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Recovering Compensation After an Accident with a Drunk Driver

Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents on January 29, 2020

A bottle of beer being poured into a glass

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people drive under the influence of alcohol about 111 million times every year. Police only catch about one percent of these incidents. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder that about one in every three people will be involved in a drunk-driving accident in their lifetimes.

These accidents are sometimes minor, but they are often serious. Every day, about 30 people die in accidents caused by drunk drivers. More people are injured and have damage to their property as well. If you are one of the many people hurt by a drunk driver, you may wonder how to move forward after such a horrific incident.

While a New Orleans personal injury attorney cannot erase the emotional pain, having someone on your side can help you recover your financial losses. This can be a significant step in moving forward. Unfortunately, the process is rarely straightforward. It’s important to have a basic understanding of how getting compensation works after a drunk driving accident.

Criminal Proceedings After a Drunk Driving Accident

Louisiana law forbids people from driving if their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. For drivers under the age of 21, the limit is 0.02%. If someone causes an accident and appears to be drunk, law enforcement officers will usually require the person to submit to a BAC test.

Depending on the circumstances, law enforcement may charge the driver with a DUI when the BAC test shows a number above the limit. On the first offense, the driver faces a fine of up to $10,000 and up to six months in jail. The possible punishments get worse if the BAC was above 0.15%, a minor under 12 years of age was in the car, or it was not the driver’s first offense.

If someone died in the accident, the driver may be charged with vehicular homicide as well. This carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. You may read about these punishments and think, “Ok, great. But how does that help me recover from my injuries?”

Criminal legal proceedings and the resulting punishments are not meant to help the victims recover financially. The fines go to the jurisdiction, not the victim. As good as it may feel to see justice served, you may continue to have needs from the accident. That’s where civil law comes in. You may first try to get compensation from the insurance company, but then need to file a lawsuit.

Getting Compensation from an Insurance Company

Louisiana requires all drivers to carry liability insurance to help cover expenses if and when they cause an accident. Just like with other types of vehicle accidents, you should file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company quickly after an accident.

Some insurance companies will pay what you are owed without too much of a fight, but this isn’t always the case. It’s in the company’s interest to try to get out of paying anything. Furthermore, what the insurance company owes may not cover all your needs.

In Louisiana, drivers only need to hold insurance that covers the following amounts:

  • $15,000 for bodily injuries per person
  • $30,000 for bodily injuries per accident
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident

It’s easy to see how a drunk driving accident could cause damages that go far beyond these limits. While some people get insurance policies that cover more than the minimums, many don’t. Depending on your injuries, you could easily need more than $15,000 to cover medical bills. For example, if you sustain a head injury, you could quickly surpass this limit with an ambulance ride, surgery, hospital stay, physical therapy, lost wages from missing work and continued medical treatment.

Worse yet, some drivers carry no insurance at all–even though it violates the law. This means there’s no insurance company to turn to when you need money to cover your expenses. If you find yourself needing more than insurance offers or are injured by someone with no insurance, a civil lawsuit may be your best bet.

Lawsuits After Drunk Driving Accidents

If you and your New Orleans personal injury attorney file a lawsuit against a drunk driver you may seek compensation for any of the following things:

  • Past medical bills from injuries caused by the accident
  • Future medical bills for ongoing treatment
  • Punitive damages
  • Lost income from missing work or developing a disability after the accident
  • Emotional distress, including the loss of a loved one
  • Future emotional pain

If the drunk driver was convicted of a DUI, your case will be stronger than if they were not convicted. These convictions give you leverage if you decide to negotiate a settlement as well. In addition to suing the driver, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the establishment who over-served the driver as well.

Under Louisiana law, a jury may reduce the amount you are rewarded if you are found to be partially responsible for the accident. For example, if the jury finds that you were violating a traffic law at the time of the accident, they could say you were 10 percent at-fault. They would then take 10 percent off of what they decide your total damages amount to.

While it is not always the case, many people decide to accept settlements before these cases go to trial. There are many pros and cons to this route, depending on the specifics of the case. Your attorney can help you decide.

Hire a New Orleans Personal Injury Attorney

Under Louisiana law, you have one year from the date of the accident to formally file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage after an accident. That’s why it’s important to contact an experienced New Orleans personal attorney as soon as possible. At Redmann Law, we offer a free consultation, during which we can answer your questions and let you know how we think your case could go. If you may want to file a lawsuit after a drunk driving accident, be sure to get in touch through our contact page or by calling (504) 500-5000.