I Was Hit By a Drunk Driver, Can I Sue?
Yes. This is not your only option when you are facing damages you suffered in a collision with a drunk driver. You can also file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for these damages. This can be a less stressful option for you. Before filing a lawsuit or a personal injury claim, talk about your case with an experienced DUI accident lawyer.
Drunk driving is always dangerous, which is why we police it so rigorously. Throughout the United States, it is illegal for an adult 21 or older to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. A driver under 21 may not operate a motor vehicle if his or her BAC is 0.02 percent or higher. It is also possible to face charges of driving while ability impaired (DWAI). This occurs when a driver is operating a motor vehicle while his or her BAC is 0.05 percent or higher. However, officers must prove they were impaired.
Rules for Car Accident Lawsuits in Colorado
In Colorado, the statute of limitations for car accident claims is three years from the date of the accident. After you a crash, you have three years to develop your case and file your lawsuit in court.
When police charge a driver with driving under the influence (DUI), he or she is facing a criminal charge. Criminal charges are different from civil charges. Government authorities press charges, such as law enforcement or public prosecutors. When Courts find an individual guilty of a criminal charge, he or she faces a sentence. Penalties can include jail time and fines.
Private parties impose civil damages. This happens when they suffer damages because of violations on the part of the accused party. If you file a lawsuit against the drunk driver, you are the plaintiff in a civil case. An individual can simultaneously face criminal and civil charges. Even if the driver is not found guilty of DUI, he or she may be negligent in your case and required to compensate you for your damages related to the accident.
Filing and Settling a Personal Injury Claim
Often, personal injury lawyers advise clients to file insurance claims before pursuing lawsuits. Although personal injury claims follow state law, they are not legal actions. Rather, they are formal requests made to insurance providers asking for compensation in accordance with their insured clients’ policies.
Your claim is as strong as the evidence you provide to support it. Your lawyer helps you obtain and use evidence that shows how the drunk driver’s actions directly caused your injury. The driver’s DUI charge is one piece of evidence that can demonstrate his or her negligence. It does not tell the whole story, though. In order to recover adequate compensation for your damages, you need to show that you were a victim of the drunk driver’s actions. Also, you must prove you suffered an injury that caused you to face specific monetary losses. These losses can include:
- Your medical expenses;
- Your lost wages; and
- Your pain and suffering damages, the expenses you face related to the injury that do not fit into either of the other categories.
Working with the Insurance Company
Your lawyer can work with the drunk driver’s insurance provider to negotiate an appropriate settlement for you. This can take a few months and sometimes, a year or longer. During this process, it is important that you follow your lawyer’s instructions for interacting with the insurance provider. The opposing insurance company might ask you to make an official statement. Or they might want you to accept a settlement shortly after filing your claim. Before any interaction with the insurance provider, speak with your lawyer about what to say, what to do, and what to avoid.
Keep the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in mind even if you pursue a claim with the driver’s insurance provider. Sometimes, attempts to reach a settlement go nowhere and the victim’s only remaining chance at reaching a recovery is to file a lawsuit. If you feel this is the direction your case is taking, talk to your lawyer about litigating the case. Letting the statute of limitations expire means losing your right to recover compensation for your damages, which can put a permanent financial burden on you and your family.
What to Know Before you Sue
Before you file a personal injury lawsuit, understand that there is no guarantee that the court will rule in your favor. There is also no guarantee that filing a personal injury claim will result in a settlement, but often, an insurance claim is more likely to result in some compensation than a lawsuit.
In many cases, it is impossible to file a lawsuit after you have accepted a settlement from the negligent driver’s insurance company. Think about this carefully: if you accept a settlement, that is all you will be able to recover for that specific injury’s damages. You likely could recover more compensation through a successful lawsuit, but the court could also rule against you, resulting in nothing for your damages. Clients facing serious and permanent injuries, like paralysis and the loss of a significant organ, are often advised to pursue lawsuits.
Work with an Experienced Denver Car Accident Lawyer
If you are injured in a collision with a drunk driver, the first thing you need to do after the accident is get medical care for your injury. Receiving prompt care will increase your chance of making a full recovery, and being able to demonstrate that you sought care in a timely manner can help support your case. After you have received the treatment you need, contact an experienced car accident lawyer to discuss your rights and legal options for pursuing compensation for your damages. Contact The Law Office of Steve Roberts, LLC today to set up your free case evaluation with us to learn more.