An ordinary auto accident claim is a bit different from a DUI (driving under the influence) accident claim. Here are some five important things you should know about a DUI accident claim.
You cannot conclude that the defendant is responsible for your accident damages simply because the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the incident. You still need to prove that the driver caused the accident because even in a DUI incident, other things may still cause an accident. The driver may escape liability if they can prove other causes of the accident.
For example, the driver may claim that they crashed into your car’s rear because their brakes failed, and their mechanic had negligently fixed the brakes. In short, don’t assume that you have a straightforward case just because the driver was intoxicated. Pursue the accident case just as diligently as you would pursue any other case.
2. A Criminal Conviction Is an Evidence in Your Case
Even though a DUI is not an automatic proof of liability, you can use a DUI conviction to prove your accident case. Therefore, if your defendant faces a DUI case, follow up the matter and confirm whether the criminal court convicts the driver. A mere DUI charge may not help you much because the law assumes criminal suspects are innocent until the court proves them guilty.
At the very least, a DUI conviction helps you prove that the defendant was negligent. Few auto insurance companies want to defend an intoxicated driver, so the conviction will strengthen your claim considerably.
3. The Insurer Might Deny Coverage
Another thing you should know is that the driver’s insurance carrier may try to deny coverage for their client. Some insurance companies rationalize such denials that a DUI accident is synonymous with an intentional incident since the intoxicated motorist knew about the risks of DUI. Insurance companies don’t pay for intentional incidents.
Don’t accept such a claim even if the insurer seems to insist on it. You shouldn’t be in a position where you have to pursue your damages against an individual; an insurance company is more likely to pay your money fast (and in full) than an individual. Instead, hire an auto accident attorney to help you overcome the denial and get the insurer to settle the claim.
4. The Alcohol Server May Be Liable
Look beyond the driver to recover your damages in full. Specifically, find out if you can hold the person who sold the alcohol to the driver liable for your damages. Georgia, like many other states, has dram shop laws that hold alcohol serves liable for the damages an intoxicated client may cause.
Dram shop laws hold as long as the server knew or should have known that the driver was intoxicated. For example, if a visibly intoxicated driver staggers into a bar and buys more alcohol, the bartender may be liable for the accident damages the intoxicated driver might cause.
5. You May Get Punitive Damages
Lastly, consider punitive damages among the damages you want the defendant to pay. Punitive damages do not compensate for your direct losses; rather, punitive damages punish the defendant and act as a warning to other people.
Courts typically award punitive damages to punish intentional acts or particularly reckless behavior. A DUI is a pretty reckless behavior, particularly if the driver’s blood alcohol content was way above the legal limit. Present your case right and the court might just award you punitive damages.
As you can see, a DUI accident claim is not as straightforward as some people may think, but you can still get a fair compensation if you proceed right. As Law Offices OF Wells and McElwee, P.C., we have adequate experience to help you pursue your DUI accident claim. If you sustained injuries in an auto crash with an intoxicated driver, contact us and we will help you pursue your damages.