Drunk driving and DUI accidents kill nearly 30 people in the United States are killed each day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2017, that was one fatality every 48 minutes. While drunk driving accidents have decreased by around one third in the last 30 years, the cause for concern remains, and drunk driving accidents still claim more than 10,000 lives each year. In 2010, the amount of damages caused by DUI accidents, including deaths, totaled $44 billion.
About three out of every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives. If you are one of them, or has lost a loved one due to drunk driving, TorkLaw can help you receive the compensation you deserve, so you can put your live back together.
What Does “Driving Under the Influence” Mean Legally?
Driving under the influence (DUI) means that you are driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
It is illegal everywhere in the United States to drive a car if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. At a BAC level of .08, the fatal crash risk significantly increases, and all critical driving skills are negatively affected: braking, steering, lane changing, judgment and response time.
In 2017, drunk driving accounted for 29% of all motor vehicle accident fatalities in the United States. 61% of these involved drivers with a BAC of .08% or higher.
Even Just One Drink Can Affect Judgment and Driving Skills
Even a BAC lower than .08 impacts a person’s judgment and driving skills. As the chart below shows, after two drinks, driving ability may be impaired, causing a person to drive erratically. Even a small amount of alcohol affects the reflexes, slowing the ability to respond, and diverts attention from watching the road.
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DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Alcohol
A person may still be arrested and charged with DUI if he or she is under the influence of a drug, whether it is prescribed, or over-the-counter, or illicit. A 2015 NHTSA study found that 16% of motor vehicle accidents involved drugs other than alcohol.
How Do I Know the Driver Who Hit Me Was Impaired?
If you have been in an accident and suspect the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, here are some for signs to look for.
Signs of marijuana, depressant medication, or alcohol impairment include:
- Blood-shot eyes
- Difficulty focusing
- Hostile behavior
- Slow or slurred speech
- Difficulty standing
- Smell of alcohol or marijuana
- Involuntary eye movements
- Poor motor skills
- Anything the driver may say about whether s/he has been drinking or where s/he was before the crash
Signs of opioid use (such as heroin, Vicodin, Oxycontin, codeine, morphine, or fentanyl) are like those of alcohol or marijuana, and may also include itching, sweating, runny eyes or nose.
- Signs of stimulant use, such as cocaine, or methamphetamines:
- Restlessness or extreme nervousness
- Inflated self-confidence or risk-taking behavior
- Grinding teeth
- Rigid muscles
- Exaggerated reflexes
Bring these observations to the attention of the investigating law enforcement officers. Write down everything you saw or heard, and why you think that the other driver was drunk at the time.
Criminal Versus Civil Action in Drunk Driving/DUI Accident Cases
If someone drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she may face criminal charges. DUI drivers can also be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages, and losses they cause in the civil justice system, which works differently from criminal courts. In a criminal court, a drunk driver found guilty might receive a sentence, but DUI victims and their families may not be able to seek compensation for their monetary losses.
A personal injury lawsuit can help them seek and obtain fair compensation for the damages they have sustained. Civil cases can be easier to try than criminal cases, because the plaintiff must prove negligence on the part of the defendant.
Damages in Drunk Driving/DUI Accident Cases
If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, you may be able to recover damages for the injuries, damages, and losses you have sustained, including:
- Medical expenses: The cost of any medical treatment you received because of the accident, including hospitalization, surgery, medication, medical equipment, and ongoing physical therapy. Save all documents and receipts, so you can claim these expenses, and provide evidence of your injuries.
- Lost wages: If you are temporarily unable to work as you recover from your injuries, you may seek lost income for those days. If you have had to quit your job because of your injuries and disability, you may be able to seek additional compensation for loss of earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering: Car accident injuries, in addition to causing a great deal of physical pain and discomfort, may also result in emotional and psychological issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You have the right to claim compensation for physical pain and mental anguish as part of pain and suffering.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages are awarded to punish the liable party for particularly egregious behavior.
In cases where a DUI victim died, his or her family members can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. These lawsuits help victims’ families seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, pain and suffering, lost future income and loss of love, care, and companionship.
What an Experienced Attorney Can Do for a Drunk Driving/DUI Accident Victim
If you have been injured by a drunk driver, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury law firm as soon as possible after the accident, as the law firm may want to send its own investigator to inspect the scene of the accident, and speak to any witnesses while the facts are still fresh in their minds. If a government employee was the intoxicated driver who harmed you, you may be able to sue the public agency where the driver worked. If that is the case, you need to act quickly, as there is a six-month statute of limitations.
An experienced personal injury law firm can also help you obtain appropriate and thorough medical care for your physical, emotional, and psychological injuries, and ensure you obtain full compensation all your injuries and damages, including punitive damages against the driver, if possible.
Accident cases where alcohol was a cause require special attention to obtain maximum compensation. Don’t leave your future and the future of your family to chance. Call upon the skill and expertise of the experienced DUI accident attorneys at TorkLaw.