Yes. You should always get an attorney after being injured in any accident, but it’s especially important if you were the victim of a drunk driver. DUI victims are entitled to larger damages than most car accident victims, but insurers will seek to pay as little as possible. They may even leave some types of damages out of the settlement if you don’t have adequate legal representation.
An attorney is also important because drunk driving accident cases are particularly complex. Both the issue of fault, and the process for getting the full amount you’re owed, involve a much more extensive set of laws and legal processes than most car accident cases. Here’s why.
A DUI Accident Involves Both a Criminal Offense and an Insurance Claim
In most accidents, the victims file a claim against the insurance company of the at-fault driver. Usually the claim is settled by negotiation between the insurer and the victims’ lawyer—it rarely involves the courts.
However, a DUI accident involves a serious crime. The intoxicated driver didn’t just cause an accident, they also broke state law. They are usually arrested and face the potential for jail time and other consequences. And that affects your case. The results in the criminal case can affect how your insurance claim goes.
- Drunk drivers are almost always at fault for the accidents they cause. It’s rare for an intoxicated driver to be drunkenly following all the rules of the road and just happen to get hit by someone else. Therefore, if the driver is convicted of DUI, it strengthens your insurance claim. (And if they somehow beat the charge, the insurance company could question whether they are really at fault at all.)
- Criminal cases produce a lot of evidence—that usually helps you. The investigation into the accident suddenly has the full weight of the police and prosecutor behind it. In many cases, they will do the legwork of assembling all the evidence you’ll ever need for your insurance claim—because they need that same evidence for their criminal case.
- If the drunk driver is convicted, it means you will get punitive damages. Punitive damages is extra money the drunk driver has to pay to the victim. This money is in addition to your normal insurance recovery.
None of this will stop the drunk driver’s insurance company from offering you a quickie settlement that’s far too low. This is why it’s so crucial to have good legal representation.
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