It’s a pleasant summer evening as you’re driving home. You’re listening to music; the windows are rolled down. Maybe you’re singing along to a song on the radio. In an instant, another car’s headlights cross the centerline. You have zero time to react, and you feel the force of impact as their vehicle strikes yours like a ton of bricks. Your car goes off the road into a ditch. The next thing you know, you're being rushed to the hospital in incredible pain. You’ve missed a couple of days of work and you have a long road to recovery ahead. A few days after being released from the hospital, you find out that the driver who hit you had a blood-alcohol level that was twice the legal limit. So, you've been hit by a drunk driver in Georgia. What's next?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Georgia
According to Georgia DUI law, a driver is considered “under the influence” if his or her blood alcohol content is .08 or higher. Driving while intoxicated is a misdemeanor offense in most situations. However, if the impaired driver caused a serious injury or death or has had multiple DUIs, it may be considered a felony.
In 2018, drunk-driving was responsible for 28% of car accident fatalities. This has placed a huge burden on crash victims: trying to recover from their injuries and loss while also fighting for the financial damages they deserve.
What to Do After You've Been Hit by a Drunk Driver in Georgia
Unfortunately, the path to being compensated for injuries caused by an impaired driver is anything but clear.
The driver who hit you may be found guilty in a criminal court, but the criminal court does not provide financial compensation to the victim who was hit by a drunk driver. Only a civil court can award monetary damages.
It’s important to be prepared for these situations--otherwise, you could find yourself facing medical bills, missed work, and other expenses on your own.
Unfortunately, it's often car insurance companies that attempt to settle these cases. And they may not offer what your case is actually worth. This is especially true if you negotiate with an insurance company without a lawyer.
You may find that the insurance company of the person who hit you tries to settle your claim quickly. This gives you less time to meet with a lawyer to discuss your rights. Plus, by forcing you to settle quickly, the at-fault person's insurance company gets you to go away quicker with less money.
In these situations, you need a qualified Georgia injury lawyer to help you recover the money you actually deserve.
Here's what you should do after you've been hit by a drunk driver:
Call the Police
Always call the police after a car accident, especially if you’ve suffered an injury.
The police will assess the other driver for signs of intoxication. They will also measure the driver's blood alcohol content.
Keep Track of Your Accident-Related Expenses
It’s important to wait until your condition stabilizes to move forward with injury claims. Many injuries don’t manifest until weeks or months after a crash, and these can significantly increase your crash-related medical bills and lost time at work.
Additionally, you should meticulously track all expenses related to your crash. This includes emergency room costs, ambulance costs, medical equipment, tests, co-pays, and all damage to your vehicle. This information will help your lawyer build your accident claim.
Additionally, you should track how many days you’ve missed at work and how much money those absences have cost you. With your expenses carefully tracked, you and your lawyer can pursue the financial amount you truly deserve for your injuries, expenses, and suffering.
Proving the Driver Who Hit You Was Impaired
In the United States, non-commercial drivers over 21 who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more are considered legally impaired and can be criminally charged with DUI.
Non-commercial drivers under age 21 are considered legally impaired with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.
Commercial drivers (truck drivers, school bus drivers, etc.) are considered legally impaired with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
Additionally, individuals can be charged with a DUI or DWI if they are found to be:
“Under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive; under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.”
To prove that the driver who hit you was intoxicated, you’ll need to request and obtain the following documents:
- A copy of the police report
- Statements from witnesses who saw the crash and heard the driver admit to causing the collision
- Photo and video evidence, especially that which shows the other driver acting intoxicated
It’s important to remember that experienced personal injury attorneys can secure documents and test results that may be difficult for you to obtain. These can include valuable documents like toxicology results, narrative reports, driving records, and previous arrest records.
To Be Compensated for Your Injuries, File a Civil Claim
If the driver who hit you was given a blood alcohol test and was found to be under the influence, he or she will face charges in a criminal court. Criminal sentences are designed to protect the public from the drunk driver’s reckless behavior and to punish the driver for endangering other people.
The criminal justice system does not award financial compensation to individuals who were hit by a drunk driver. To receive financial compensation, the injured person will need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver in civil court. That is where an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer can help you.
Generally, a drunk driver’s insurance company will try to offer you a settlement following a car wreck caused by their insured party. These settlements are designed to provide victims with the smallest possible settlement.
When you accept a settlement from an insurance company, you give up your right to file a civil claim and win the financial settlement you actually deserve.
Remember: you have no legal requirement to speak to or negotiate with the insurance company of the person who hit you. If you do, you may say something that weakens your case--and the insurance company will certainly use it against you when negotiating your settlement.
Filing a Civil Claim in Georgia
Most individuals who have been injured in a DUI accident are still addressing their injuries. Many are unable to drive or work. This can make it nearly impossible for them to organize a complex personal injury case.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help compile the proper paperwork and documentation and will also file your claim on your behalf.
It’s important to remember that insurance companies do not want your personal injury lawsuit to go to trial. If it does, a jury is very likely to be sympathetic to a drunk driving victim, and the insurance company could be ordered to pay a much higher amount than initially requested.
Hire a Local Personal Injury Lawyer in Georgia
If you were hit by a driver whose blood alcohol content was confirmed to be .08 or higher, you may be able to collect financial damages from them.
After your accident, you’ll receive a call from an insurance company representing the driver who hit you. The call may seem like a friendly interaction, but don’t be fooled: the purpose of their contact is to convince you to accept as small a financial settlement as possible and to waive your right to seek further damages. After all, insurance companies are businesses, and their goal is to make a profit.
Do not entertain settlement conversations until the driver who hit you has been found guilty of DWI in a criminal court. With a conviction in place, the driver’s insurance company will be more motivated to avoid a civil court case, as the jury is highly likely to be sympathetic to the injured party.
A drunk driving accident attorney can help evaluate your case and fight for the compensation you deserve for being hit by a drunk driver.
Why Do You Need A Lawyer After a DUI Injury Accident?
There are several key reasons to hire a qualified injury lawyer after a drunk driving injury accident:
- Avoid signing away important rights. Don’t let a drunk driver’s insurance company confuse you after your accident. A personal injury attorney can examine and advise you on any documents the insurance company asks you to sign.
- Learn the true value of your claim. In a drunk driving injury accident, the insurance company’s sole purpose is to pay you as little money as possible for your injuries, lost property, pain and suffering. A personal injury law firm can help you determine the actual value of your case--and negotiate for those damages.
- Protect yourself. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can give you realistic expectations about the value of your claim. This perspective and expertise can prevent you from accepting an insufficient settlement.
Legal Support for Victims of Drunk Drivers
At Lonati Law Firm, P.C. in Dallas, Georgia, we sympathize with those who have been injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident. Our team of experienced DUI injury accident attorneys will work vigorously to pursue getting you the compensation you deserve. Should you select our law firm to represent you in your case, we’re committed to providing you with personal attention and fast action.
What are the top 3 things you MUST do after being hit by a drunk driver?
- The most important thing to do after a drunk driving accident is to seek medical treatment immediately. This is true even if you don’t feel seriously injured, as your body can be in a state of shock and not recognize the injuries right away. However, problems with your neck, your back and soft tissue injuries can surface days to weeks later. Getting medical treatment quickly is important to your claim. Waiting to obtain treatment can make it much more difficult to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident you were involved in.
- Contact a Georgia law firm that specializes in personal injury. Much like getting medical treatment quickly, this action protects you legally. Most personal injury law firms provide an initial consultation free of charge to victims of drunk driving accidents.
- Once you hire an attorney, allow them to handle all communications about the accident for you. This includes speaking with the impaired driver, your own or the other person’s insurance company.
Hit By a Drunk Driver? Call Our GA Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today
Lonati Law Firm is dedicated to helping victims that were hit by a drunk driver get the justice they deserve. We have years of experience in personal injury law and aggressively pursuing drunk driving cases.
If you’ve been injured in a DUI accident in Dallas, Georgia, or Paulding County, contact Lonati Law Firm. We can help you build your case and start pursuing the financial settlement you need.
Frequently Asked Questions After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver
Have questions about your DUI accident injury case? Contact us today for a free consultation or to learn more about our services.
What Should I Know About Drunk Driving Laws in Georgia?
According to Georgia DUI laws, non-commercial drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher is a crime. Additionally, a lower BAC can also be a crime if there are drugs in a person’s system as well. A person with any amount of marijuana or other illegal substances in his system can be convicted of DUI.
For commercial drivers, the legal limit for drunk driving is even lower at 0.4% BAC. For drivers under the age of 21, just one drink can put them over the legal limit of 0.2% BAC.
Even if you do not exhibit symptoms of impairment, you can be convicted of a DUI if your blood alcohol content is 0.08% or higher.
When you are a victim of a drunk driver, have been injured, or have lost a loved one because of a drunk driving accident, you are entitled to compensation. This can include payment for physical and emotional injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages, disability, and other losses caused by the crash. The compensation process can be challenging because the involved insurance companies will try very hard to minimize the amount of cash they pay out.
What Is "Pain and Suffering" in a Personal Injury Case?
In a personal injury case, there are two types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are financial damages awarded to a plaintiff (the injured person) in a civil court case. These damages are designed to compensate an injury victim for medical expenses, lost property, and other losses incurred by a car accident or injury incident.
Punitive damages are awarded by the court to punish a defendant (the drunk driver in a DUI accident, for instance) for exhibiting reckless, negligent behavior. These damages are intended to deter both the defendant and other individuals from engaging in the same reckless behavior in the future.
Pain and suffering damages fall under compensatory damages. The phrase “pain and suffering” refers to the intangible negative effects of an injury on an individual’s body or mind. It encompasses physical pain from injuries, as well as mental and emotional anguish that results from the incident itself.
A variety of injuries can be included in your claim as pain and suffering damages.
Short- and long-term physical pain, as supported by a diagnosis from your doctor, is commonly used to calculate pain and suffering damages.
Physical trauma that results from an injury, like neck pain, soft tissue damage, nerve damage, traumatic brain injuries, headaches, and other physical injuries, fall under this umbrella.
Emotional and psychological trauma, including fear, loss of quality of life, cognitive changes caused by injuries, and PTSD are a few of the psychological issues that may qualify for pain and suffering damages in a civil case or personal injury claim.
Individuals who have lost loved ones in drunk driving accidents can also cite pain and suffering in their civil cases. When a family member brings a civil case against the drunk driver who caused their loved one’s death, it is called a wrongful death case.
What Does Georgia Law Say About Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case?
According to the Georgia Code on Civil Practice, § 9-10-184 states:
“In the trial of a civil action for personal injuries, counsel shall be allowed to argue the worth or monetary value of pain and suffering to the jury; provided, however, that any such argument shall conform to the evidence or reasonable deductions from the evidence in the case.”
This means that pain and suffering damages are permitted in personal injury cases. However, the pain and suffering argument must be based on evidence from the case itself. Medical evidence from doctors and mental health specialists that corroborate a victim’s diagnosis and symptoms are vital in this respect
How Can You Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver?
For victims of drunk drivers, there is no set method for calculating pain and suffering damages in civil cases.
The most important step these victims can take when organizing their case is to hire a personal injury lawyer who specializes in DUI accident injuries. A lawyer who specializes in these cases can provide expert guidance in assessing and evaluating a victim’s injuries and expenses. They can also help victims determine a fair amount of financial damages to request, both compensatory and punitive.
Personal injuries attorneys also understand local laws and how they might impact the case they're building.
For instance, in Georgia, there are laws that restrict the sale, furnishing, or serving of alcohol to minors under 21 years of age or people who are visibly intoxicated. These laws are called “dram shop laws.”
Dram shop laws allow victims of drunk drivers to seek damages from the establishment that provided or sold alcohol to the drunk driver who injured them. For drunk driving victims to win a settlement from the establishment that provided alcohol to the driver that hit them, they must be able to prove not only that the establishment provided alcohol to the person who injured them, but also that the establishment disregarded signs of the person’s obvious intoxication in serving them.
For most victims, especially those recovering from serious injuries, it can be daunting to gather the correct evidence and organize a personal injury case that requests fair compensation for their experiences. A personal injury attorney is instrumental in helping accident victims organize and pursue their cases efficiently and effectively.
Contact a Georgia Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today
Lonati Law Firm in Dallas, Georgia is a trusted DUI accident injury law firm. We will work tirelessly to recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, and money to cover your medical bills, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation or complete our online form for a free case evaluation.