Despite the many awareness campaigns being broadcast across all media, drunk driving, or DUI, remains by far the biggest threat on American roads, causing not only deaths, but also serious injuries for drivers and innocent bystanders. The numbers are worrying and the implications of this issue span across multiple levels, which makes drunk driving a difficult challenge to deal with. If the physical and emotional turmoil caused by being involved in such an accident were not enough, financial and legal problems may also arrive. Victims of DUIs can be severely injured or have to pay expensive repairs for their vehicles and, throughout this entire stressful situation, they often forget to seek legal assistance and receive less compensation than they should. A calm and methodical approach is the best way to go through this. Even if these accidents are unpredictable, knowing your legal rights and recommended procedures will minimize financial losses.
Drunk driving statistics in the US
DUIs are being carefully monitored, as they are the leading cause of accidents in the US. But the actual figures are terrifying.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash every two minutes. The same administration also reports that, in their lifetime, two out of three people are involved in a DUI, whether as the driver or as a victim.
- Although drunk driving accidents can happen to people of all ages, most drivers involved are 26 to 29 year old, reports the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings
- In 2016, 28 people a day have been killed in drinking and driving car accidents, as reported by CBS news. In 2015, one person died every 51 minutes.
- The financial implications of drunk driving are serious. Drivers involved have to pay an average of $500/year, while the US Government has to spend a whopping average of $132 billion/year.
- In 2013, more than 200 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. 61% were passengers in vehicles driven by intoxicated drivers and 29% were pedestrians or pedalcyclists.
What makes drunk driving accidents so complicated for innocent victims?
Rare are the cases when a victim is involved in a DUI with minimal financial losses. Most of the time, the person involved has to pay hospital charges, medicine, vehicle repairs and take time off work. People assume that the guilty party will automatically pay for all this damage, but that is actually not true. Personal injury attorneys warn that the drunk driver is not automatically required to give compensation to the victim. In order for this to happen, the victim has to file a claim for drunk driving accidents and only at the end of a tricky legal process will he/she collect the money. Once a professional is in charge of this, compensation is almost always guaranteed, but people are almost never prepared for an accident and when it occurs, they are caught off-guard and make rookie mistakes:
- Not knowing what to do, they don’t call an attorney and they expect compensation to come automatically
- Wait too long to file a claim
- Hire juniors and paralegals, who don’t specialize in personal injury cases and don’t know all their ins and outs.
Why it’s important to seek legal help immediately
Personal injury attorneys warn people that acting quickly is essential if victims want to walk away with the amount they are entitled to. Unfortunately, the more time passes from the accident, the harder it becomes to collect compensation. The file has to include photos, witness reports police reports and medical evaluations. If too much time passes, this evidence will be difficult to obtain or no longer relevant.
But, those who do know where to look for help can become success stories. In Maryland, which has some of the harshest penalties against drunk driving, law firms like Prince Benowitz LLP have been successfully representing DUI victims for decades. A similar success was also reported in Colorado, where personal injury attorney Doug Allen has recovered more than $8 million for his clients.
Procedures and tips
No one wants to ever have to follow these procedures, but they should be known, because an accident can happen at any time from someone else’s fault. At the site of the crash, after calling an ambulance and the police and making sure everyone is stable, you should do the following:
- Exchange information with everyone involved (names, phone numbers, license plate numbers).
- Talk to witness about what they saw and get their contact information, because you will need their testimony later
In 24 hours, you should call your insurance company to tell them about the accident. Provide as many details as you remember, but always be honest about the extent of the damage, because lying could put you in a sensitive legal position and you could lose your claim for compensation. If you were driving a vehicle at the time of the accident and it was damaged, take pictures of it as soon as you can.
You should also take notes throughout the entire duration of your medical treatment and request copies of every document, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
Working with a personal injury lawyer is advisable, because they can offer support and guidance when seeking compensation.