Every day, about 37 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes. The human cost is devastating, and the legal complexities are equally perplexing. When facing DUI injury litigation, having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side is critical.
In every state, it’s illegal to drive drunk, yet one person is killed in a drunk-driving crash every 39 minutes in the United States. In 2010, alcohol-impaired driving crashes were associated with nearly one in five of the traffic-related fatalities of children through age 14 years. Historically, the focus has been on alcohol impairment, and drug-impaired driving is receiving increased attention from agencies and policymakers.
If you or a loved one is hurt by someone driving under the influence, you may want to file a DUI accident lawsuit. This guide explains how drunk driving accident claims work, who you can hold accountable for a crash, and what your rights are after you get hurt by someone who has had too much to drink.
The Crucial Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer in DUI Cases
DUI injury cases present unique challenges that regular personal injury lawyers may not be equipped to handle. The crash investigation procedures, applicable laws, and defense tactics in DUI cases differ significantly from other car accident lawsuits. An experienced DUI injury lawyer has in-depth knowledge of these intricacies and can expertly guide you through the turbulent legal waters.
Recently, the Virginia State Police (VSP) investigated a three-vehicle car accident in the westbound lanes that resulted in injuries. Two people were transported to the hospital, and one driver was arrested for DUI. The consequences of this accident are not minor, and those who were injured may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit and receive compensation for their losses. In cases like this, it is advisable to consult with a personal injury lawyer in Virginia Beach who can help you understand your legal options and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Immediate consultation with a personal injury lawyer after a DUI-related crash is vital. The police, insurance companies, and even medical facilities have processes that can go against your interests if you do not have legal representation right away. A competent lawyer starts building your case from day one. They ensure the evidence is collected properly, your rights are protected, and your side of the story is presented accurately. This can make all the difference in getting fair compensation.
When Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUI/DWI Charge?
The aftermath of a DUI case can be life-altering, which begs the question—when do you absolutely need a lawyer? If you face criminal charges after such a devastating incident, legal help is vital.
Here are some scenarios where hiring a personal injury lawyer is non-negotiable:
- You were severely injured in a DUI-related crash caused by someone else.
- You are under 21 and charged with DUI resulting in bodily harm.
- The crash caused substantial property damage, such as to multiple vehicles.
- There were multiple fatalities or grievous injuries.
- You have prior DUI convictions on your record.
The risks of not having skilled legal representation include million-dollar settlement losses, unwanted plea deals, license revocations, unaffordable increases in insurance premiums, and years wasted behind bars. Protect yourself by hiring an expert personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
1. Navigating the Legal Maze: DUI Laws and Penalties
While the human cost is devastating, the legal complexities are equally perplexing. DUI laws vary extensively by state, and even civil and criminal charges can have overlapping implications. For instance, a DUI conviction can affect the outcome of an injury lawsuit related to the same incident.
An experienced personal injury lawyer has intricate knowledge of DUI regulations in your state. They use this expertise to develop legal strategies to minimize the repercussions of your injury claim. The lawyer can also advise you on effectively interacting with law enforcement and prosecutors to avoid self-incrimination. This level of guidance is priceless when navigating the complex legal maze surrounding DUIs.
2. Gathering and Analyzing Evidence
Understanding the law is just the first step; gathering compelling evidence is equally important. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood exponentially increases crash risk. Documentation of BAC levels is crucial evidence in DUI injury cases. An adept personal injury lawyer knows how to obtain BAC reports and other police records that may work in your favor.
In addition to official records, eyewitness statements, accident reconstruction findings, medical reports, and expert testimonies are key evidence types. An experienced attorney thoroughly analyzes all case evidence to build a compelling claim for liability and damages. They ensure every piece of evidence is permissible in court and can withstand the defense’s scrutiny. Meticulous evidence gathering and analysis are paramount to success in DUI injury litigation.
3. Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Solid evidence is your best weapon, not just in court but also at the negotiation table with insurance companies. Insurance firms try their best to avoid huge payouts related to DUI crashes. An accomplished personal injury lawyer is well-versed in insurance company tactics to deny, delay, or minimize compensation.
They negotiate assertively on your behalf to secure a fair settlement. The lawyer builds pressure by presenting solid evidence of liability, proving your injuries and losses, and signaling that you are ready for trial. Insurance companies often fold when confronted by determined lawyers fighting for their clients’ rights.
4. DUI-Related Accidents and Car Insurance Implications
Successfully negotiating with insurance companies is crucial, but what about the long-term financial implications of a DUI? A first-time DUI offense can cost the driver upwards of $10,000 in fines and legal fees. Moreover, a DUI-related crash can massively increase your car insurance rates.
Some insurers may even cancel your policy altogether after such an incident.
A resourceful personal injury lawyer can advise you on interacting with your insurer to avoid cancellation. They can also help seek policy exceptions due to special circumstances. If you do lose coverage, the lawyer can assist you in finding high-risk insurance alternatives. Minimizing the insurance consequences is essential to avoid financial devastation after a DUI crash.
5. Legal Strategies for DUI Defense
The financial burden is heavy, but the legal consequences can be even more severe. Charges for impaired driving range from misdemeanors to felony offenses. An experienced DUI injury litigation lawyer understands both prosecution and defense strategies. They can provide invaluable advice if you face criminal charges related to the accident.
Potential defenses in DUI cases include challenging the legality of the DUI stop, disputing the test results’ accuracy, establishing a rising BAC defense, claiming medical conditions impacting sobriety, and more. An adept lawyer chooses the strategies to complement your civil injury claim based on the case particulars. Their dual expertise in personal injury and DUI defense makes them invaluable in these situations.
6. The Trial Process: What to Expect
Knowing your defense options is vital, but what can you expect if your DUI injury case goes to trial? Many states require offenders to install ignition interlock devices at the driver’s own expense. These breathalyzers connected to the ignition system can cost over $100 monthly.
Understanding the trial process can help you make informed decisions about legal strategies.
An accomplished personal injury lawyer meticulously prepares every aspect of the case before trial. They interview witnesses, refine arguments, contest questionable evidence, and ensure you are ready to take the stand if needed.
During the trial, they aggressively cross-examine the defendant and expert witnesses to expose contradictions and cast doubt. The lawyer’s litigation experience and deep case knowledge give them an edge at trial.
7. Sentencing and Penalties: The Aftermath
The trial may be over, but the aftermath has its own consequences. A DUI conviction can mean substantial penalties, including license suspension or revocation, large fines, community service, probation, jail time, and more.
A seasoned personal injury lawyer can advise on plea bargains and sentence negotiations to minimize penalties. If you receive a harsh sentence, they can also represent you in appeals arguing legal errors, prejudice, new evidence, and other grounds. Even post-conviction, a dedicated lawyer keeps fighting to protect your rights and interests in all lawful ways possible.
A DUI accident lawsuit allows you to hold a drunk driver accountable for hurting you.
DUI injury accidents have devastating human and financial consequences. Be sure to get the legal help you need from an experienced attorney to navigate the legal system and get the compensation you deserve.
An apt personal injury lawyer can help maximize your compensation while minimizing legal repercussions. Consider all of your options, but don’t wait too long to consult an attorney after such a life-altering event. With an expert advisor guiding you, justice is within reach.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I Get a DUI for Sleeping in My Car While Drunk?
It depends on the circumstances. In some states, simply sleeping in a non-moving vehicle while intoxicated is not enough to warrant a DUI charge. However, being in the driver’s seat with car keys accessible can imply you had “intent to drive,” resulting in DUI charges. An experienced lawyer can argue insufficient evidence of intent if you were just sleeping it off in the back seat.
- How Long Will a DUI Conviction be on my Record?
The duration a DUI stays on your driving record varies by state, ranging from 5 years to a lifetime. Some states allow a DUI conviction to be expunged from public records after 7-10 years but driving records may still show the offense. An attorney can help you petition for expungement if you qualify based on state law. This can minimize long-term job and social implications.
- Is a DUI/DWI a Felony Offense?
A DUI is typically a misdemeanor, but it can become a felony in certain cases, including:
- Fourth DUI offense
- DUI combined with other aggravating factors like hit-and-run
- DUI causing serious bodily injury
- DUI with a minor in the vehicle
An experienced lawyer’s strong defense could help avoid a felony charge if you find yourself in such dire circumstances.