Alcohol-related crashes in the U.S. cost billions of dollars every year and the Office for Victims of Crimes estimates that 1/3 of all Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related accident at some point in their lifetime. Drunk driving has affected countless numbers of lives and is tried differently than traffic accidents where alcohol is not involved. Therefore, it is not only important to know what to do when you are involved in a car accident, but it is essential to seek legal advice to learn about your rights when your life is affected by a drunk driver.
Alcohol is considered an aggravating factor in car accidents. It is something that can be used to increase the value of a claim. When aggravating factors are involved in a claim such as alcohol, drugs or use of a cell phone while driving, we may pursue a claim for punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant from repeating the reckless behavior that caused your damages. An attorney will know how to file for punitive damages and can help you understand different factors that may help you receive the full compensation that you are entitled to.
Another thing to think about when you are the victim of a drunk driving accident is who is liable for the accident. While the obvious answer may be the drunk driver, in some circumstances dram shop liability may apply; that is, the party that supplied the liquor may also be held liable. In Florida, this type of liability applies in limited situations. Therefore, it is important to understand that when you are involved in a drunk driving accident, you may have multiple claims to file. An experienced attorney will be able to investigate your claim and prosecute for the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to.
In addition to civil charges, drunk drivers are often subject to criminal charges. As such, you may be entitled to recover some of your damages through state victim assistance and compensation programs. Some states offer these programs to help reimburse crime victims and offer victim services when a drunk driver does not have liability insurance. An experienced attorney will know how to help you recover losses and will be familiar with state programs that offer assistance to victims of drunk driving accidents.
Also be aware that when the insurance company calls you, they are trying to limit damages. To avoid inadvertently reducing your damages, it is best to have an attorney with experience handle all communication with the insurance company. If the other person’s insurance company contacts you, it is best to say that you are not prepared to speak with them at that time and tell them you will have your attorney contact them.