If you’ve been the victim of a drunk driver, and are considering handling your own property damage or personal injury claim, you must understand how a DUI arrest will affect your settlement negotiations.
These cases progress basically the same as any other property damage or injury claim. The difference lies in the type of evidence you’ll need to establish liability.
How Drunk Driving Affects a Claim
There are different levels of intoxication. Whether your state classifies the crime as Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired (DWI), or Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the end result is the same. The at-fault drivers’ act of drinking or drugging resulted in the negligent operation of his vehicle. Those actions were the direct and proximate cause of the collision.
The act of being intoxicated can’t be the actual cause of a drunk driving crash. The cause is the negligent actions of the driver due to his or her intoxication. It’s essential for you to understand this subtle, but important difference.
Example: Difference Between Negligence and Cause
Andy left a bar driving his sedan after having one too many beers. On the way home, he was so drunk he didn’t notice the light was red. As he drove through the light, he crashed into another car in the intersection.
In this example, Andy’s drunken state was technically not the cause of the collision. The cause was the negligent act of driving through the red light. Andy’s drinking caused him to operate his vehicle irresponsibly (by running the red light), which ultimately caused the accident.
Using Intoxication in Claim Negotiations
If you were the victim of a drunk driving crash, and the at-fault driver received a citation for an open container, or was arrested for DUI or DWI, you’ll be in a strong position when negotiating your claim.
In drunk driving cases, the existence of a citation for an Open Container of Alcohol, or an arrest for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence, should be all the evidence needed to convince the claims adjuster her insured was negligent.
Here are some tips for establishing DUI or DWI:
- Tell the police officers if you smell alcohol or marijuana on the other driver’s breath. In the time it takes police to arrive at the scene, the other driver may use a breath spray, or otherwise try to conceal the odor. If you alert the police about the smell, they may administer a field sobriety test.
- See if the driver uses eye drops. He may be under the influence of marijuana, prescription or non-prescription medications, or other drugs that may not be immediately detectable. Telling the police you saw the other driver use eye drops may be enough to prompt them to administer a drug test.
- Watch to see if the other driver tries to dispose of beer cans, bottles of alcohol, or drug paraphernalia. If you saw the other driver disposing of any of these items, point it out to the police officers.
- Make sure you know which person was driving. Another tactic used by drunk drivers is to switch places with one of the passengers who hasn’t been drinking. Alert the officers if you saw that happen.
Securing Proof of Drunk or Impaired Driving
Securing proof of drunk driving shouldn’t be difficult. Police reports contain a separate section entitled Contributory Factors. The investigating officer will make entries in that section about outside factors they believe contributed to the drunk driving crash.
The officer will enter any of the at-fault driver’s actions that they determine are the direct and proximate cause of the accident (e.g. ran a red light, followed too closely, or failed to yield). Traffic violations and the reason a driver is arrested are also listed.
You must secure a copy of the police report. It’s your strongest evidence of the at-fault driver’s negligence. Police reports are available at the responding officer’s police station, usually within a few days after a collision. They can be purchased for a nominal fee of under $10.00.
An insurance company’s claims adjuster knows that his insured’s arrest for drunk or impaired driving is all the proof a judge or jury needs to render a verdict in your favor. And that verdict may be for a much larger amount than you’re currently asking the adjuster to pay. This is powerful leverage you can apply during negotiations.
Using Independent Sources
You can use data from government and private studies of drunk driving accidents to support your evidence. Point those studies out to the claims adjuster. Your diligence in researching this information lets the adjuster know you won’t hesitate to use it if the claim goes to trial.
Documentation of a driver’s arrest for drunk or impaired driving is excellent evidence of negligence, but proof of a conviction is even stronger. Be sure to follow up on the driver’s arrest to confirm if he is convicted.
His name, address, and date of birth will be on the police report. You can contact the District Attorney’s Office and speak with the prosecutor assigned to the case. Prosecutors often contact victims before entering into any plea bargain negotiations.
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Visitor Questions on Drunk Driving Crashes
Can I get compensation if I got a DUI but the accident wasn’t my fault? I was traveling east bound. 2 vehicles traveling west bound got tangled up. 1 vehicle ended up on its roof and slid over the grass median and blocked both east bound lanes I was traveling in. I ended up hitting that vehicle blocking both lanes and proceeded to hit a giant rock boulder on someone’s... Read More >>
What’s a passenger’s liability in a drunk driving accident? If a drunk driver and a drunk passenger are in an accident, and someone is injured, what is the potential liability of the passenger? Both are under 21, unfortunately. They were out at a party together, and the driver drove home in the passenger’s vehicle. Is the passenger/vehicle owner’s insurance responsible for paying for the... Read More >>
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Am I liable for (unknowingly) letting an intoxicated person drive my car? I met up with a friend who did not seem intoxicated. We decided to go to dinner and he asked to drive (he has driven my car many times over the last 4 years), so I handed him the keys. He floored it through a stop sign into traffic, causing a car to crash into... Read More >>
Rear ended by drunk driver on private property, but no charge for DUI? My son was rear ended and the vehicle was totaled. It was at work in the parking lot on private property. The officer who responded told my son the other driver was highly intoxicated. The police report marked the driver as under the influence and at fault. The driver also tried to leave the scene... Read More >>
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Hit by a driver with a .21 blood alcohol level, who ran from the scene… I was side swiped by a drunk driver. He had a .21 blood alcohol level and also ran from the scene. But he was caught and charged with DWI. The crash resulted in a neck and back injury to me. I went to the chiropractor and to physical therapy for over 2 months. I still... Read More >>
How does insurance work if my friend crashed my car while he was drunk? We were both at my friend’s house and got drunk. I went out to my car to be alone and go to sleep, which is my usual thing. I have never gotten drunk with these people before. I nodded off in my car. I vaguely remember moving to the passenger side when my friend showed... Read More >>
Injured in hit and run caused by habitual drunk driver… A drunk driver ran into my passenger door and kept on going. He was apprehended a short time later. I received a neck injury that has kept me from my driving job for six weeks, ultimately losing $5,400.00 in wages. My Dr. bills were $4,000.00 total. It was this man’s 4th DWI in ten years,... Read More >>
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Concerned about future medical issues and unsure about settlement offer… I was in a 25mph collision on 12/11/13, with a drunk driver who ran a stop sign and tried to turn left in front of me. My front driver side bumper collided with his front driver side corner. He fled the scene and we chased him until he stopped and the police apprehended him. He... Read More >>
Hit by driver drunk on company time… My husband and I were on our way to do some car shopping, when out of the blue a drunk driver ran a stop sign and t-boned our SUV. We flipped over twice that I remember, and slid more than 160 feet before hitting a school fence. We both were sent to a local hospital... Read More >>
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DUI / DWI Rear End Accident… My wife and I were rear ended while at a red light on Nov, 28 2011. The driver was said to be DUI/DWI (Driving Under the Influence / Driving While Intoxicated). My truck was totaled out by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. My wife and I suffered injuries and we go to the chiropractor for... Read More >>
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Uninsured Car Accident with Drunk Driver… So long story short, I was at a stop light and was rear-ended at about 60mph by an uninsured driver #1 and he was hit by another uninsured driver #2. I drive a full size 4×4 pickup and he was in a ford focus and it knocked me from one intersection to the other. Driver... Read More >>
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Rear Ended by a Drunk Driver… About 7 months ago, my wife was stopped at a red light and a drunk driver rear-ended her at full speed. She had very bad headaches right away and her wrist starting hurting about a week later. We also took pictures of other injuries, like her black eye, a knot on her elbow and bruises... Read More >>