Nobody expects to be hit by a drunk driver when they get behind the wheel of a car. Likewise, nobody anticipates suffering serious injuries in an alcohol-impaired crash when they buckle into a passenger seat in the car of a friend or family member. However, drunk driving crashes happen more often than you might expect. The devastating truth is that all of them could be avoided if drivers abided by safety laws. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), a total of 11,654 people were killed in alcohol-impaired collisions in 2020. Those deaths accounted for about 30% of all traffic fatalities. Thousands of additional people were injured in crashes involving drunk drivers. Drivers account for about 35% of all drunk driving fatalities. That number includes drunk drivers themselves and drivers of other vehicles involved in collisions. Passengers account for about 31% of all fatalities. Motorcyclists also account for a high percentage of fatalities. Nonoccupants, such as pedestrians and bicyclists, also suffer serious and deadly injuries in drunk driving crashes.
While it may be impossible to take any immediate actions after a drunk driving collision based on the severity of your injuries, it is important for you to know what to do in order to preserve your ability to seek compensation and recover damages for your losses. What should you do, and what should you avoid? The following are some of the most important things to do if you were hit by a drunk driver in Hamilton or elsewhere in Butler County, Ohio.
What is one of the most important things to do after a drunk driving crash? You should learn what not to do after the accident. Knowing what to do after being hit by a drunk driver includes knowing what to avoid. Before you move forward with a claim or take any steps, you should keep the following in mind:
Knowing what not to do after you are hit by a drunk driver can help you to preserve your eligibility for compensation. Now that you know what not to do, you should learn what affirmative steps you should take.
When a drunk driver has hit you, it is critical to call the police so that they can arrive at the scene. Upon arriving at the scene of a drunk driving crash, the police can identify a drunk driver. If the police believe there is enough evidence to arrest the drunk driver, the drunk driver will be arrested. Later on, the drunk driver can be charged with a DUI/OVI in Ohio. This is extremely important because this information will be critical for your claim. If a drunk driver is arrested and charged, that information will help you to prove liability. In cases where the drunk driver submitted to a chemical test, the driver’s BAC can also be critical evidence for your case. You can use the Ohio Crash Report Search online to obtain an accident report.
One of the most important things to do if you were hit by a drunk driver is to document the area. In documenting the scene, you will be gathering evidence that can support your case. Sometimes a person’s injuries are too severe for them to take photographs at the accident scene or to move around. If you are in this situation, you should prioritize your health. However, if you are able to take photographs, you should do so.
When you take pictures at the accident scene, document everything from multiple vantage points. It will be important to take close-up images of property damages and injuries. In addition, you will want to capture photographs that show the broader scene. By taking photos on your smartphone, you will also be timestamping and dating them. These images may be used later in your drunk driving claim as evidence. In addition, an accident reconstruction expert may be able to use your photos to reconstruct the scene. Accident reconstruction experts are often essential for proving how a collision occurred.
After a drunk driving accident, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. You could have injuries that require treatment even if you do not yet have symptoms. Indeed, according to the Mayo Clinic, certain injuries can be life-threatening but may not immediately result in symptoms. For example, some neck and spine injuries are not “immediately obvious,” the Mayo Clinic says. If those injuries are not treated, the injury can worsen significantly. The Mayo Clinic indicates that “the time between injury and treatment can be critical in determining the extent and severity of complications and the possible extent of expected recovery.”
There is also more at stake than your physical well-being, which should be of utmost importance. In addition, waiting too long to see a doctor may result in the defendant raising the issue of contributory fault. Under Ohio’s contributory fault law, a plaintiff can recover damages if they are 50 percent or less at fault. As long as the plaintiff is less than 51 percent at fault, their damages will be reduced by their fault percentage. Otherwise, if a plaintiff is 51 percent or more at fault, they will be barred from recovery. If an injury worsens significantly due to the plaintiff’s delay, the contributory fault could become an issue.
If you were in a vehicle at the time of the drunk driving accident, you will need to report the crash to your insurance company. Insurance policies require their insureds to make a report within a specific timetable. You must report the accident regardless of whether you will be filing a claim with your own insurer. As we noted above, it is critical to stick to the facts when you report the accident. Insurance companies are thinking about their own bottom line. Accordingly, an insurance company may use your language against you to deny coverage. You do not want to say anything that could seem like an admission of fault. Report the accident, but provide objective information only.
Next, you will want to determine your auto insurance claim options and file a claim. For a drunk driving accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you will likely plan to file a third-party claim. A first-party claim is a claim filed through your own insurance policy. Then, a third-party claim is filed through the drunk driver’s insurance policy. Each has its benefits and limitations. First-party claims may be able to get resolved more quickly, but you will need to pay your deductible upfront. With a third-party claim, you will not be responsible for your deductible. However, liability coverage limits can limit the amount you can ultimately recover. In addition, third-party claims can take more time, especially when there are multiple claimants.
Once you have filed an insurance claim, you should negotiate any settlement offers with the insurance company. Often, as we discussed above, a first offer is always negotiable. As such, you should negotiate for a reasonable settlement. What is a reasonable amount to seek? You should identify all of your losses and total them. That amount is likely the amount you will want to seek in an insurance payout.
If an insurance settlement is insufficient to cover your losses, you may need to file a lawsuit. To file a drunk driving accident lawsuit, you will need to determine liability. The party or parties who are liable for your injuries are the parties you can name as defendants in your lawsuit. Common examples of liable parties include:
Depending upon the circumstances of your case, you may name one defendant or multiple defendants in a lawsuit. Often, employers or businesses have deeper pockets than individual drunk drivers. As such, if another party may also be responsible (in addition to the drunk driver), it is usually important to name that party in the lawsuit.
You will need to be certain that the statute of limitations has not run out in your case. A drunk driving accident lawsuit will likely have a two-year statute of limitations. The clock will start to tick on the date of the drunk driving crash. From that point, you will have two years to file your lawsuit.
Finally, file your drunk driving accident lawsuit. You will need to determine the appropriate court in which to file your case and begin preparing for litigation.
For anyone who has been injured in a drunk driving accident, the immediate aftermath of the accident can be disorienting and frightening. It may be difficult to focus on the steps you will need to take in order to seek financial compensation for your injuries soon afterward. Indeed, in many drunk driving accidents in Ohio, motor vehicle occupants are often severely injured. As a result, they cannot focus on anything except receiving medical care. Even if you have only been able to focus on your recovery, you may be eligible to obtain financial compensation with assistance from an experienced Hamilton drunk driving accident lawyer.
At the law firm of Kruger & Hodges, we know how devastating drunk driving collisions can be. We also know how essential it is to obtain compensation. After a crash caused by an intoxicated driver, medical costs can add up quickly, along with other bills, especially when you are unable to work due to the severity of your injuries. If a drunk driver is responsible for your losses, it is critical to do everything you can to hold that motorist accountable. Do not hesitate to get in touch with our firm to find out more about filing an insurance claim and negotiating a reasonable settlement offer or filing a lawsuit against the drunk driver and any other party who could be liable. Contact the law firm of Kruger & Hodges online or call us at 513-894-3333 for more information and to get started on your claim in Butler County.