is a vital piece of evidence that plays a role when you file a claim with the insurance company or take your claim to court.
- Give Your Statement. When filing a report for the crash, police officers who respond to the scene will ask you to provide your statement. At this stage, make sure you simply narrate your version of events and tell them about how the crash occurred. You should also elaborate on the injuries you have sustained as a result of the crash.
- Get Medical Treatment. Once paramedics arrive on the crash scene, make sure you receive medical treatment. You may feel that your injuries are not serious or noteworthy and refuse medical attention in some cases. This is a mistake. Many internal injuries manifest themselves later. An insurer can later use your refusal at this point as an argument that you had no injuries, even if you later realized that you had internal injuries from the crash.
- Notify the At-Fault Driver’s Insurer. It is best to notify the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company about your intent to file a claim. Insurance companies can come up with all kinds of objections in a bid to turn down your claim or pay you as little as possible. This is why you should get legal help at this stage.
- Hire a Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer. Driving accident claims involving drunk drivers can take some time to settle. You will also need legal advice and help gather relevant evidence and counter the insurer's tactics. It is a good idea to hire a qualified car accident attorney when filing the claim.
Accidents caused by intoxicated drivers can result in injuries, property damage, and other types of losses. You have a valid personal injury claim for damages in lieu of these losses only when you can prove that the other driver was at fault and liable for your losses.
Liability is directly linked to negligence. Here are the four basic elements of negligence that must be proven to demonstrate the other driver's negligence.
- Duty of Care. A driver on the road owes a legal duty to the other drivers and people on the road. This duty requires the driver to operate in a reasonably safe manner and follow traffic rules.
- Breach of Duty of Care. When a driver acts in a reckless manner, such as driving under the influence, this constitutes a breach of the duty of care. However, a breach of duty alone is not enough to prove negligence. You must also satisfy the next two elements of negligence.
- Causation. You must be able to demonstrate that the driver’s breach of duty directly caused the auto accident which resulted in your injuries.
- Damages. The final element of negligence is to show that the crash caused by the at-fault driver’s negligence resulted in actual damages for you. Such damages could include the medical costs of your crash-related injuries, damage to your motor vehicle, lost wages, and so on.
Once all the four elements of negligence are satisfied, you have a valid insurance claim for damages. You will need to gather the relevant evidence in order to demonstrate the intoxicated person's negligence.
Gathering Proof of Drunk Driving
The relevant evidence must back your claim for damages against a drunk driver. The more evidence you can gather, the greater are your chances of success in receiving a fair amount of compensation. Such evidence includes:
Police Report: The police report of a drunk driving crash typically includes details on how the crash occurred. It will also list the tickets or criminal charges brought against the drunk driver. The police records of the crash serve as a vital piece of evidence in establishing the other driver's fault.
Photos and Videos: When you are at the accident scene, you can use a mobile phone to take photos and videos of the damage to the vehicles involved, your injuries, any skid marks on the road, as well as any other relevant evidence. Such evidence is very useful in establishing the nature of your damages. Your lawyer can also help you recover any CCTV footage from nearby cameras which may have captured the moment of the crash.
Witness Statements: Witnesses are neutral persons who may have seen the accident as it happened. Being third-party observers, they are in a position to testify about the crash. If witness statements support your version of how the accident took place, they can be a powerful piece of evidence substantiating your claim.
Florida follows a pure comparative fault law as defined in Florida Statutes Section 768.81. This law comes into play when calculating the amount of damages you can get in a personal injury claim. As per this law, you are entitled to damages proportionate to your degree of fault.
The upside of this is that the law ensures that you will receive damages regardless of how little or great was your degree of fault. For instance, if you ran a red light and a drunk driver hit you, fault will be distributed between you and the drunk driver. If your fault is found to be 60% and the other driver is found 40% at fault, you will still be able to receive 40% of your damages.
The downside is that an at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will do its best to paint you as partially negligent in causing the crash. For instance, if you were driving responsibly, the insurer might still claim that you were speeding or driving too slow, which contributed to the traffic accident. This is done so that your percentage of fault can be skewed to as high a percentage as possible. As a result, you get a smaller compensation for damages.
To ensure that the insurance company doesn’t try to do this, it is important to get the help of a good Ford Lauderdale car accident lawyer.
Florida laws require all drivers to carry PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance. PIP pays for your crash-related losses, regardless of who was at fault. However, PIP's limits are set at $10,000 in damages, so if your losses are greater, you can seek these from the drunk driver’s bodily injury coverage. The damages you can seek in your claim include:
- Medical Bills: These include the full extent of your medical treatment costs. You can file for medical expenses in lieu of doctor’s fees, hospital bills, medications, medical tests, as well any physical therapy or rehabilitation required in the course of the treatment and medical care of your injuries.
- Lost Wages: If you are forced to take time off your work due to your injuries, this can result in loss of earnings and other financial losses. You have the right to recover damages for such loss of earnings.
- Pain and Suffering: In the case of severe injuries, you are entitled to damages for both physical and mental pain. The money for the pain you receive depends on various factors such as your age, the nature of your injuries, the impact of the pain and suffering on your life, expected future pain, and so on.
- Wrongful Death: In case a severe accident by a drunk driver causes the death of a victim, the spouse, parents, children, and other possible dependents can bring a wrongful death claim. Damages in lieu of wrongful death also cover funeral expenses.
- Property Damage: A crash will likely result in damage to your vehicle. You can also seek damages to cover the costs of having your vehicle repaired. In case the vehicle is deemed totaled, you are entitled to its fair market value at pre-accident estimation in lieu of property loss.
When you are a victim of a drunk driving crash, you need the help of a personal injury lawyer. A good personal injury attorney will help you gather relevant evidence such as the accident report, meet legal requirements such as the statute of limitations, and ensure that your personal injury claim is filed at the earliest against the liable party. In case the insurer doesn't honor your claim, driving accident lawyers can also work with you to launch a personal injury lawsuit.
Here at VG Law Group, our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers understand how car crash claims work and how to secure the best personal injury settlement from insurance companies. Call us today to discuss your claim in a free consultation.