With Spring less than two week away, people are starting to consider their destinations for Spring Break or that late Spring vacation. Unfortunately, the increase in highway traffic will also bring an increase in the number of impaired drivers as well as an associated increase in in both fatal and non-fatal accidents that are the inevitable result of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol. In this week’s essay, out drunk driver accident lawyer will review the legal options that may be available to victims of accidents caused by a drunk driver.
The prevalence of impaired driving
Although most of us are aware that impaired driving is a serious public health problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide the following statistics as an illustration of the problem of impaired driving in the United States during the calendar year 2015:
all licensed drivers
- There were just over 1.1 million impaired driving arrests and/or citations issued in 2015, meaning that about 1% of all licensed drivers were impaired at one time or another.
- Over 10,200 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (29%) of all traffic-related deaths
- Impaired driving was a direct factor in 16% of the 1, 1,132 traffic deaths among children under 14 years.
Obviously, impaired drivers are a major source of unnecessary injuries and deaths in modern society!
Can I sue the drunk driver who caused my injuries?
In most cases, you can file a lawsuit to hold a drunk driver liable for your injuries. Not only can you sue a drunk driver but, in most states, you can also sue the bar where the driver had been drinking, the host of a party where alcohol was served, or even the package store that sold alcohol to the driver if it can be shown that the driver was clearly under the influence when making their purchases. There are, however, several states where your ability to recover damages may be limited or otherwise restricted by state law.
As of January 2017, 15 states had mandatory “no fault” insurance laws that in some cases required an injured driver to file a claim for injuries and other losses with their own insurance carrier before they could proceed with a claim against another driver. Since “no fault” laws vary from state to state, it is always advisable to consult an accident injury lawyer of you are involved in an accident in one of these states in order to protect your legal rights to compensation.
What if the drunk driver was killed in the same accident?
Contrary to many urban legends, drunk drivers are no more likely to survive an accident than are their non-impaired victims. In those accidents that result in the death of the responsible driver, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against the estate of the driver who caused your injuries and/or other losses.
Lawsuits against an estate can quickly become complicated because probate (inheritance) law demands that any claims made against an estate must be made within a certain period of time and, if you miss a deadline to file a claim, you may not be able to recover any damages at all, regardless of the merits and strength of your claim. As in other accident cases, it is vital that you consult a personal injury and accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident where the responsible driver is killed.
You need a personal injury and accident lawyer if you were injured by a drunk driver
If you, or a family member, were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver you have the legal right to demand compensation from the driver responsible for your losses. Since insurance and personal injury law can vary from state to state, it is strongly advised that you consult an accident and personal injury attorney before dealing with an insurance company or the legal representative of the other driver’s estate. In fact, it is imperative that the services of a personal injury lawyer be obtained as soon as it is learned that the driver who caused the accident has been killed in an accident or has died in the interim between the accident and the time that a lawsuit is being considered.
All states place a time limit on the presentation of legal claims against the estate of an individual, and this time limit limit is usually between 60 and 120 days from the time that a legal notice regarding a death is published in the “Legal Notices” section of the “official” local newspaper. If a claim is presented after such a deadline has passed, most states will not allow that claim to be processed by the courts and any legal claim, no mater how valid or equitable, will be enforceable.