Our car accident lawyers reveal how drivers in Indiana can protect their legal rights after a crash with a drunk driver
Drunk driving accidents can have serious consequences. Each year, thousands of people are injured and more than 10,000 are killed in crashes caused by drunk drivers nationwide. In Indiana alone, 213 people are killed on average each year in collisions caused by intoxicated drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Accidents caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol often turn into complicated legal cases. Unlike other crashes, there might be more than one at-fault party, especially if the driver was drunk when they purchased more alcohol from a bar or liquor store, then caused your crash (known as a “dram shop” claim).
Other times, the drunk driver who caused your crash might deny being intoxicated or challenge the results of their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. On top of that, the other driver’s insurance company will probably take their side and do everything they can to reduce or deny your injury claim.
What should I do if I'm in a crash caused by a drunk driver?
It’s important to take certain steps right away after getting hit by a drunk driver so that you can protect your legal rights and your well-being. Keep in mind that each accident presents its own unique challenges. As a result, you might need to take additional steps after your crash.
If you are still at the scene of your accident and are healthy enough to do so, take the following steps right away:
- Call the police and tell them you have been in an accident caused by a drunk driver. It’s critical that you have the police respond to your crash right away. That way, they can administer the necessary BAC tests (Breathalyzer test is the most common one) to determine exactly how intoxicated the driver is who caused your collision. Without a BAC test administered by police, the driver might later try to claim they were not drunk at the time of your accident.
- If you or anyone else appears injured, ask the police to send an ambulance. If you’re not sure if anyone’s hurt, ask for an ambulance. You’re not a medical professional. And even if you are, you might not be thinking clearly immediately after your crash. Have an EMT or another medical professional examine you and diagnose exactly what’s wrong.
- Wait until the police arrive to talk to the other driver. Intoxicated drivers can sometimes be belligerent or combative. Stay in your vehicle and wait for the police to arrive.
- If you can safely do so, take photos of your accident. Make sure to take pictures of exactly where the two vehicles crashed into each other, accident debris, nearby traffic signs, and anything else that might strengthen your accident claim.
- If someone saw your accident, talk to them right away and get their full name and phone number. Ask them to talk to the police as well if they are comfortable doing so. Eyewitness testimony from someone who saw your drunk driving accident can be a powerful piece of evidence.
- Get the other driver’s full name, address, driver’s license number, and insurance information. If you do not feel comfortable talking directly to the other driver, ask the investigating police officer for such information.
Several hours or days after your accident, take the following steps as soon as possible:
- Contact an experienced lawyer who represents people in your area injured in accidents caused by drunk drivers. The sooner you have an attorney investigating your crash on your behalf, the better.
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor, even if you have already been examined by an EMT or an emergency room doctor. Many car accident injuries, including whiplash and concussions, sometimes take several hours or days to develop. Have a doctor examine you and diagnose exactly what’s wrong.
- Take your doctor’s advice. This suggestion might seem unnecessary, but some people ignore their doctor’s advice. If you do, the insurance company responsible for compensating you (often the at-fault driver’s insurance company) might deny your injury claim on the grounds that you’re not actually injured.
- Contact the police department that responded to your accident and ask them for a copy of your official car accident report. If you are not sure how to do this, your lawyer can help obtain a copy of your accident report, then review it with you to make sure your accident report accurately reflects what happened.
- Keep all copies of original documents related to your accident. This may include medical bills, vehicle repair estimates, and your accident report. Such documents can be essential evidence when demanding compensation for your accident.
- Keep a record of how you feel after your accident. If you’re in extreme pain, discomfort, cannot walk, work or are unable to perform other tasks, keep track of exactly when you experienced such symptoms or events. Having a written record of your injury and how your accident impacted you can be important when seeking compensation for your crash.
- Call your insurance company and tell them you have been in an accident caused by a drunk driver. Keep your comments brief. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, it’s always smart to be cautious when dealing with insurance companies after an accident, including your own insurance provider.
- If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, don’t talk to them. Anything you say or put in writing could be used as evidence by them to deny your accident claim. If they insist on talking to you, tell them to contact your lawyer. You legally do not have to talk to the other driver’s insurance company after your accident.
- If the other driver’s insurance company makes a settlement offer, ask them to send you the offer in writing. Do not verbally agree to an offer over the phone. A lot of insurance company settlement offers, especially soon after an accident, don’t even come close to covering all your accident-related expenses. That's because the insurance company has a financial interest in paying you as little as possible and hopes you will simply accept their lowball offer and go away. Your lawyer can review any settlement offers you receive and help you decide if you should accept or demand more money.
These are just a few of the suggested steps you should consider taking after your drunk driving accident. The bottom line is you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options.
A lawyer can help you seek compensation after a drunk driving crash
The stakes are often high when it comes to injury claims involving drunk drivers. The cost of your medical treatment, vehicle repairs, replacement income if you cannot work while recovering from your accident, and other expenses can easily add up to thousands of dollars or significantly more. Insurance companies know this. That’s why they will often do everything they can to avoid paying you the money you deserve.
At Vaughan & Vaughan, our highly skilled attorneys can help you every step of the way. We understand the Indiana state laws and federal laws governing drunk driving accidents. We know what questions to ask and how to negotiate effectively with insurance companies. Our knowledge comes from years of handling these types of claims throughout Indiana. Founded in 1913, our law firm has a well-earned reputation for successfully securing sizable settlements and verdicts for injury victims and their families.
Discover what our dedicated legal team can do for you. Contact us and schedule your free case evaluation today. Our law firm has six offices conveniently located throughout Indiana, including offices in Indianapolis and Lafayette.