A drunk driver hit me, what are my rights?

Victims of drunk driving accidents are subject to injuries, financial damages, and complicated legal battles. If you’re in this situation, it’s important to be aware of your rights so you can receive the appropriate compensation. While winning a lawsuit won’t make up for the trauma you’ve endured, pursuing justice can provide you with the morale you need on your road to recovery.

Throughout the years, our team here at De Castroverde has dealt with many personal injury lawsuits like yours. We have the expertise necessary to build a strong case and ensure the court finds the at-fault party responsible. Read on to learn more about your rights as a drunk driving accident victim. If you need legal representation or want expert advice specific to your case, be sure to contact one of our attorneys today.

File an Insurance Claim

Nevada is an at-fault state, meaning you can file a claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company to receive compensation for your medical bills. This approach can be a viable solution to a lawsuit, especially if you inform the driver’s insurance carrier that you intend to seek full compensation for your damages. The insurance carrier will likely try to settle with you to avoid the time and expense of a lawsuit. Though the settlement offer might be less than what you’d win in court, the amount will still likely be sufficient to cover your damages.

Filing an insurance claim is also a good idea because Nevada requires all drivers to carry a policy that covers at least:

  • $25,000 in bodily injury or death per accident.
  • $50,000 in bodily injury or death of two or more persons per accident.
  • $20,000 for injury to or destruction of property of others.

As long as the other driver has the appropriate coverage, you have a good chance of receiving compensation by filing an insurance claim. If the driver doesn’t have insurance or has a policy limit that’s less than your total damages, you can consider other measures. For instance, you might file a negligence lawsuit to have them pay your damages from their personal assets. A lawsuit also holds the driver accountable in the eyes of the law, which can help you obtain closure after a drunk driving accident.

File a Negligence Lawsuit

If you suffered injuries at the hands of a drunk driver, you could file a civil lawsuit. As the plaintiff, you and your attorney are responsible for proving that the defendant had a legal responsibility to drive carefully and failed to do so by getting behind the wheel while impaired. If the responding officer performed a breathalyzer or field sobriety test at the time of the accident, it could be easier to prove that the defendant was intoxicated. Valid evidence could also be a blood test that a hospital or prison may have administered shortly after the accident.

Circumstantial evidence may include eyewitness testimony about the defendant’s dangerous driving behavior or signs of impairment like slurred speech, difficulty walking, and smelling of alcohol. Additionally, the court must find that the defendant’s actions directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries and resulting damages (i.e., medical bills or lost wages).

Settle or Go to Court

When you bring a lawsuit against the drunk driver, they might attempt to settle to avoid court. You might be tempted to take their offer to avoid the time, expense, and emotional burdens of trial. However, some people may want a court to find the drunk driver guilty in an attempt to find closure.

Talk to an expert attorney to decide which route is likely to produce the best outcome. Regardless, know that a settlement or ruling in your favor can result in compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages cover your measurable losses, while punitive damages are payments the defendant makes as a punishment.

Take Advantage of Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage

As we mentioned earlier, the at-fault party might not have insurance or a high enough policy limit to cover your damages. An alternative to a personal injury lawsuit is taking advantage of your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Nevada doesn’t require drivers to have these policies, but you may have added them to your insurance coverage if you wanted to protect yourself in such a situation. Contact your insurance company to see if you can make a claim. Remember that providers try to pay out as little as possible, even to their customers, so consider hiring a lawyer.

Seek Victim Restitution Fund Money

Nevada’s Victim of Crime Program (VOCP) offers financial assistance to victims of violent crimes. Drunk driving accidents fall into this category, meaning you can apply and receive compensation for damages like hospital bills and lost wages. Note that the VOCP won’t cover expenses relating to property damage or pain and suffering, and any claim you make cannot exceed $35,000.

File a Police Report

If you want the drunk driver to face criminal penalties like jail time and suspension of their driver’s license, a criminal court will have to find them guilty. This process involves the police officer citing the drunk driver and the local district attorney filing formal charges. You can play an active role in their conviction by filing a police report for a DUI. Consider hiring an attorney to help you file a free incident crime report. Their advice will ensure you don’t admit liability while providing enough details for the police to conduct an investigation.

Share Your Story

Police and prosecutors are often willing to hear the stories of drunk driving victims so they can bring defendants to justice. Sharing your account with the media or an advocacy group can also help you in the recovery process. You’ll not only heal yourself by being open but also encourage others to drink responsibly.

Recovering from a drunk driving accident isn’t easy, but knowing your rights can make the process much smoother. This guide can help you seek justice through several means and ensure you get the compensation you deserve. If you have questions about your rights or need help navigating the legal process, contact De Castroverde today. Our expert attorneys are here to support your family during this difficult time by building you a strong case.

Photo Source: Drunk Driver by Chris Yarzab is licensed with CC BY 2.0