Everyone knows that driving while intoxicated is foolish, illegal — and deadly. Yet despite decades of public awareness campaigns and tougher laws, drunk driving remains the single largest cause of preventable deaths on America’s streets and highways, accounting for nearly a third of all fatal crashes. According to data gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average 28 people a day died in drunk-driving incidents in 2019, or one every 52 minutes.
Startling as those figures are, they actually represent a significant drop in the percentage of alcohol-related traffic deaths since the NHTSA started collecting data on the issue in 1982. Drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking excessively know they face harsher criminal and civil penalties than they did a generation ago, and other drivers are doing more to hold them accountable, including reporting suspected drunk drivers before they cause serious injury.
If you do happen to get hit by a drunk driver, there are important steps you should take to protect your rights and help protect others from being injured by the same individual. Here they are:
- Call the police. As in any accident, your first priority is to check for injuries and summon emergency personnel if anyone is hurt. But even if the collision seems minor, it’s always a good idea to contact police and file an accident report. This is particularly important if you suspect the other driver has been drinking or drugging; the police can conduct sobriety tests and document the other driver’s condition. Don’t fall for earnest pleas from the other driver not to contact police and simply “settle this ourselves,” as that could be a ruse to evade detection and arrest.
- Take pictures. Snapping pix may be the last thing on your mind after a crash, but it can prove tremendously useful down the line, documenting the damage inflicted on your car (or you) and resolving disputes about the circumstances of the collision.
- Get the names and contact information of witnesses. It’s always helpful if there are other people who saw the collision and are willing to provide a statement. It can be especially helpful in suspected drunk-driving crashes, as these individuals may have been in a position to observe the other driver’s behavior before or after the crash and provide valuable eyewitness evidence.
- Document your damages. Keep track of your medical bills, car repair bills, time lost from work, and other costs associated with the collision. This is important in every personal injury case, but even more so when you are seeking to hold a reckless and irresponsible driver accountable for his or her actions. The fact that the other driver is found guilty of driving under the influence does not automatically entitle you to compensation; you still have to prove your case.
- Hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Not every car accident case requires the services of an attorney. However, when that case involves serious injury or an ongoing criminal proceeding against the at-fault driver for drunk driving, it’s important to have an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner. A savvy attorney will make sure you get a proper medical evaluation and will know how to assess the ways the crash has impacted your life, including losses you’ve incurred that you may not realize are compensable, such as lost wages and pain and suffering. The attorney can also help guide you in cooperating with any criminal case against the at-fault driver while preserving your rights in a civil claim.
THE CAR ACCIDENT LAWYERS AT FDAZAR
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.