Can You Sue A Drunk Driver Who Caused Your Injuries?

If you’ve been injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver and wonder whether you can sue the driver, the answer is “yes, you can.” When people injure others through their own careless behavior, including while driving under the influence, they have acted negligently. Most personal injury claims are based on negligence.

While filing a civil claim against the drunk driver who caused your injuries won’t erase your physical pain and emotional stress, if your suit is successful, it can help relieve the financial anxiety and potential economic ruin that car accident injuries can cause. Being appropriately compensated for all you have lost because of the negligent actions of a drunk driver can be a viable reason for filing a claim beyond what an insurance settlement may have offered.

Depending upon the circumstances of your particular case and the severity of your losses, your claim might include compensation for:

·         Medical bills

·         Lost time at work

·         Future income if you can no longer work

·         Pain and suffering

·         Property damage

·         Other losses.

Negligence Must Be Proven

So what should you do if you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by a drunk driver and want to bring a lawsuit?

First, it is important to note that to win a personal injury case, negligence must be proven, which isn’t always easy. You might consider consulting with an experienced car accident attorney who can look at all the facts of your case and advise you as to the viability of your case, how long it might take and how much you can realistically expect to receive. If you decide to seek out an attorney, look for one in your state who is knowledgeable about your state’s laws surrounding car accidents and recovery.

Recovery Options in No-Fault States

Most states have at-fault laws in place, but 12 states use a no-fault system. If you live in one of the no-fault states, your recovery options will be more limited than they would be in an at-fault state. To bring a personal injury claim in a no-fault state, your damages must meet a specific threshold, either in dollar amount or in seriousness of injuries. The threshold specifics differ among no-fault states, which include Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah.  

Basic Claims Process

If you’ve turned down the insurance company’s settlement offer and are suing the drunk driver in court, you will first work with your attorney to collect witness statements, police reports and all the written evidence surrounding your case. This is called the discovery phase. After discovery, the case will go to court. Sometimes, though, the person being sued in an effort to avoid a trial will offer a settlement. If this happens, you can review the numbers with your attorney and decide whether or not you will accept the settlement offer.

If you decide to go to trial, a date will be set, and your attorney and the drunk driver’s attorney will argue the case to the court, a verdict will be rendered and compensation may be awarded. 

Statute of Limitations

Also, keep in mind that there are statutes of limitations in filing personal injury claims. A statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after being injured. This time varies by state and can be anywhere from 1 to 10 years; however, the majority of states have limitations of 2 or 3 years.

Can I Sue if the Driver is Facing Criminal Charges?

It might also be noted that even if the drunk driver responsible for your injuries was arrested and is facing criminal charges, you can still bring a civil lawsuit seeking damages. And even if the person is acquitted on the criminal charges, they may still be found liable in a civil case and be ordered to pay compensation. Remember the O.J. Simpson case? Simpson faced criminal charges for murdering his ex-wife and her friend, but was found not guilty. However, the families of the victims brought a civil suit against him and he was found liable for damages and ordered to pay millions of dollars. While this case had nothing to do with drunk driving, it exemplifies how a person who injures or kills another can be acquitted of criminal charges and still be held liable through a civil suit.

Bringing a lawsuit is a complex process. It can be smart to consult with an experienced attorney like Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law about the process and what you can expect.