If a drunk driver has injured you in a car accident, you have the right to seek damages in a civil action for your losses. Though the drunk driver will be subjected to criminal penalties that include some restitution, compensation to the victims is often insufficient to cover the total costs of medical bills, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, property damage, rehabilitation and therapy if required, loss of financial support, and so forth. Knowing what to do is essential to ensure you receive a favorable outcome and a good reason to consult with an experienced personal injury drunk driving lawyer.
As it is, accident victims are often overwhelmed in the aftermath of the accident—left confused with uncertainty and anxiety. Add to the confusion is the legal complications that may arise between criminal and civil law that pertain to OUI. Most accident victims do not realize that their ability to recover specific types of compensation under criminal law may prevent them from receiving similar types of recovery through a civil suit.
Liability and Fault in a Drunk Driving Accident
Then there is the issue of liability and fault. Establishing liability may be easier if the drunk driver has been convicted in a court of law, but does that mean the drunk driver was entirely at fault for the accident? Maine is an “at-fault” car accident state, which means that the person who is responsible for causing the car accident pays for the damages. More precisely, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will compensate for losses up to the policy limits. Because fault is determined by the available evidence that the police or other investigators collect, in the case of a drunk driver, there’s a good chance that fault will be easily determined.
However, there is a “but.” Maine has “modified comparative negligence laws” that allow “fault,” under some circumstances, to be shared. A driver must be able to establish that they were less than 50% at fault to collect a balance of the available percentage. For instance, if it is determined that you were 10% responsible for the accident, you can recover 90% of the damages. Comparative negligence law also means that you cannot collect damages from the other driver if you are 50% or more at fault.
What Should You Do If You’ve Been in an Accident?
To better ensure that you will be awarded just compensation for your injuries, you should meet with a car accident lawyer as soon as you can after an accident. That said, you should also learn how to protect yourself by knowing what to do after a car accident.
Call the Police Immediately After an Accident
First, assess the situation and, if you can, call the police to the scene right away. Whether the at-fault driver is drunk or not, a police report is vital when filing any future insurance claims or lawsuits for damages. If you think the at-fault driver is impaired, you’ll want the police on the scene as soon as possible.
Assess Injuries and Seek Medical Treatment
Secondly, assess your injuries to the extent that you can. Obviously, serious injuries need immediate attention. However, no matter how minor you believe your injuries are, you should still accept medical attention. Never refuse medical care after an accident when it is offered and never tell anyone that your condition is “Okay” or that “Everything is fine.” By refusing medical treatment after an accident, the insurance company can (and will) argue that any injuries that surface later were not caused by the accident and, consequently, compensation can be greatly reduced. Besides, after an accident, shock, anger, or an adrenaline rush often mask the seriousness of injuries. You may have sustained nerve damage, a brain injury, or whiplash that will not become apparent for hours or even days after the accident.
Thirdly, be sure to keep copies of all documents and records pertaining to the accident. This would include such items as medical invoices, police reports, correspondence from insurance companies, property damage assessments, and the number of wages lost due to physical and emotional injury.
Why Hiring a Lawyer is the Right Thing to Do!
Finally, if a drunk driver has injured you, you have the right to receive the compensation you deserve for those injuries and the damages the accident caused. To ensure you receive a just settlement and to help increase your chance of getting the maximum compensation for your injuries and losses, consult with an experienced car accident lawyer at Hardy, Wolf & Downing. For nearly five decades, the law firm of Hardy, Wolf & Downing has been a source of hope to victims of drunk drivers.