Our nation has made a lot of progress in reducing drunk driving, but DUI accidents remain common in Athens and across Georgia. Statewide, approximately 3,700 people were killed by drunk driving in a 10-year period, and a third of all traffic deaths involve DUI.
If you have been the victim of a car accident caused by DUI, you are not alone. You have a right to recover all your costs, including 100% of your medical bills.
You should speak to an Athens drunk driving accident attorney immediately.
How Is DUI Defined in Georgia?
By state law, DUI includes anyone who is driving while impaired by a substance. The substance could be almost anything, such as:
- Prescription drugs
- Over the counter medication like cough syrup/ drowsy formula cold medicine
- Illegal drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, or cocaine
If the substance affects the driver’s nervous system, their muscles or their ability to control a vehicle, driving under its influence is illegal. Of course, it can be hard to determine whether a particular driver was impaired or not.
That’s why law enforcement will often use a breath test or blood test to evaluate their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Anyone with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered to be driving under the influence. Similarly, a blood or urine test can confirm the presence of various intoxicating drugs in the system.
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If I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver in Athens, What Should I Do?
The most important thing to do in any accident is to get medical attention for yourself or anyone else who is seriously injured. If it’s possible, however, we recommend taking certain basic steps at the accident scene to protect your legal rights as well:
- Always call the police. A police report is essential to making a strong claim, especially if you suspect DUI. Do not listen to a driver who says they’d rather settle this privately without involving insurance or the police.
- Tell the police if you suspect DUI. You don’t have to be 100% certain. Tell the police what makes you think the other driver is intoxicated and let them handle it. Police have special training to look for signs of intoxication or drug use. They can also ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests or even take a roadside breath test.
- Make a video. Anytime you suspect DUI, pull out your phone and make a video of the other driver’s behavior. You can also video record your conversation with them. This could become crucial evidence later that shows slurred speech, stumbling, poor balance or coordination, red eyes and other telltale signs.
- Watch for dirty tricks. DUI drivers will often try to dispose of evidence. Watch out for them emptying any cups or bottles, throwing away drugs, or hiding paraphernalia. Get this in your video or alert officers. They may also try to take eye drops or mouth wash to cover up signs of impairment.
- Talk to witnesses. Talk to bystanders and ask them for their contact information. Even if they didn’t see the accident, they may be witnesses to the intoxicated behavior of the other driver.
Most importantly, talk to a drunk driving victim accident lawyer in Athens as soon as possible after the accident. Any car accident claim that involves a suspected drunk driver is complex and you need professional legal help.
What Kind of Recovery Can I Win in a Claim Against a DUI Driver?
It’s not uncommon for us to see DUI car accident victims receive awards of $100,000 or more. In Athens, the victim of any car accident is allowed to recover all their costs, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages/lost work time
- Car repairs
- Financial awards for serious losses or suffering
But DUI cases are different. If the other driver was impaired you may be awarded far more money than you would with a sober driver. This is because you can also see “punitive damages.”
Punitive damages are extra money that the drunk driver is forced to pay to the victims, both to make up for the severity of what they did and also to send a strong message to others not to drive drunk.
Do I Still Have a Claim If I Was Riding in the Car With the Drunk Driver?
Absolutely. Passengers are not responsible for the actions of a driver, and you have the same rights as any other victim in the accident. The law allows you to recover all your costs, even if you knew the driver was impaired. It was their decision, not yours, that ultimately led to the accident.
However, your case may be seen differently by the local courts. Judges may feel that you “knew better,” and juries may have less sympathy for your claim. You can still make a financial recovery, but it may be less than it would be otherwise, especially if you don’t have an excellent lawyer.
We recommend talking to an Athens drunk driving victim accident attorney who understands DUI car accident claims as early in the process as possible.
Do I Need to Wait for the Criminal Case to Finish?
Not necessarily, but it depends on the circumstances. What’s most important is that we can access the evidence used to prove DUI in a crash situation. If we have that, we can make a claim to insurers or the court for damages.
Your DUI accident victim lawyer can determine the best timing to start your case if there is also an ongoing criminal case. The most important deadline to follow is the statute of limitations. We must make a claim before the deadline or you lose the right to compensation.
What If the Drunk Driver Beats Their Criminal Charges?
Even if a DUI driver beats their criminal charges, they could be held accountable for civil damages. The level of evidence needed to win a civil case is lower than a criminal one. Furthermore, we should be able to access evidence used in the criminal trial for our case.
Again, when there is an intersection between the criminal and the civil court systems, you need an experienced lawyer to know what to do. They know the intricacies of evidence, when to wait for more, and when to pursue your case to maximize your compensation.
Talk to an Athens Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer for Free
John Foy & Associates can help. We started out as a small local firm and have worked our way up to become one of the largest, most successful and respected personal injury firms in the state. Let us give you a free consultation and help you understand your legal options.
We will sit down with you for a free consultation and help you understand your legal options. There is no obligation to proceed if you wish to talk with other lawyers. Call our drunk driving victim accident lawyers in Athens or fill out the form to your right and get your FREE consultation today.