New Year is a time for celebration and welcoming a fresh start. Often, people celebrate the holiday by ringing in the New Year with a cocktail or glass of bubbly. Unfortunately, some New Year revelers take the celebration too far and then attempt to drive home. Some estimates suggest that drunk driving deaths increase by 117 percent on the night of New Year’s Eve. Drunk drivers are always a danger, but that danger becomes especially acute at the dawn of the new year.
Do you know what to do if a drunk driver hits you? If not, read on – what you learn here could help you pursue compensation and justice from the irresponsible person who hit you.
What to Do If a Drunk Driver Hits You
Driving while impaired is illegal, and for a good reason. Alcohol impairs cognition, reaction time, judgment, and vision – all critical to the safe operation of a motor vehicle. According to data from the National Highway Transportation Administration, nearly 31 percent of all fatal traffic crashes in the U.S. involve drunk drivers.
If you encounter a drunk driver on New York roads this holiday, remember there are practical steps you can take to protect yourself and hold the impaired driver accountable for their actions.
- Call law enforcement – Police are critically important after a drunk driving accident, as they can secure the scene, apprehend the drunk driver, and prevent further incidents. Furthermore, the police report they file can be a vital piece of evidence as you seek compensation later.
- Seek medical attention – Drunk drivers can cause devastating physical injuries. Impairment means drivers often do not slow down or attempt to take evasive actions before a collision. As a result, drunk drivers tend to cause much more significant injuries. For your safety, seek medical attention immediately. Your medical records may also help support your compensation claim down the line.
- Document the scene – If you are physically able, document the accident as thoroughly as possible. Take photographs and videos of the scene and ask witnesses for their contact information. Make notes on the other driver’s behavior and whether you smell alcohol or see signs of open containers. Do not approach the drunk driver, make accusations, or get confrontational. Drunk drivers can be unpredictable, and they may try to hurt you or flee the scene, causing further damage.
- Contact an attorney – The best way to protect yourself after an accident with a drunk driver is to seek the help of an experienced New York personal injury attorney. An attorney can explore your options for pursuing full compensation, which may involve claims against whoever served the drunk driver alcohol as well as the drunk driver.
- Avoid posting on social media – Being involved in a drunk driving incident can be frightening. However, do not post about the accident, or anything else for that matter, on social media platforms. Remain silent online until your attorney resolves your claim. Your words can be used against you by the insurer or an opposing attorney to diminish the value of your claim or deny it altogether.
Drunk Driving Lawsuits vs. Criminal Trials
As you consider seeking justice in the wake of a drunk driving accident, you must understand the difference between a civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution. Criminal courts seek to punish those who commit crimes for the damage they’ve done to society as a whole. Civil courts, on the other hand, seek to resolve disputes between individuals. These court systems are separate, and a case proceeding through one does not preclude a similar case from proceeding through the other.
If police provide prosecutors with evidence that a driver broke the law and operated a vehicle while intoxicated, the prosecution may seek to convict that driver of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). A judge or jury determines whether the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of committing the offense. If guilty, a drunk driver can face criminal consequences, such as extensive fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension.
However, if that drunk driver also hit someone before they were arrested, they have harmed not just society, but a specific person – a person who now has expensive medical bills, lost income, and other losses to contend with. That person can pursue compensation for these losses by filing a lawsuit against the drunk driver, which proceeds through the civil court system. When they file their suit, the victim becomes the plaintiff, while the alleged drunk driver becomes the defendant.
Instead of a judge or jury determining the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they instead attempt to determine whether it is likelier than not that the defendant injured the plaintiff. If the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor, it can award compensation to cover the plaintiff’s medical expenses and other financial losses, as well as to offset the less tangible harm they experienced, like pain and suffering.
Before a victim can file their lawsuit, though, their attorney will need to determine whether they meet New York’s criteria for doing so. The state follows a no-fault insurance system, in which an injured motorist must file a claim with their own insurance company before they can do so against an at-fault driver’s policy. A victim is eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit only if their injuries meet New York’s “serious injury” threshold. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your situation and outline your options for recovering compensation from an insurer or drunk driver.
A New York Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Recovering compensation after a drunk driving incident can be challenging. You need someone to advocate for you and protect your legal rights. Speaking with a knowledgeable drunk driving accident attorney as soon as possible is vital.
The compassionate attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C. can review your situation and help you determine the best path forward. We want to help you recover maximum compensation so you can move forward with your life.
Arrange a free consultation with a New York City drunk driving accident lawyer by contacting our New York office for help.