Drunk and Impaired Driving Accidents
Drunk and Impaired Driving Accidents; Getting the Just Compensation You Deserve and the Punishment they Deserve
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a drunk or impaired driver, then we are truly sorry as we know the trauma that occurs in these types of accidents and we encourage you to Contact Us right away for your free legal consultation so that we may help you get through this most trying time and preserve your legal rights; and make sure that the person who caused the accident while drunk or impaired receives the punishment that they deserve under Georgia Law.
Not only are there physical injuries involved in these types of accidents, but there are the psychological injuries that you may suffer thinking that someone thought it was acceptable to drive while drunk or impaired and has now changed your life forever with that one careless decision. While we will use the term drunk or impaired driver interchangeably, please understand that these two terms, although not exactly the same, are meant to be similar concepts. The drunk driver is someone who has been driving under the influence of alcohol. In Georgia, the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is .08% meaning that anyone driving at or above a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% is considered driving under the influence of alcohol. Georgia law even takes this one step further, and it if is determined that a person is impaired even if under the legal limit of .08%, then that person could be arrested and charged for impaired driving.
An impaired driver, likewise, is someone who is driving while impaired. An impaired driver may be impaired by a number of substances such as illegal drugs (marijuana, cocaine, and any other drug that is considered illegal in Georgia), and prescription medications even if these medications were prescribed by a person’s doctor and the person is taking the medications as directed. There are many medications that impair a person’s ability to operate a vehicle. For example, the popular sleeping pill ambien (a/k/a zolpidem) has received much press lately for impairing a person’s ability to drive even after the person has had a full night’s rest after taking the drug as prescribed and directed. It is, therefore, important to read all the labels on prescription medications to see if there is a warning about the potential impairment to operate a vehicle or machinery while taking any medication you have been prescribed. Even if you have taken a mediation for a long period of time and think that the mediation does not hinder your ability to operate a vehicle or machinery, it is risky and could cause injury or death to yourself or others.
An impaired driver could also be someone who has a medical condition and can not safely operate a vehicle or machinery. If you have suffered an injury, if you have not had an eye exam recently or updated your lens prescription, then you may be considered an impaired driver. If you have too many distractions while driving such as a cell phone, text messaging (which it is illegal to drive in Georgia and text at the same time), if you are under duress or trauma and driving erratically on the road, or the like, then you could be charged with impaired driving and also reckless driving.
The main point to remember is that if you think that you are impaired in any way whether it be due to alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs, undue stress, too many distractions, or anything that may make you feel like less than a safe driver at the time, then don’t drive. If you think you are impaired and can not drive, then call a friend to take you somewhere, call a cab to take you somewhere, wait and don’t go anywhere at all, and do whatever it takes so that you don’t get behind the wheel impaired for any reason. If you were to cause the injury or death of another person while driving impaired, then you will ruin your life and other people’s lives forever. Not only will you suffer grave consequences under the law, ruin other people’s lives forever, you may never forgive yourself and you will have to live with that feeling for the rest of your life. It is not worth it; ever.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a drunk or impaired driving accident, then it is imperative that you Contact Us for your free legal consultation as soon as possible following your accident, and follow certain steps so that you have a winning case. These steps will be set forth herein below and discussed in detail.
You may also have many questions and these steps are meant to answer many of those questions as well. We also have both a Resources Section for Personal Injury on our Website, along with Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Personal Injury on our website that we encourage you to explore. We update our website frequently so feel free to stop back often for more information.
1.) What is a Drunk or Impaired Driving Crash?
The following is an example of a drunk driving crash: Sofia is driving home from work one night when a driver swerves into her lane, does not have his lights on, and crashes into her head on causing her severe injuries. Fortunately, Sofia survives the accident, which is many times not the case. Sofia is 18, is scheduled to graduate in a couple of weeks, and instead of accepting her diploma with her classmates, friends, and family, Sofia spends graduation day in the hospital recovering from her injuries of the crash. She has now missed out on an irreplaceable life experience caused by a person who thought it was acceptable to get behind the wheel while drunk.
This is just one scenario and there are countless others. What makes Sofia’s accident different than another person’s accident under the same or similar circumstances is that the person who caused the accident was impaired and should not have been driving. If you are wondering how dangerous it is to drive while impaired, for any reason, just consider the following:
A.) The U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States Estimated Number of Arrests for Driving under the Influence in the single year of 2010 was 1,412,223 million people.
B.) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2002, even after years of gradual improvement, over 17,000 people were killed in alcohol related accidents on national highways which equates to a death every 30 minutes. Another estimated 258,000 were injured in crashes involving alcohol which equates to a person being injured every two (2) minutes in an alcohol related crash. The NHTSA Administrator further states that, "Impaired drivers represent one of our nation's greatest threats," and further states that, "There is no excuse to lose more than 40 lives a day, especially when it is 100 percent preventable."
C.) With a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08%, which is the legal limit in Georgia, a driver can lose small-muscle control, become unable to focus quickly, may use impaired judgment behind the wheel, and may not be able to fully concentrate on driving, judge the speed of their vehicle, see other vehicles or persons on or near the roadway, and are 100% percent more likely to get into an accident. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that in the United States that adults who were over the legal limit of .08% got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010, and this was down 30% over the past five (5) years. These numbers are staggering to say the least.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving an impaired driver, then you understand the devastation that is caused by someone who decided to get behind the wheel while impaired. The sad reality is that these accidents are 100% preventable. As such, you are entitled to compensation that is different from someone who was involved in a normal car accident and it takes an experienced Drunk Driving Attorney by your side to make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve.
2.) How are Drunk or Impaired Driving Accidents Different from Any Other Type of Accident?
It is important to note that accidents involving an impaired driver tend to be more serious in terms of injuries or deaths than an accident involving unimpaired drivers. It is also very important to note that crashes involving an impaired driver are not processed in the same way that accidents involving unimpaired drivers. Therefore it is imperative, that in order to have a winning case that you are aware of and understand these differences and that you seek legal counsel from an attorney who is experienced in handling drunk driving crashes such as Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates.
A.) The damages in a drunk driving accident are different than in a normal accident. For example, in an accident involving two (2) or more unimpaired drivers, the damages that can be received include, but are not limited to, medical expenses, lost wages, temporary or permanent and partial or full disability, and pain and suffering. Generally, however, you are not allowed under Georgia law to punish the negligent driver for reckless or other behavior.
B.) In an impaired driver case, however, you can, along with all the other damages of a regular accident, pursue punitive damages against the drunk driver and these damages are meant to punish and deter the drunk driver. This is critical as it allows you to receive the justice that you deserve from this person ruining your life, and it will punish the driver for doing something that was 100% avoidable and against the law.
C.) Punitive damages also serve to send a message to your community that this type of behavior is unacceptable. If you can take just one drunk driver off the road, then you could save a life.
D.) In drunk driving accidents you may also seek compensation under Georgia’s Dram Shop Law against the commercial establishment that served the alcohol to the drunk driver. This is not easy to prove but it is another avenue for just compensation in your case when a drunk driver is involved in the crash.
3.) What Should I Do Immediately Following a Drunk or Impaired Driving Accident?
If you speak to the other driver and the other’s driver’s speech seems to be slurred, they smell like alcohol, they are off balance, or they exhibit any unusual behaviors, then you should do the following immediately:
A.) Get the other driver’s license plate number and immediately call 911. It is imperative that you do not confront the driver but get the police to the scene of the accident as soon as possible so they can properly deal with the impaired driver who will most likely be belligerent and uncooperative, and who may even try to flee the accident. Remember, this person is not thinking with a clear mind so you need to call the police immediately.
B.) Get Immediate Medical Attention for your Injuries and/or the Injuries of your passengers. Even if you think you are not hurt, or that your injuries are minor, go the emergency room immediately by ambulance. If you fail to do so, then the insurance company will use this as a reason to greatly reduce the amount of your claim.
C.) Seek Legal Help Immediately from an Experienced Attorney. It is important that you reach out for legal assistance as soon as possible after the accident so that you protect your legal rights and preserve your case so that you can get the most amount of compensation that you deserve. You may be badly injured and with the assistance of a lawyer, you can focus on getting well while the attorney uses her or his expertise to build your case so that your legal rights are protected and preserved, and that you receive all of the just compensation that you deserve. Remember, it is the insurance companies job to compensate you as little as possible for your claim, and it the attorneys job to protect you from the insurance company and get the most amount of compensation that you deserve.
4.) How can the Right Attorney Help me Get the Full Justice that I Deserve in a Drunk or Impaired Driving Crash?
There are six (6) specifics ways that the right attorney can help you get the fair and just settlement that you deserve if you or a loved one has been involved in a drunk driving crash:
A.) The Right Attorney will Help you Learn and Understand your Legal Rights in this type of Situation. Throughout your claim, there will be dealings and contact with the insurance company, and in some cases insurance companies. Remember insurance companies are not there to protect your legal rights and interests. To the contrary, the insurance company will try to give you the least amount of money as possible and that is their job, and they do their job very well.
The Right Attorney, on the other hand, is there to zealously advocate for your case so that you are not taken advantage of by the insurance company, or companies, and this is done in several ways including, but not limited to, helping you understand and learn your legal rights in your particular situation such as your right to determine the proper amount of damages in your case, and whether or not you can also seek punitive damages in your case, or possibly seek recovery under the Dram Shop Law.
B.) The Right Attorney will Take the Burden off of You of Having to Deal with the Insurance Companies. You will be concerned about getting well and recovering from this most devastating incident. The last thing you need to worry about is dealing with the insurance companies and wondering whether you are receiving all of the compensation that you deserve, that you are meeting important deadlines in your case, that you are saying things to the insurance company that might actually devalue your case, or that you are doing things that might also devalue your case.
The Right Lawyer will take care of all of this for you so you can attend to the business of getting well again. Insurance companies are used to dealing with attorneys and they will adjust their strategies when an experienced attorney is involved. They may still try and play games, but an experienced attorney knows the games and it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, for the insurance company to get away with playing games with your case when you have an attorney involved who is experienced in these types of cases.
C.) The Right Attorney will Find Additional Resources of Compensation that You May Not Have Known are Available to You. You will be amazed at the different types of compensation that you are entitled to, such as punitive damages, in an accident with a drunk driver. This may only be known, however, by an attorney throughly researching the insurance companies, the limits of liability, whether or not there are other policies in the insured’s household (called “staking”) that could be applied to your case, and making sure that you don’t settle for an amount that is less than your claim is actually worth such as if you become permanently disabled as a result of the accident and you need more compensation then if you were just temporarily injured, or, likewise, you settle with the insurance company before you are fully recovered. Once you settle, then you can not go back later and ask for more money if you were not fully recovered regardless if it was the fault of the impaired driver. The Right Attorney will protect this from happening to you in this situation.
D.) The Right Attorney will Pursue Your Case to Its Maximum Value. It takes years of experience for an attorney to be able to know the full value of your claim. With an experienced attorney on your side, you will know you are getting the maximum value that you entitled to under your specific circumstances.
E.) The Right Attorney will give you Confidence that Justice has been Served and that You Have Done Your Part to Reduce the Risk of this Happening Again to Another Victim of Drunk or Impaired Driving. Unlike other accidents with unimpaired drivers, in a crash with a drunk or impaired driver, as has been stated previously, punitive damages can be pursued. Your attorney will make sure that these damages are pursued. Punitive damages are meant to punish the drunk driver and, hopefully, will make enough of an impression that this person never gets behind the wheel again impaired and you might save a life.
F.) The Right Attorney can Give you Peace of Mind Knowing that You Received the Maximum Benefits for your Case. You do not want to run the risk of leaving money on the table for the insurance company or the drunk driver. An experienced attorney will make sure that there is no money left on the table and that will help you sleep at night knowing that you received all of the just compensation that you deserve under Georgia Law.
5.) Just as we have described how the Right Attorney can Help you Receive the Justice that You Deserve, we must tell you How the Wrong Attorney Can Cost You Dearly in your Case.
There are basically three (3) ways that hiring the Wrong Attorney can Cost you in Your Case:
A.) The Wrong Attorney may Not Conduct the Proper Investigation Leaving Stones Unturned and Putting the Insurance Company at an Advantage and You at a Disadvantage. As with tractor-trailer accidents, for example, in impaired driving accidents it is imperative that an investigation takes place as soon as possible after the accident to preserve all the evidence including, but not limited to, the level of intoxication of the driver that caused the crash. Witnesses will disappear over time or their recollection of what actually happened may fade or change over time, and evidence such as skid marks and other evidence at the scene of the crime may disappear and become stale over time.
Therefore, it is imperative that the accident is investigated immediately after it happens and not some time in the future. Furthermore, the proper kind of investigation must take place such as the state of mind of the driver that hit you, the damages that you suffered as a result of the crash, and these are just to name a few of the items that must be involved in an investigation of an impaired driving case.
B.) The Wrong Attorney may Treat Your Case as a Normal Auto Accident. An accident involving an impaired driver should never be treated like a normal auto accident for many reasons such as seeking punitive damages that can not be sought in a normal accident and this serves two (2) important purposes: 1.) It gives you the money that you need to get your life on track again after such a tragedy; and 2.) It punishes the impaired driver for their reckless behavior and, hopefully, serves as a deterrent so that they will not harm other victims in the same manner.
Furthermore, in a drunk driving accident you may be entitled to compensation under the Dram Shop Law and it is important to explore this option, and this option is not available in a normal car accident case. If your attorney does not understand Georgia’s Dram Shop Law, then you could lose a means of valuable compensation in your case.
C.) The Wrong Attorney May Not Present Your Case Properly or Effectively and This will Put you at a Distinct Disadvantage. Not all attorneys are good trial attorneys nor can they effectively and properly present a case to a Judge and/or Jury. You need an experienced litigator who knows how to present your case, and knows how to present a drunk driving case so you are not perceived to be at fault, and so that there are solid reasons given for justice to be served for you in your particular circumstances.
6.) Once you Start your Case Against an Impaired Driver; What should you Expect?
The following are the four (4) main things that you should expect once you start your case against an impaired driver:
A.) Your Attorney Should Immediately Begin an Investigation. During this investigation that should begin immediately, be prepared to provide the following information:
- Police Reports
- Anything else that may benefit your case, and your attorney will assist you with what information will benefit your case so you know exactly what to look for, what is needed, and what to provide.
Your Attorney will be able to access vital information including, but not limited to the following, during this Initial Investigation:
- Field Sobriety Tests
- Videos from the Accident Scene Taken by the Police or other Sources
- Identifying Witnesses on the Scene and obtaining necessary information from these witnesses
B.) Your Attorney will Handle the Important Aspects of your Civil Case. There will most likely be both a criminal and a civil component to your case since it involves an impaired driver who is most likely charged with a serious crime. Although aspects of the criminal case may be used in your civil case, your attorney will focus on the important aspects of your civil case including, but not limited to, making sure you are seeking and receiving proper medical treatment and following through with that treatment, making sure that you receive the proper amount of compensation for your injuries such as medical expenses, lost wages, special damages, and compensatory damages, making sure that all aspects of the punitive damages of your case are being explored, making sure that you receive a disability rating if one is in order in your case, and if you are temporarily or permanently disabled making sure that you receive just compensation for the same, and exploring any liability under the Dram Shop Laws.
Your lawyer will also be dealing with the insurance companies and making sure that all limits of liability and all insurance that could possibly be responsible for payment in your claim are exhausted so that there is no money left on the table.
C.) The State Prosecutor or District Attorney Will bring a Criminal Case Against the Impaired Driver. The State has a cause of action against the impaired driver for violating the law and the State will bring this action against the impaired driver accordingly. The outcome of this case does not determine the outcome of your civil case, and both cases will be tried in different courts and under different rules. This does not mean that some aspects of the criminal case can not be used in your civil case, and your lawyer will the best one to determine what is appropriate under the circumstances of your particular situation.
D.) You will Need to Know the Full Nature and Extent of your Injuries in your Civil Case. As stated previously, the insurance company’s interest is to pay you as little as possible for your claim. Therefore, one of the biggest mistakes that is made is that the injured settles the case too early and before the injured is fully recovered. Once you settle your case, then you can not go back and seek additional damages. If you are not fully recovered by the time the Statute of Limitations in your case approaches, this is the time in which you must file a lawsuit. If you do not file a lawsuit within the appropriate State of Limitations, then your claim will be time barred and you will be barred forever from any legal remedy even if the accident was not your fault.
Your attorney is an expert in these matters and will make sure that your case is filed in a timely manner so that you don’t miss the Statue of Limitations, and so that your legal rights are protected until you are either fully recovered, or that all monies available to you are paid to you as just compensation for your injuries from the crash.
7.) The Victim Impact Statement.
At some point, you will be writing a Victim Impact Statement. This statement is vital to your case for two (2) main reasons. First, it gives you a voice in the crash; and Second, it allows you to take part in making sure that justice is served in your case. This statement can be very empowering so what is included in this statement is very important.
A.) How Do I Write my Victim Impact Statement? This can be a very empowering letter, and it can also be intimidating as well. The following are a few tips to assist you in writing your statement:
- Discuss your Emotional Impact. Describe the emotional impact this crash has had on your life. It is ok to express anger, fear, frustration, sadness, or express that you are upset. These are normal emotions and should be expressed in your statement. You may also expand and talk about why you felt or feel that way. This can create empathy (putting others in your shoes) for a Judge and/or a Jury who is hearing your case so they can feel the impact of this terrible event and how it has made you feel and why.
- Discuss and Describe your Physical Injuries and Any Disabilities. Physical injuries and disabilities are devastating. Discuss and describe how these physical injuries and/or disabilities have had an impact on the enjoyment of your daily life; the life you enjoyed before the crash. This can help the Judge and/or Jury understand the full trauma that this has caused you such as having to give up favorite hobbies, loss of your independence, loss of a job, not being able to enjoy time with your family, and any other impact these injuries and/or disabilities have had on your life and changed the life you enjoyed before the crash.
- Discuss and Describe the Financial Impact the Accident has Had on Your Life. This can include not just the financial impact this has had on you but on your family as well including, but not limited to, the costs of medical treatments, the lost wages you have incurred, and the additional expenses you have incurred such as childcare, prescriptions, taking time for physical therapy, and the like.
It is imperative that you discuss with your attorney what can and can not be included in the Victim Impact Statement since there are laws and regulations that do govern these types of statements and you don’t want to accidentally violate any rule or regulation. This is a powerful statement to let the Judge and/or Jury know what you have been through so you don’t want to do anything to diminish the value of such a powerful tool.
8.) The following are the Answers to the Most Common Questions we are asked Relating to Impaired and Drunk Driving Accidents.
Q: If the State is Bringing a Criminal Case Against the Impaired Driver, then why is it so Important that a Civil Attorney Also Have an Investigation?
A: The State through the Prosecutor or District Attorney is conducting an investigation to prove that the person who hit you violated the law and to punish the impaired driver. The State is not there to protect your interests as first and foremost. The Civil Attorney, however, is there to protect your interests first and foremost and is, therefore, seeking evidence to prove that you were not at fault for the crash and that you receive just compensation for all the damages you have incurred as a result of this incident.
It is fine that both the Civil Attorney and State are investigating your claim, and this should give you piece of mind. You must remember, however, that each has different motivations so it is imperative that you have a Civil Attorney zealously representing you in this matter, and that you don’t rely on the State to do this job for you.
Q: Do I have a Lawsuit Against the Person Who Served the Drunk Driving Alcohol?
A. There is not a clear answer to this question as it depends upon the circumstances of the case but yes, you may have a cause of action against the person or establishment who sold, served, or otherwise provided the drugs or alcohol to the person who caused the accident. This is called the Dram Shop Liability Law and it was created to hold liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and most recently in Georgia, even convenience stores, and other commercial establishments responsible for damages for serving alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Ultimately, it is the person who became intoxicated who is responsible for their actions. The Dram Shop Laws, however, do serve as another avenue for recovery if the bartender or server did not use proper judgment and allowed a patron to become overly intoxicated and get behind the wheel, and, therefore, may be partially responsible for your injuries. Although this can be very difficult to prove, an experienced lawyer will investigate the events that lead up to the intoxicated person getting behind the wheel and determine if the Dram Shop Law applies in your particular circumstances.
Q. Can I recover for my Injuries if I was a Passenger in a Car where the Driver was Impaired?
A. Yes, you may have the right to recover from the driver of the vehicle if the driver was impaired. The driver has a legal obligation to drive safely and to protect the people on the road and in the vehicle with them which includes you as a passenger in their vehicle and could, therefore, be held responsible for damages you have suffered as a result.
Q. What should I do if the Other Driver was Impaired but I was Partially at Fault for the Accident?
A. There are two (2) types of laws that may govern in this situation. First, is the law of Comparative Negligence which states in part that if you were 10% at fault in the accident, or whatever percentage at fault, that you will held responsible for 10%, or whatever percentage, of damages. Second, is the law of Contributory Negligence which states that if you were responsible for any part of the accident that you can not receive any compensation for your losses.
Since both of these laws are very complicated in Georgia, it is, again, imperative that you have an experienced attorney on your side to make sure neither of these laws are improperly applied in your case and, therefore, you do not receive the just compensation that you deserve.
Q. If the Impaired Driver was high on Prescription Drugs that were Purchased and Used Legally, can this still be Considered a Drunk Driving Case?
A. As stated earlier, yes, as prescription drugs have many side effects that can rendered a driver impaired to point that it is unsafe to get behind the wheel. Under Georgia Law, the person taking the prescription medication, even if taken properly and as prescribed, is still responsible for not operating heavy machinery, and this includes a vehicle, while under the influence of medication. If a person does so and that the medication has impaired his or her ability to drive, then that person can be charged with driving under the influence and be held responsible just like a drunk driver.
As you can tell from the information provided, Drunk and Impaired Driving Injury Cases are different than normal vehicular accident cases and should be treated differently as such. We are experienced in these types of cases so if you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a Drunk or Impaired Driver, then please Contact Us immediately at any or all of the following means by phone at (770) 865-8654 and 813-363-6664, by email at email@example.com, or Contact Us on our website. We are here to help you and stop the madness and senselessness of Drinking and Impaired Driving.