You could be the person who vowed never to drive after drinking. You could be the person that calls a cab, doesn’t drink and drive, stays overnight and plans ahead to avoid the problem. However, not everyone does the right thing and, in fact, about 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. What happens if you or a loved one are injured by a drunk driver? What are your rights?
Of course, the police and the criminal legal system will take care of the drunk driver. However, if you are injured as a result of a drunk driver you have a right to file a civil action lawsuit against a drunk driver. The person that injured you does not have to be charged or found guilty of drunk driving before he or she can be sued. The first step is to make a claim against the drunk driver’s insurance company for that driver’s negligence. If the drunk driver was uninsured or underinsured your own insurance company can become involved. Again, in some states and in Wisconsin under some circumstances, you can also file a lawsuit against those who sold or provided the alcohol to the drunk driver causing your injuries.
What damages can you recover from the drunk driver and his or his insurance company? Damages depend upon the severity and type of injuries inflicted by the drunk driver. Many typical financial awards for civil cases include:
Loss of use of your vehicle
Loss of income and/or earning capacity
Pain and suffering
Funeral expenses in the event of a death
Loss of companionship to a child, parent or spouse
Punitive damages in rare but outrageous cases.
Quick action is critical when you are injured in any type of car accident. The first step is getting the facts straight. The success of a civil claim and lawsuit after an accident often hinges on careful documentation of the facts. Sometimes investigators will reconstruct the accident scene as soon as possible looking for evidence that is not always included in police reports. Witnesses need to be located, interviewed and statements taken before they or their memories disappear.
Next, there are limitations as to when your claims can be filed and if you do not file your claims within certain time limits your claim will be barred. There are notice of claim provisions when the accident involves governmental employees. Those can be as soon as 120 days after the accident. Generally, in Wisconsin, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver and their insurance company. Again, that depends upon the status of the driver which often times is not known until after you retain an attorney and the attorney thoroughly investigates the 2nd claim. Get legal advice sooner rather than later. Do not wait to talk to an attorney until after you find out if your injuries are permanent. Generally, a qualified personal injury attorney will discuss your rights without charge.
Protecting your family is the most important concern following an accident. Providing for them financially and emotionally when you are injured can be difficult. You will be hounded with inquiries from different people wanting your time and attention. They can be insurance companies, investigators, bill collectors, healthcare facilities, employers, etc. An experienced personal injury attorney will take care of all of those concerns, make all of the necessary phone calls, complete all the necessary paperwork and do whatever he or she can so that you can concentrate on taking care of your loved ones.
I have been helping injured victims for more than 26 years. Prior to representing injured individual, I worked for an insurance company giving me important insight into what is required of insurance companies to successfully resolve my client’s claims. These types of cases are generally hired on a contingency fee which means there is no cost to you unless there is a recovery. My initial consultation is always free and there is never any obligation. Should you, a friend or a family member have questions about a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit caused by the negligence of another please contact me for a free, no obligation consultation.
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