Between 2003 and 2011, nearly 11,000 fatalities were caused in California by drunk driving accidents, second in number only to Texas. Nationally, one person dies every 45 minutes from a drunk driving accident.
Car accidents can be traumatizing and are often difficult to process rationally in the ensuing moments. That’s why preparing yourself beforehand, knowing what to do if you’re injured in a drunk driving-related car accident, is imperative for your safety, your mental health, and (possibly) the personal injury claim that follows.
Our San Diego car accident attorneys are here to explain what you should do if you’re injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, what you can expect to happen afterwards, and more.
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The laws and regulations surrounding drunk driving differ from state to state. Still, in California, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher if you’re 21 years or older. If you are under 21 years old, you cannot drive with any measurable blood alcohol in your system.
However, you may still be arrested and convicted of a DUI without a BAC measurement by a law enforcement officer if you get behind the wheel in a state of alcohol-induced impairment. For instance, if your BAC is 0.05% but you’re still unable to control your vehicle safely, you may still be stopped and convicted of driving under the influence.
Another thing: By default, when you drive in California, you automatically consent to breath, blood, or urine tests by a law enforcement officer should you be suspected of driving under the influence. If you refuse one of these tests after you are arrested for a DUI, your licsense will be suspended automatically for 1-year and you can face harsher criminal penalties. Should you be convicted of a DUI in California, the DMV may suspend or revoke your license, mandate that you complete a DUI program, and require you to file SR-22, commonly known as “DUI insurance.”
You’ve been suddenly hit by what you suspect to be a drunk driver. The first step is to remain calm and stay at the scene unless doing so poses a significant risk to you and your passengers.
Once you’ve attended to yourself and any other passengers in your vehicle, call 911 and calmly explain what happened. Mention any possible injuries, detail your surroundings, expound on any speculations (“I’m pretty sure a drunk driver hit me”), and provide the dispatcher with as much information as possible.
If the drunk driver survives, the police may measure their BAC at the scene. You must call 911 immediately so emergency medical services can arrive and the police can promptly document the accident. This police documentation will be evidence you can use later on in your case.
If you can safely exit your vehicle without aggravating any injuries, do so and take as many photos and videos of the accident as possible. Snap your car and the other driver’s. Cover all angles.
If you or anyone else in your vehicle has visible injuries, take photos of those, too. Your goal here is to document as much as possible for the insurance companies and a potential court case or car accident settlement.
Survey the scene and talk to anyone nearby whom you suspect is an eyewitness of what happened. Ask them if they know of anyone else nearby who may have witnessed the accident. Write down what they say that they saw and get their contact information.
Car accident cases, regardless of how much police evidence there may be, are rarely clear-cut. Right out of the gate, your goal should be to diversify your sources of evidence as much as possible. This is the first step to recovering damages and ensuring that liability falls where it should.
In the days following the accident, your next best move is to enlist professional personal injury help. Investigating the car accident, filing a personal injury claim, keeping track of related expenses, and potentially prosecuting the accused can be overwhelming and should not be endured alone.
Recovering from your car accident doesn’t stop after the accident itself. If you’ve been injured, regardless of the severity, you should be keeping track of all medical costs and other related expenses.
These may include but are not limited to:
- Transportation costs
- Prescription drugs
- Insurance copays
- Lost wages from missing work
- Out-of-pocket medical expenses
Additionally, you should attend any and all legal proceedings and hearings arising from the accident.
A personal injury attorney can help you keep track of these expenses, properly represent you in court, and ultimately ease the burden that recovering from a car accident will inevitably place on you.
If, for example, you suffered minor injuries in your drunk driving-related car accident, but a passenger in your car was killed, your personal injury attorney can help you prosecute the accused for, say, negligent homicide.
When in doubt, reach out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.