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Suing for Injuries Caused by a Drunk Driver

Drunk driving causes thousands of deaths each year and even more nonfatal injuries. When drivers get behind the wheel after consuming too much alcohol, they can cause debilitating and fatal injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the costs of drunk driving are significant. To be sure, drunk driving results in physical and emotional harm that cannot be easily quantified. In terms of economic costs, the NHTSA estimates that drunk driving accidents cause more than $110 billion in damage every year. Of that amount, more than $40 billion involves medical costs. Another $70 billion accounts for losses in a person’s quality of life. If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a drunk driving crash, it is important to hold someone accountable. Suing for injuries caused by a drunk driver is a common method for seeking compensation for your losses while ensuring that the liable party is held to account.

What are the Steps for Suing a Drunk Driver?

It is important to know that each drunk driving accident case has its own fact patterns and issues. However, there are general steps that tend to occur in every case where a person sues for drunk driving injuries. In most cases, the steps involved in suing a drunk driver will include the following:

  • Preparing for a claim by gathering as much evidence as possible at the scene of the accident and seeing a doctor immediately;
  • Reporting the accident to your auto insurer;
  • Determining whether you will file a first-party or a third-party auto insurance claim;
  • Filing your auto insurance claim and negotiating with the insurer for a reasonable settlement;
  • Obtaining a settlement from the auto insurer and determining whether you need to file a lawsuit;
  • Determining who you may be able to sue in a drunk driving injury claim;
  • Initiating a lawsuit by filing a claim in the appropriate court;
  • Negotiating with the defendant or defendants for a reasonable and fair settlement; and
  • Either accepting a settlement or going to trial to seek a damages award.

When most people are considering the possibility of suing for injuries caused by a drunk driver, they start the process with an insurance claim. Yet insurance claims do not always result in fair or full compensation for losses. Indeed, many injury victims must consider alternate options for seeking compensation after an insurance claim is closed. One of those options is a lawsuit, which involves suing for injuries caused by a drunk driver.

When Should I Sue for Injuries Caused By a Drunk Driver?

If you were injured recently in a drunk driving collision, you are probably wondering: When should I sue for injuries caused by a drunk driver? As mentioned above, most drunk driving injury claims begin with an insurance claim. Then, if the insurance payout is insufficient, you can turn to a lawsuit that involves suing one or more liable parties for the injuries you sustained. After you know an insurance claim is insufficient, it is important to get started on your lawsuit as soon as possible.

Under Ohio law, suing for drunk driving injuries must be done within two years from the date of the drunk driving wreck. To be clear, you do not need to complete your lawsuit within this two-year window. Rather, your lawsuit must be initially filed before two years have elapsed since the date on which the drunk driving accident occurred.

What Steps Should I Take After a Drunk Driving Crash if I am Planning to Sue?

When you are planning to sue for drunk driving accident injuries, it is essential to take steps at the scene of the accident and immediately following the collision to maintain your eligibility for compensation. In addition, you will want to take steps to ensure that you have enough evidence to support your claim. The following are the steps that you should take if you have been involved in a drunk driving crash:

  • At the scene of the accident, obtain as much evidence as you can. First, you should take photographs at the scene if you are physically able to do so. Your photographs should depict the scene of the collision from multiple angles and vantage points, as well as from various distances. You will want to have as many images as possible to use in your case. An accident reconstruction expert also may rely on your photos to prove that a drunk driver caused the crash. In addition, you should ask for the contact information of anyone involved in the crash and anyone who witnessed it. You will need this information later on.
  • Immediately after the accident, you need to seek medical attention. As the Mayo Clinic emphasizes, many injuries from car accidents do not produce immediate symptoms. A doctor can assess you for injuries and can order necessary tests. In addition, seeking medical attention is critical to avoid allegations of contributory fault. Under Ohio law, your damages award could be reduced if your negligence played a role in the accident or the severity of your injuries. To be clear, many injuries can worsen if you do not get immediate medical care.
  • Report the accident to your own auto insurance company as soon as possible. You have a duty to make this report under Ohio’s insurance rules, and likely according to your policy. Even if you plan to file a third-party insurance claim through the drunk driver’s policy, you need to report the accident to your own insurance company first.
  • Avoid making any statements that suggest you bear some responsibility for the accident. This means avoiding such statements to the insurance adjuster. It also means avoiding any social media posts that could harm your case. If you will be seeking compensation for physical injuries, do not make posts that could contradict your claims.
  • Obtain a police report and any law enforcement documents that show the drunk driver was arrested for impaired driving.

Who Should I Sue for Injuries Caused by a Drunk Driver?

When you have sustained injuries in a drunk driving accident, you should learn who you can sue. Depending on the facts of your case, you could be eligible to sue more than one party. In some cases, you may be able to win a case against a drunk driver. At the same time, you could obtain more compensation by considering other potentially liable parties with deeper pockets. Most drunk driving injury claims will involve filing a lawsuit against the drunk driver. In other words, you will sue the drunk driver for your injuries, and you will seek compensation from the drunk driver for your losses.

When a drunk driver violates Ohio’s drunk driving laws and causes injuries, this is usually a case of negligence per se. What is negligence per se? Negligence per se occurs when a person violates an established regulation or law that is aimed at protecting others (like motorists on the road). You will not need to prove specific elements of negligence if you can show that the drunk driver violated a law (a drunk driving law) designed to protect others on the road.

At the same time, other parties could also be liable. You might be wondering how a person or entity that was not in the car could be responsible for your injuries. Liability for other defendants will depend upon a variety of factors, such as:

  • Where the accident happened;
  • Whether the drunk driver was served alcohol at a bar or restaurant before driving;
  • If the drunk driver was working at the time of the accident;
  • Whether the drunk driver was underage at the time of the accident; and
  • Where the driver consumed the alcohol that resulted in the intoxication.

If the accident happened on a road with hazardous conditions, a government entity could be partially liable even though a drunk driver was involved in the accident. For example, if the road had uncleared debris, or significant road damage, the owner of the property or the party responsible for maintaining that property could be responsible for your injuries.

When the accident results from a drunk driver being served too much alcohol at a bar or restaurant, that bar or restaurant could be liable. In such a case, Ohio’s dram shop law could be relevant. That law says that a business with a liquor license may be liable for knowingly selling an intoxicating beverage to a person who is “noticeably intoxicated.”

In Ohio, if the drunk driver was underage and consumed alcohol at a private residence, the owner of that private residence could also be liable. Under the laws of some states, a social host can be liable like a restaurant or bar. However, in Ohio, a social host can only be liable if the intoxicated party is underage. This is known as “social liability.”

Finally, an employer may be liable for drunk driving injuries in some cases. For example, if the drunk driver was working at the time of the collision, the employer could be responsible for the driver’s negligence according to the doctrine of respondeat superior. In many situations, this doctrine might apply if the drunk driver was a delivery driver, a trucker, or a similar type of worker.

Can I Sue for the Death of a Loved One in a Drunk Driving Accident?

Many drunk driving accidents result in the death of a loved one. Can you sue for fatal drunk driving injuries? According to Ohio’s wrongful death law, it may be possible to seek compensation. However, the party who must file a claim is the personal representative of the estate. The personal representative of the estate is also known as the executor. In suing for wrongful death, the executor can seek damages on behalf of surviving family members.

How Much Time Do I Have to Sue for Drunk Driving Injuries?

Ohio law gives you two years from the date of the accident if you plan on suing for injuries caused by a drunk driver. if you were the party injured. If a loved one sustained fatal injuries in a drunk driving crash, Ohio’s wrongful death law also gives the personal representative of the estate two years to file a claim. However, the clock will start ticking on the date of death rather than the date of the accident.

Contact an Our Hamilton Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys for Assistance With Your Lawsuit

Suing for injuries caused by a drunk driver can be a complicated but critical step in seeking compensation. There are immense costs of medical care, along with the costs of lost wages, following a drunk driving accident. You deserve to seek financial compensation for your injuries. While some people who are injured in drunk driving collisions can obtain a fair settlement from the auto insurance company, there are many different reasons that your insurance payout may be insufficient. Sometimes insurance limits affect your settlement. In other cases, the insurance company may not be willing to compensate you for the full amount of your losses. No matter what the reason, you may be able to obtain the compensation you need through a lawsuit. At the law firm of Kruger & Hodges, we know how critical it is to hold a drunk driver accountable for harm. We also know that it is essential to hold other at-fault parties liable. Depending upon the facts of your case, you may be able to sue one or more parties, including the drunk driver.

An experienced Hamilton drunk driving litigation attorney at our firm can assist you. From the start, we can advocate for your right to compensation. As your case moves to trial, we will do everything we can to continue seeking a fair settlement. If necessary, we are prepared to take your case to a jury and to show that you deserve to be compensated for your losses. Ohio takes drunk driving extremely seriously. Courts want to ensure that injured plaintiffs obtain compensation and that drunk drivers are held accountable. Contact the law firm of Kruger & Hodges online, or call our firm at 513-894-3333 to learn more about the services we provide to clients in Butler County, Ohio.

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