Every day, 32 people in the US die because of a drunk driver, which breaks down to about one person every 45 minutes. In 2020 alone, 11,654 people died in drunk driving accidents, representing a 14% increase from 2019.
Every single one of these deaths was preventable.
If you or someone you know have been in an accident and you believe the driver was drunk, it’s essential to know that you have legal rights and options – especially if a loved one was killed in the accident. With the help of legal counsel, you can secure the representation you need to navigate the legal system and protect your rights.
In this blog, we’ll discuss what to do after an accident involving a drunk driver, when to file a wrongful death claim, and when to contact a personal injury attorney in Pensacola.
Let’s dive in.
What are Wrongful Death Claims?
Wrongful death claims are lawsuits allowing the surviving family members, loved ones, and relatives of a deceased person to pursue financial compensation and damages from the drunk driver responsible for the accident that caused their loved one’s death.
Typically, these claims are filed in civil court. The damages awarded can be used to cover a multitude of expenses. Such as; funeral costs, medical expenses, or other costs associated with losing a loved one.
While wrongful death claims may seem stressful, filing one can help the survivors of a victim move on and secure the compensation they need to cover lost wages and funeral expenses. It may also help provide closure after an accident that seems senseless, unfair, or too tragic to process.
What Determines Whether a Wrongful Death Claim Will be Successful?
Just because someone died in an accident does not mean a wrongful death claim is applicable. To file a wrongful death claim, the person filing the claim must be able to show that the drunk driver was negligent. And that the negligence caused the accident.
There are a few ways to do this, including the following:
Showing the driver was driving while impaired on controlled substances (known as “drugged driving”) or alcohol.
Showing the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit in the state where the accident occurred.
In addition to proving the above, you must also prove that the victim’s death was a direct result of the accident. And that the family members and loved ones the person left behind have suffered demonstrable losses because of the victim’s death.
What Damages can be Awarded in a Wrongful Death Claim?
When a wrongful death suit is successful, various damages may be awarded to the people filing the claim. This can include funeral costs, medical bills, non-economic and non-financial losses, and loss of financial support.
4 Things to do if You’ve Been in an Accident With a Drunk Driver
If you’ve been in an accident with a drunk driver, take these steps immediately:
1. Report the accident
Immediately after your accident, contact the authorities. You can dial 911 or (in Florida) 347 (for the Florida Highway Patrol) from your phone. Report the accident and wait for the relevant authorities to arrive.
2. Document the scene
If you are able, use your phone to document the scene. Take photos of your surroundings, the damage to your car, and things like traffic signs and lights. You should also talk to witnesses and get their personal information to contact them later.
3. Get medical care
If you are not taken to the ER by ambulance, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor as quickly as possible.
Even if you feel fine after an accident, you could have injuries that aren’t immediately obvious. Only a comprehensive physical exam from your doctor will identify injuries and allow for treatment.
4. Contact a lawyer in Pensacola
Next, contact a lawyer to learn about your legal options. In the state of Florida, you may be able to file a “dram shop” claim, which is a claim against the vendor or establishment (like a bar or restaurant) that served the alcohol to the drunk driver who caused the accident.
In the state of Florida, establishments are liable under dram shop laws in the following circumstances:
The establishment served alcohol to an individual “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.”
The establishment served alcohol to an individual under the age of 21.
Remember that Florida does not consider establishments that served alcohol to someone who was visibly intoxicated liable for a resulting accident.
Navigating dram shop laws and wrongful death suits can be difficult. You’ll need a lawyer to help you navigate through your legal options.
Bonus Tip: Take Care of Yourself
The aftermath of an accident with a drunk driver is difficult. During this time, it’s critical to care for yourself.
Make sure you’re getting all the medical care, follow-up care, and physical therapy you need to rehabilitate your body if you were injured.
If you’re still feeling shook-up from the accident, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. They can help you process and deal with the trauma of the experience.
How an Attorney Can Help you After an Accident With a Drunk Driver
The aftermath of an accident with a drunk driver can be confusing and stressful. DUI laws and controlled substances laws are complex, and you need a professional to guide you through the process.
Here at Ward & Barnes, P.A., we specialize in working with clients who have been involved in an accident with a drunk driver.
Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys serves clients throughout Pensacola and the surrounding areas and will work with you to help you understand your legal options and rights and secure the compensation you deserve.
You have enough to worry about without juggling a personal injury lawsuit. Allow our team of lawyers to handle the legal details while you focus on healing, recovering, and helping life get back to normal.
Since our team works on a contingency basis, you’ll pay nothing upfront to secure our services or representation. We only collect a fee if we win your settlement and help you secure the payout you deserve in your wrongful death or auto accident claim.