Getting into a car accident is bad enough, but when the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it often means their reckless choices directly caused the accident. If this happens to you, it is extremely likely that the party under the influence will be responsible for everything, this generally includes:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Replacing/Repairing your vehicle
- Pain and suffering
- Attorney fees
- Punitive awards
Being compensated for what you have had to experience does take time, and it is important that you have experienced legal representation on your side. Even a small error in your case can be exploited by an opposing attorney, causing you to lose the compensation you deserve.
Most of the time, a DUI accident case will follow the same basic step-by-step format:
After an accident, talking with an attorney should be your first step, once you are feeling healthy enough. In cases where you might be seriously injured and will need to spend an extended amount of time in the hospital, a DUI accident attorney should be able to meet you at a place convenient for you. The initial consultation can place in a hospital room, your home, or anywhere else that works for you.
During your consultation, the attorney will advise you as to whether or not you have a case. Generally, if the accident is the other driver’s fault, and they were charged with a DUI or had alcohol/drugs in their system, you should have a case.
A settlement offer can be made to the other party, or their attorney, which will forego with Litigation Avenue completely. It is usually in the interest of everyone to reach an amicable settlement, since you will get paid faster and not have to worry about a court case dragging on for months. Either party can make a settlement offer to the other party or those offers can be negotiated until a number can be reached that satisfies everyone.
In many cases, you will be dealing with the other driver’s insurance company, or their lawyers, since they will be the ones who have to pay at least a portion of any settlement or judgement against their client. Not every case will end in a settlement and some defendants may not even entertain the idea of a settlement if they think they have a strong case for court.
If the case goes to court, both sides will collect evidence to bolster their case in front of a judge or jury. This might include physical evidence, police reports, medical records, driving records, witness testimony, expert witnesses, etc. This can take anywhere from 2-6+ months. During this time you will probably have to go over everything with your attorney several times to make sure that they have all of the facts correct regarding what happened during and after the accident.
At the trial, both sides will present their case in front of a judge or jury. Your attorney will make the claim that the other party should be responsible, while the other party will either try to deny responsibility or lessen their liability. They might argue that they may be responsible for some of your medical bills but nothing else. Your attorney will argue that the other party was careless and dangerous, putting them on the hook for everything.
After both sides are done presenting their cases, a ruling will be made regarding the amount of money owed. In almost every case, the defendant will be responsible for paying at least some of your claims and sometimes, you will win everything you’ve asked for. In rare cases, your suit may be dismissed on procedural grounds or filing problems, usually giving you the chance to refile.
It is important to note that at any point before a judgement is rendered, a settlement can still be worked out between the parties, which will end the case.
Collecting the Award
Once the award has been set, you still need to collect on it, which can be difficult if the defendant is not forthcoming with their finances. In some cases, you will need to go back to court in order to find the defendant’s assets and have orders issued allowing you to either seize their assets or garnish their wages.
At the end of everything, either party will have the option to appeal the outcome of the case. This generally does not happen since many DUI cases are fairly straightforward, an appeal would likely just cost the defendant more money and result in the same outcome.