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How We Handle Your DUI/DWI Accident Claim

DUI Accident LawyerMore than a quarter of American drivers admit to driving under the influence of alcohol within the past six months. And a shocking 43 percent admit to driving drunk at some point in their lives. Despite decades of driver education, harsh criminal laws, and the clear dangers driving under the influence of alcohol present, Americans are not getting the message.

Drunk drivers cause about 28 deaths per day across the United States. That’s one fatal DUI accident every 52 minutes, or over 10,000 accidents per year. In addition, tens of thousands of people suffer severe and potentially lifelong injuries every year as a result of drunk drivers.

If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, you are not alone. And you have options to hold the drunk driver responsible for your injuries accountable for their actions. At Console & Associates, P.C., we proudly represent accident victims and their families in DUI accident cases, helping them pursue justice and the financial compensation they desperately need and deserve.

No Fee PromiseWe’ve been helping DUI accident victims for more than 25 years, investigating cases, filing claims, negotiating with insurance companies and litigating these cases at trial. We understand that picking up the phone to initiate a lawsuit may feel overwhelming. At Console & Associates, P.C., we make the process as easy on you as possible, starting from the first phone call. We won’t pressure you or try to convince you to bring a claim; we’re here to help you understand your rights so you can make the best decision on behalf of yourself and your family. To learn more about how we can help you with your DUI accident case, give Console & Associates a call today. If you decide to move forward with a DUI accident lawsuit, we won’t bill you unless and until we can recover compensation on your behalf. That’s part of the “No Fee Promise” we make to each one of our clients.

To get your DUI accident claim started or just take advantage of a free, confidential consultation, call (866) 778-5500.

What Constitutes Driving Under the Influence?

Alcohol use is known to impair a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that drinking alcohol can:

  • Affect a person’s judgment
  • Hinder their vision
  • Reduce their ability to distinguish the colors of traffic signs and signals
  • Make them drowsy
  • Increase the amount of time they need to react to urgent situations on the roadway

Given the widespread and significant effects of alcohol use on driving ability, it’s no wonder that every state in the U.S. has laws that prohibit driving while impaired by alcohol. These laws are typically based on whether the amount of alcohol in the driver’s system is above a specified legal limit.

Generally, driving while impaired by the use of alcohol (or other drugs) is referred to in one of the following ways:

  • DUI: Driving Under the Influence
  • DWI: Driving While Intoxicated

When you’re searching for attorneys who practice DUI accident law, you have to be careful. While law firms like Console & Associates, P.C. handle personal injury matters that arise out of drunk driving accidents, attorneys may use similar terms to refer to legal defense representation for drivers facing DUI charges, especially charges that involve causing an accident that left someone injured.

DUI Statistics

Drunk driving causes more than 10,000 deaths per year, according to the NHTSA. That works out to 28 deaths per day, or one death every 52 minutes. And every single one of these deaths—as well as the hundreds of thousands of nonfatal injuries caused by drunk drivers each year—are completely preventable.

Driving under the influence is such a widespread problem that, statistically, two out of three people will be involved in a DUI accident over the course of their lifetime, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reported, citing data from the NHTSA.

What Does the Law Say on Driving Under the Influence?

How does the law define driving under the influence of alcohol? Generally, state law establishes a legal limit under which the percent of alcohol detected in the driver’s bloodstream must be for that individual to be legally able to drive. This limit may be known as the individual’s blood alcohol content or blood alcohol concentration, often abbreviated as BAC. A driver’s BAC is usually expressed in grams per deciliter (g/dL) and refers to the weight of ethanol detected in 100 milliliters of blood.

In most states, the BAC of an adult driver 21 years of age or older must be below 0.08 g/dL. Since 2018, Utah has been the exception, lowering its BAC for adult drivers to 0.05 g/mL, according to Loma Linda University’s Institute for Health Policy and Leadership. For drivers under age 21, all states have a zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol use, according to the NHTSA. Tests that may be used to assess a driver’s level of intoxication may include a breathalyzer, a urine test, and a blood test.

It’s important to note that a driver doesn’t have to be over the legal BAC limit for alcohol use to impact their ability to drive. For example, although adults 21 and older are typically not considered to be legally drunk while behind the wheel if their BAC is under 0.08 g/dL, a person’s vision may be affected with a BAC of as little as 0.02 g/dL, according to the NHTSA.

The good news is that, while a DUI charge can certainly help demonstrate the negligence of the driver who caused your crash, you can still recover compensation even if the driver’s BAC was technically under the legal limit for a DUI charge, or if you can’t prove that they were drunk because they fled the scene or refused a breathalyzer or another type of test. Negligent driving behavior, such as failing to maintain their lane or to stop as directed by traffic signs and signals, is sufficient for you to seek compensation, whether or not the at-fault driver was drunk.

What Is the Difference Between a DWI and a DUI?

Both DUI and DWI are terms that may be used in situations that involve driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. DUIs and DWIs may be classified as criminal acts (misdemeanors or felonies) or as mere traffic offenses, depending on the state in which the incidents occurred and whether the driver has committed multiple offenses.

Depending on the state in which the violation occurred, these two terms may or may not have different meanings. In New Jersey, for example, DUI and DWI are interchangeable terms, with both types of offenses falling under the same legal statutes. Other states may use the broader term of DUI primarily for accidents that result from impairment from other drugs, like prescription medications or illegal recreational drugs. Alternatively, some states treat DWI as a more serious matter than DUI, applying to instances in which the driver’s BAC was higher—and thus carrying more severe consequences.

These distinctions that are specific to state law are important for the driver facing DUI/DWI charges, but less so for the victims injured by drunk drivers. The more important questions are whether you can prove that the other driver was negligent and how you should calculate your damages to ensure that you receive the full amount of compensation you’re entitled to.

What To Do if You Have Been in a DUI-Related Accident

Despite the alarming DUI accident statistics, no one ever really expects to be hit by a drunk driver—and most people don’t know what steps to take when you have been hit by a drunk driver. Here are the most important actions you need to take right away.

1.   Seek Medical Help.

Your health and safety are the most important things after any collision occurs. Get to a safe place—out of the wreckage of the vehicle and the path of traffic. Call 911 for emergency medical assistance, or ask someone else on the scene to do this for you.

If you don’t think your injuries are severe enough to require an ambulance, you should still seek immediate medical treatment at an emergency room, an urgent care facility, or your doctor’s office. Don’t wait to get checked out, even if you think your symptoms are only minor aches and pains, because they could indicate something more serious.

2.   Report the Accident.

Another reason to call 911 after a DUI car accident is to report the collision to the authorities.

It doesn’t matter whether the driver admitted to being drunk, or you only suspect that they are drunk, or even if the driver left the scene—the crash needs to be reported to the police. If the driver isn’t drunk, they still violated traffic safety laws, and they still need to face the consequences. Similarly, if a motorist fled the scene, you need to notify the police promptly and provide them with any information you have so that they can search for the hit-and-run driver.

Having a police accident report is crucial to the success of your personal injury claim. This authoritative document proves that the accident happened, so an insurance company has no basis for questioning the veracity of your claim. Any DUI charges or other citations that the other driver receives can help you establish their liability for causing the crash.

Of course, there’s a lot more that goes on in the aftermath of a DUI accident. You may have to deal with repairing or replacing a wrecked car, going to follow-up medical appointments and scheduling physical therapy sessions, and of course, figuring out how to handle the influx of medical bills and other financial pressures, like the loss of income that comes with being too injured to work. A DUI accident injury lawyer can help you figure out the next steps you need to take to begin getting life back on track.

Which Questions May Be Asked by Your Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer?

When you reach out to a DUI accident injury lawyer, you will be asked some questions to determine how the attorney can best assist you.

There will be questions pertaining to the defendant’s intoxication, such as:

  • What was the defendant’s BAC?
  • Where was the defendant prior to the collision?
  • Is it known whether a third party, such as a drinking establishment or a social host, was the one that provided the alcohol?
  • Does the defendant have a lower than average level of tolerance for drinking alcohol?
  • Does the defendant have any known medical conditions that could result in reduced judgment or ability to operate a vehicle when under the influence of even a small amount of alcohol?
  • Is there any proof that the defendant left the place where they had been drinking by operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol?

An attorney may ask these questions to get more insight into how the defendant’s intoxication is related to their liability for the crash. It’s okay if you don’t know the answers. Many victims of drunk driving accidents and their families don’t have these details, particularly when the resulting injuries were severe. In the aftermath of the crash, they were too involved in dealing with these serious injuries to find out this information. An experienced attorney can pursue these answers in the course of conducting a thorough investigation of the collision.

Of course, these aren’t the only questions your lawyer will raise. An attorney will ask you questions pertaining to negligence more generally, like what you remember about the collision itself and what (if anything) you noticed about the other driver’s vehicle before they struck you. Finally, your attorney will ask you questions about the extent of your damages—the harms and losses you sustained because of the crash.

How to Prove Liability for a DUI Accident

In a personal injury matter, the plaintiff must generally establish certain elements to prove the negligence and legal liability of any defendant for their injuries.

  1. To begin establishing negligence, the plaintiff must establish that the party owed them a duty of care, such as by following traffic safety laws that include not driving while impaired by alcohol use.
  2. Next, the plaintiff must prove that a breach of duty of care occurred through the defendant’s actions (or failure to act). This is where it must be proven that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or that the driver was negligent in some other way.
  3. To pursue a claim, the victim must prove causation, or that the defendant’s breach of duty of care was the cause of the accident.
  4. Finally, the victim must be able to identify and document legally recognizable damages.

Although it may seem obvious that the drunk driver was at fault for the collision, proving liability for personal injuries is a more complicated task than you might expect. Having experienced legal representation on your side can simplify and streamline the claims process, so you can focus on getting better.  

Is Third-Party Liability Applicable in DUI Cases?

In the simplest car accident cases, there may be only two parties involved in a claim: the plaintiff (the person who is suing) and the defendant (the person being sued for negligence). In more complicated legal matters, there may be additional parties who face DUI accident liability. For someone other than the drunk driver to face liability, or legal responsibility, for the collision, that person or company must have been negligent in some way.

Some situations in which third-party liability for DUI accident claims may exist include:

  • Dram shop claims, in which the person injured by the drunk driver sues a bar, tavern, or restaurant that over-served the defendant alcohol
  • Social host liability, which comes into play when the alcohol consumed by the drunk driver was served by a private individual in a non-commercial setting, like a party
  • Intoxication without consent, in which case the drunk driver may not have known they were consuming alcohol in the first place due to their drink being spiked by someone else, either due to negligence or malicious intent

This same process of proving liability against a defendant applies when suing a third party as when suing the drunk driver.

  1. The plaintiff must establish that the third-party defendant owed them a duty of care, such as to obey laws that prohibit continuing to serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons at bars.
  2. The plaintiff must demonstrate the breach of duty of care that occurred by providing evidence that demonstrates the third-party defendant’s negligence. For example, in a dram shop claim, evidence of a bar’s breach of duty of care might include receipts for alcohol purchases, witness statements that attest to the intoxication of the drunk driver while at the bar, and video surveillance footage that show loss of coordination or other noticeable signs of intoxication.
  3. The plaintiff must prove causation, or that the established breach of duty of care was what caused the drunk driving accident.
  4. The plaintiff needs to demonstrate the full extent of the damages they suffered because of the crash. These harms must be legally recognizable damages.

Third-party claims in DUI accident cases are complex, so you’re going to want an attorney on your side. At Console & Associates, P.C., our team of attorneys has a long history of holding accountable all possible defendants in DUI accident claims, including a $925,000 DUI car accident settlement for two vehicle occupants who suffered severe injuries in a collision caused by a drunk driver who had been over-served by a New Jersey bar.

What Are Economic and Noneconomic Factors in Determining DUI Accident Compensation?

The biggest factor that affects the amount of  DUI accident compensation you’re entitled to is the extent of your damages. Damages can be economic, meaning that they have a clear numerical cost associated with them, or noneconomic, meaning that they don’t have this numerical value.

Economic damages in a DUI claim may include:

  • Medical bills, such as hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, prescription medication costs, and the costs of wheelchairs, canes, and other ambulatory assistive devices
  • Projected future medical expenses, if your injuries have a lifelong impact on your health and functioning
  • Lost wages for the time you miss from work due to your injury
  • Decrease in future earning potential, if you’re not able to return to work because of permanent limitations resulting from your injuries

The noneconomic damages that you may claim in a DUI car accident lawsuit may include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Permanent scarring

To get the most money for their DUI accident settlements, accident victims should put their claims in the hands of experienced attorneys who can thoroughly document all of their damages. Calculating the full extent of our clients’ damages is an important part of our success in getting them maximum compensation for their injuries, such as this $240,000 settlement for a client who sustained radial nerve palsy after being hit by a drunk driver.

What Will a DUI Accident Lawyer Cost You?No Fee Promise You Don't Pay Unless We Win Console & Associates PC

Did you know that you can get free legal advice for a personal injury matter? Console & Associates, P.C. offers every accident victim a free legal consultation in which we review the facts of your case, answer your questions, and educate you on the legal process. If you choose us to represent you in your DUI claim, we will handle your case on a contingency basis, which means we only get paid a fraction of the amount of money we succeed in getting for you.

We call this our No Fee Promise, because you pay nothing unless and until we recover money damages on your behalf.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a DUI Accident Attorney

By handling every aspect of your legal claim, including minimizing any liability that the defendant or their insurance company attempts to put on you, our attorneys can simplify and streamline the process of seeking legal compensation. Once you put your claim in our hands, we handle everything from the initial investigation of the accident to finalizing a settlement or representing you at trial. You focus on getting better, and we’ll take care of everything else.

Having a DUI accident lawyer on your side doesn’t just make the claims process simpler. It also increases your chances of getting the full amount of money you deserve. On average, attorneys get their clients 3.5 times more money than claimants without attorneys get for themselves, according to a 2014 study by the Insurance Research Council. This means that a DUI injury accident lawyer legal settlement is likely to be significantly higher than the average settlement for DUI accident matters obtained by unrepresented claimants.

For a free, confidential legal consultation with our experienced DUI accident injury attorneys, call (866) 778-5500 today.

DUI Accident FAQs

Should I Sue If a Drunk Driver Hits Me?

If the drunk driving accident has caused you to suffer significant injuries, put any sort of financial burden on your family, or otherwise affected your life in a meaningful way, you should absolutely explore your options for seeking compensation. This whole ordeal would never have happened if the other driver hadn’t gotten behind the wheel while impaired.

Although the at-fault driver may be facing a DUI or DWI charge, the penalties they encounter aren’t likely to help you in any significant way, other than perhaps feeling that justice was served in some small way. The fines, fees, and increased auto insurance costs they pay won’t erase your medical bills or give you back the income you have lost while your injuries have kept you out of work. Only a drunk driving accident injury claim will accomplish this outcome by securing the compensation you deserve.

Does Insurance Cover Accidents Involving DUI?

Victims of DUI accidents may have another worry on their minds. Normally, auto insurance companies are required to pay for accidents their policyholders cause, but is that still the case when the at-fault driver was drunk at the time of the collision?

Insurance companies generally aren’t liable for intentional acts on the part of their policyholder. Some insurance companies have tried to argue that drinking and driving is an intentional act and could potentially be excluded from coverage – so this concern isn’t totally unfounded.

However, experienced attorneys routinely get their injured clients compensation for negligence claims involving DUI accidents. If you are concerned about the possibility of an insurance company refusing to pay the claim, or if the other driver’s insurer has denied payment, it’s time to put your case in the hands of experienced legal representation.

How Do DUI Accident Claims Work in No-Fault States? (And What States Are No-Fault States?)

If your accident with a drunk driver occurred in a no-fault state—New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Utah, North Dakota, or Hawaii—you might wonder what this means.

Drunk driving is illegal and irresponsible, and no one is suggesting that the drunk driver isn’t at fault. The often misunderstood term “no-fault” doesn’t actually mean that no one is at fault for an accident. Instead, it means that each motorist’s auto insurance company covers their own medical expenses through a type of insurance coverage called personal injury protection (PIP), regardless of who is at fault.

If your medical expenses exceed your PIP coverage limit, you aren’t covered by an auto insurance policy, or you have other damages like lost wages and significant pain and suffering, you would need to file a claim or lawsuit against the driver who is at fault to recover compensation.