Being involved in an auto accident that was caused by a drunk driver is a chaotic and stressful situation, made even more so if you were injured in the accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, someone dies in a DUI accident every 28 minutes in the U.S., and thousands more suffer serious and even debilitating injuries as a result of DUI accidents. If you have been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, the following five steps are crucial to reserving your right to obtain compensation for the expenses and quality-of-life impacts you incurred as a result of your injury.
A competent car accident lawyer can help you get the most out of your claim.
1. Seek Medical Care
You should always undergo a medical evaluation after a motor vehicle accident. The reason for this is that many injuries present with delayed symptoms, including some head injuries or internal injuries. Although you cannot feel the injury right away, the damage has been done and your condition will worsen the longer you wait to seek treatment. Additionally, for the first hour or two after the accident, you will likely be experiencing the effects of shock and adrenaline, both of which can mask the severity of injuries you suffer.
2. Avoid Making Statements to (or Agreements with) the Insurance Adjuster
After a serious accident, it is not unusual for accident victims to be contacted by an insurance adjuster for the at-fault party’s insurance provider. You may even be offered a settlement in exchange for a quick resolution to your case. However, offering more than the basic information — such as your name and contact information — or making an agreement with the insurance adjuster to release your medical records or even to settle your case without first speaking with an attorney is often a mistake.
Insurance adjusters are in the business to save money for the insurance company on large payouts by finding a reason not to compensate claims made by those who have been injured as a result of actions by their insured. Here are three examples of common insurance company tactics used to deny or reduce claims:
- If you speak with the insurance adjuster, anything you say can be used to deny your claim. Claimants have even faced difficulties after answering an adjuster’s question of “how are you doing” with the standard response of “fine.”
- Releasing your medical records gives the adjuster yet another opportunity to find reasons to deny or reduce your claim.
- Early settlement offers that are made before an individual even has a full picture of the costs or impacts of their injury will often fail to adequately compensate for all the expenses involved with your injury and once you have agreed to a settlement, you cannot go back and ask for more money.
3. Keep Copies of Your Expenses
If you choose to seek compensation for your injuries through a personal injury lawsuit, you will be required to prove two things: liability and damages. Liability is proven by showing that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care to operate his or her vehicle safely and legally; there was a breach in the duty of care when the at-fault party chose to drive while impaired by alcohol; and this breach resulted in a DUI accident and caused you to incur financial and psychological impacts as a result.
In order to prove the expenses you incurred because of the accident, you must be able to show those expenses by producing bills, statements, invoices, and other documentation. It is advisable to keep a folder specifically designated for retaining copies of your expenses in one location so they are easy to find.
4. Obtain Copies of the Police Report about Your DUI Accident
After your accident, a police officer likely went to the scene to conduct an investigation. He or she made a report of the findings of this investigation, including statements regarding whether any of the drivers were arrested or cited. If the drunk driver in your accident was arrested for DUI or cited for causing a DUI accident, that information should be available on the police report.
The best way to know how to obtain a copy of the police report for your accident is by asking the officer at the scene how to do so. If your injury prevented you from speaking with the officer at the scene, however, you can contact the responding police department to find out how to get a copy of the report.
5. Speak with an Experienced Accident Attorney
An experienced car accident attorney has a lot of information that you can use to your advantage when it comes time to seek compensation for the injuries you incurred in a DUI accident. Some services your attorney can provide to assist you with obtaining the compensation you deserve include determining all sources of liability and all insurance resources that can provide compensation in your case, developing a value to your case that is based on the expenses and impacts you incurred, negotiating a settlement or fighting for your compensation in court, and assisting you in collecting your settlement or award.