Expertly Reviewed By: Serah Waweru, Esq., on April 13, 2023
No one ever expects to be in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, but it can happen unexpectedly anytime – and when it does, an experienced DUI accident lawyer is your best bet for getting the compensation you deserve. These accidents usually cause serious injuries, often leading to permanent or partial disability or even death. And when you’re dealing with such catastrophic injuries, the best thing to do is to hire an experienced DUI accident attorney to fight for you or your beloved.
Learn more in this comprehensive guide on choosing the right lawyer for your DUI accident case.
Who Is a Drunk Driver Lawyer?
A drunk driver lawyer represents clients charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Most states have laws that make it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.
However, some states have adopted stricter standards, making it illegal to drive with a BAC of .05 percent or higher. If you are caught driving with a BAC above the legal limit, you can be charged with DUI.
Besides representing clients who have been charged with DUI, some drunk driver lawyers also represent victims of DUI accidents. If you have been injured in a DUI accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver. And, if your claim is valid, you may be eligible for compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
What Should I Look for in a Drunk Driving Lawyer Near Me?
When you’ve been involved in a DUI accident, the last thing you want to do is try to navigate the legal system on your own. Instead, you need an experienced, knowledgeable drunk driving attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve and protect your rights. But not every attorney can fight for you, and that’s why you need to know the most important things to look for when choosing the right lawyer, as discussed below.
Look for someone with experience handling DUI accident cases. An experienced attorney knows how to handle the unique circumstances of your case. This is because chances are they have handled similar cases in the past and helped their clients receive the compensation they deserve.
Make sure your lawyer is familiar with the laws in your state. Every state has different laws governing drunk driving accidents, so it’s important that your lawyer is familiar with the laws in the state where the accident occurred.
For instance, in Florida, you have up to four years from the accident date to file a claim with the other party’s insurance company. On the other hand, in Washington State, you have three years from the accident date to pursue compensation for your injuries.
This shows just how these laws vary and why it is important to choose a lawyer who understands local regulations.
Choose a lawyer who will give you personal attention. This is very important because the last thing you want is to hire a lawyer who will throw your case back on the shelves after signing up with them as their client. Instead, you need an attorney who understands your pain and knows how important it is that you get compensated for your injuries.
You should feel like your case is a priority to your drunk driving attorney, not just another file on their desk. This explains why it is always advisable to opt for someone who will return your calls promptly and keep you updated on the status of your case.
Find a lawyer who charges reasonable fees. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid if they win your case. However, you should not assume anything; be sure to ask about fees upfront so there are no surprises later on down the road after winning.
What Damages Can a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Help Me Recover?
A DUI accident lawyer can help you recover various damages resulting from a drunk driving accident. These may include but are not limited to the following:
Medical expenses: If you were injured in the accident and required medical attention, such as surgery, a DUI lawyer can help you recover the cost of your medical treatment, including any necessary rehabilitation. Keep in mind that expenses such as physical therapy are also compensable if you win the claim or lawsuit.
Property damage: If your vehicle or other property was damaged in the accident, a DUI lawyer can help you recover the cost of repairs or replacement.
Lost wages: If you missed work due to your injuries, a DUI lawyer can help you recover your lost wages and other benefits you may have been entitled to.
Lost earning potential: This compensation applies if the injuries prevented you from earning a living, whether for a short or long-term period. For instance, if you suffered permanent paralysis from the accident, preventing you from getting employed, you can file a loss of earning potential claim against the other driver’s insurance company.
Pain and suffering: A drunk driving accident lawyer can also help you recover damages for the physical and emotional pain and suffering caused by the accident.
When Should I Hire a DUI Accident Lawyer?
In most cases, if you were not seriously injured in a drunk driving accident, which is highly unlikely, you will not need a lawyer. This is especially true if you suffered minor injuries that did not prevent you from going to work or carrying on with your day-to-day activities.
But that’s not usually the case. Drunk driving accidents usually cause serious injuries, and, in most cases, you will need an attorney to fight for you or your beloved. Here are additional scenarios that may require an attorney’s intervention.
If the other driver does not have insurance or their insurer is lowballing you on your claim. An experienced drunk driving accident attorney can help fight back against the insurance company and prove you are entitled to compensation for your damages.
If you suffered serious injuries in the accident and want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. The attorney can help maximize your claim.
If you were partly at fault for the accident and want to negotiate a reduced settlement with the other driver’s insurer. Remember that when you are partly at fault for the accident, the other party will likely try to blame you for the entire accident.
And depending on the state where the accident occurred, you may not recover any compensation if you are found to be more at fault than the other driver.
This is because each state has a type of negligence law that governs how compensation is calculated after a car accident.
There are three main types of negligence laws in the US:
Contributory negligence: States that follow this legal doctrine will prevent you from recovering any compensation if you were even 1% at fault for the accident. In such states, insurance companies will try everything they can to blame you for the accident just to avoid liability.
Pure comparative negligence: In states that follow this legal principle, plaintiffs can only recover damages based on their percentage of fault. For instance, if you were 20% at fault for the accident, you can only recover 80% of the total damages you may have been entitled to after the accident.
Modified comparative negligence: In a modified comparative negligence state, you can only recover damages if your percentage of fault is under a certain threshold. Most states have a 50 or 51% threshold to determine whether the plaintiff can recover damages after the accident.
How Can a Drunk Driver Lawyer Help?
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, it is crucial that you hire an experienced attorney. As mentioned, these cases are usually complicated, even though they may seem pretty straightforward initially.
Given that such accidents usually cause serious injuries, it is important that you seek legal representation to maximize your claim. Of course, that’s the whole point of filing a claim or lawsuit against the other party; you want to ensure that you won’t have to dig deeper into your pockets to seek to settle bills stemming from someone else’s negligence.
To sum up, an experienced attorney can:
- Help review your case to determine whether you have a valid claim against the other party.
- Collect crucial evidence to support your claim if it is valid.
- Evaluate the damages you sustained due to the other party’s negligence.
- Fill out crucial paperwork on your behalf and beat strict deadlines.
- Research complex laws and how they relate to your claim
- File a claim or lawsuit against the other driver’s insurance company
- Identify other parties that may have contributed to the accident and also file a claim with them
- Represent you throughout the legal proceedings, including depositions and court hearings
- Negotiate a favorable settlement on your behalf, ensuring you are reasonably compensated for your losses
What Should I Do After a Car Accident Caused by a Drunk Driver?
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, it is important to know what to do next. Here are some quick tips to guide you.
The first step is to seek medical attention for any injuries that have been sustained. It is important to seek medical attention even if you feel okay after the accident. This is because some injuries may take time to show their symptoms, and you do not want to lose your right to compensation simply because you did not follow the right process after the accident.
Once you have seen a doctor, you should contact an experienced DUI accident lawyer.
A DUI accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal process and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. They will also be able to help you file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver if necessary. This mostly happens if the other party is unwilling to negotiate a reasonable settlement out of court.
Can I File a Car Accident Claim Without a DUI Accident Lawyer?
If you’ve been in a car accident, you may be wondering if you can file a claim without hiring a lawyer. The answer is yes, you can.
However, filing a claim without a lawyer is never advisable, especially if you suffered serious injuries. If you’ve only suffered minor injuries and there is little to no damage to your vehicle, you may be able to handle the claim yourself.
However, if the accident was more severe or if there is significant damage to your vehicle or other property, it’s best to hire an experienced lawyer to help you navigate the claims process. This is because insurance companies will try to lowball you or frustrate the claims process, especially if it involves a significant amount of money.
How Long Do I Have To File a Car Accident Claim?
The statute of limitations is the time frame you have to file a claim for your accident. In most states, this time frame is two years from the date of the accident.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For this reason, if you were injured in the accident, you may have a different statute of limitations. Therefore, it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident to determine the applicable statute of limitations.
Are DUI Accidents Covered by Insurance?
Your insurance coverage may be affected if you are responsible for a DUI accident. Precisely, if you cause an accident while under the influence of alcohol, your insurance company may refuse to pay for damages. They may also cancel your policy or increase your rates. In addition, if you are arrested for DUI, you will likely face high fines and possible jail time. And depending on the circumstances of the case, you may also lose your driver’s license.
On the other hand, if you are the accident victim, you may be entitled to compensation from the other party’s insurance company. This applies only if you have a valid claim and not necessarily being the accident victim.
How Do Car Accident Lawyers Get Paid?
DUI accident lawyers typically work on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid if you win your case. If you lose, you don’t owe the lawyer anything.
Most DUI accident lawyers charge a contingency fee of 33% to 40% of the total settlement or verdict. So, for example, if you receive a $100,000 settlement from the drunk driver’s insurance company, your lawyer would get $33,000 to $40,000.
If your case goes to trial and you win, your lawyer will usually get a higher percentage of the total amount awarded to you by the jury. In some cases, lawyers may charge an hourly rate instead of a contingency fee. For this reason, ensure you find out how much the attorney will charge and the exact payment system they will use before signing up with them.
Choosing the right DUI accident lawyer can be a daunting task for most people, and that’s completely understandable. We hope that this guide has helped outline all the steps you need to take to ensure you get the best possible representation for your case. Remember, it’s always important to research and compare different lawyers before choosing who to trust with your case. Also, keep in mind that not every attorney you encounter has the experience or even resources to fight for you.
In addition, having someone knowledgeable about DUI law and willing to fight for your rights should be an essential part of finding the perfect DUI accident attorney for you.