You’re driving down a quiet dirt road in the early evening, and suddenly a car hurtling from a side road t-bones you from the left, pushing you into a ditch and you find your headlights have been smashed out by a pine tree. The driver reverses and you get out of your car, shaken, to discover the other driver is drinking a 40. You keep this driver on the scene, take photos, note down any details, get his information, and call the police. Since the driver is clearly drunk, do you need to call a lawyer? Law advice: I was hit by a drunk driver. Do I need a lawyer?
The short answer is yes. For this type of accident, when you have likely sustained injuries, you will need to seek legal representation. Even if you do not have injuries, a legal team will still want to prosecute the drunk-driver for criminal not civil charges. DUIs are incredibly serious offenses and can have a big impact on the driver’s life, and the life of those around. Those who drive drunk can face criminal charges, which include jail time, loss of license, and severe fines. If a drunk driver kills someone, or severely injures them, there can be even further consequences that are filed as civil cases, which are separate from any criminal charges that the District Attorney may file.
Filing a Claim Against a Drunk Driver
Mississippi is an at-fault state, so your attorney can file a civil case against the driver, whilst the state may file a criminal case against them. The outcome of the criminal case will not affect your civil case. You will have to file your own claim since any payments in the criminal case will not cross over to your civil case; you will not get any compensation.
Even if their client is a drunk-driver, insurance companies won’t be any more generous, and they will still work hard to get you to settle out of course, for a figure that is usually rather miserly. The exception is when the driver has been convicted of a DUI, and the insurance company wants to do all they can to settle out of court - because they know they’ll pay out more for any cases that make it to court.
In order to get a fair figure - and sometimes to know what a fair figure is for all of the damages - an attorney can advise you. Read our blog entry on why you’d be best getting an attorney to help you with your settlement.
Here’s an entry on how to file an auto insurance claim against another party, but, either way, an attorney can help you file the claim and will be there every step of the way, right until you get your first payout check.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim Against a Drunk Driver
If you were injured, you’ll most definitely need an attorney to help you with your case. It may be best to wait until the driver has been convicted of a DUI since if the driver has been convicted in criminal proceedings. If your case goes to court, insurance companies know that settlements are often high when juries and the judge are most often sympathetic to injured plaintiffs. Most insurance companies, as stated before, will do all they can to avoid settling in court because insurance policies usually have a cap on a $50,000 payout, but, if they settle in court, the figure is up to the judge. Even a $50,000 payout is a best-case scenario for the insurance company if they can avoid the courtroom - because that can be much, much more costly for them.
Read here for more information on settling a personal injury claim.
What If the Settlement Won’t Be Enough?
To cover medical bills and recover damages, you may choose to file a lawsuit against the driver’s insurance company or any other responsible parties such as the drinking establishment that served the alcohol. You will then file against the restaurant or bar’s insurance company. If you are suing using specialty laws and against insurance companies, a lawyer is the best person to advise you as handling the case yourself will get compilated. Furthermore, an experienced attorney will be able to get you a larger settlement than you yourself will be capable of obtaining.
If the driver is uninsured, read here to find out what other options you may have to file a lawsuit. Your attorney can advise you on alternative options as well.
If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, contact Coxwell & Associates, PLLC today.
We have been helping Mississippians for over 36 years win their civil cases against drunk drivers. Whether it’s a personal injury lawsuit, a dram-shop lawsuit, or simply suing for damages, we can help. Get a free case consultation today.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.