If you were hit by a drunk driver, the first thing you should think about after your injuries are under control is hiring a New Orleans personal injury lawyer.
Before you even think about a lawyer, right after your injury, if you are hit by a drunk driver, the last thing on your mind is a lawsuit. Many times, the first thing on our minds is, is everybody ok? Followed by, I hope my insurance, or their auto insurance covers this claim. From there, the mind usually snowballs into all the negative feelings of how are you going to pay for this or that, how you cannot lose time at work, and ultimately how are you going to replace the lost time and assets because of the drunk driver. Remember if you were hit by a drunk driver, before all else, put safety first. Your safety is the utmost of importance during and after the car accident. Make sure you and your passengers are stable.
What to do if you are hit by a drunk driver
There are specific steps you can take if you are hit by a drunk driver that will help you win the case without too much question or delay.
- Call the police
This is the first step in any auto accident. Call the police before you move your vehicle before you call your friends and family and even before trading car insurance information. Once you notify the police, this will help document the accident and will enable you to provide those details to the insurance company. Keep in mind; it is your civic duty to inform the police of the drunk driver even if there are no injuries or fatalities, or there is just minimal damage. By informing the police, you may be saving the next life.
Once the police are on the scene, cooperate. The office will end up asking so many questions your head will feel like it is spinning. Try to stay calm and collected and answer the questions to the best of your ability. Remember this is a stressful time for you, and you will need to keep your head clear. Do not offer more information than what is asked but be cooperative enough that you are truthful with the facts and omit speculation. Make sure to get your police report for insurance purposes.
- Collect insurance and contact information
Now is the time to collect as much information as you can regarding the accident. Collect and document information that includes, any witnesses, their contact information, any photographs of the vehicles, the surrounding areas, visible injuries, and all the contact information from all persons in all vehicles. Do not try to contact the impaired driver unless the police are present.
- Seek medical treatment
Even if you do not feel immediate pain or discomfort, seek medical treatment anyway. There are times when our adrenaline is so high from the accident, that we do not realize we are in pain. Once the adrenaline rush subsides, the pain starts to creep in. Some injuries may take hours, or even days to actually be seen or felt. Seeking medical treatment may offset this discomfort with a proactive medical approach. In the same token, all medical injuries will be documented by a medical professional and will show on record for future medical needs.
- Documentation is the key
Keep up to date records of all medical exams and correspondence with both your insurance company as well as a drunk driver.
- Hire a personal injury lawyer
It is not always feasible, but before talking to anyone regarding your injury or accident, you should hire a personal injury lawyer to speak on your behalf. An experienced attorney can speak the language needed to help get your claims approved, provide compensation for your loss, and make the overall process less overwhelming. Typically, in the case there’s no doubt that you were hit by a drunk driver, a settlement is likely instead of a trial. Your attorney will handle the insurance laws, the limits of insurance, the impact of no-fault insurance laws, and so much more. Thus, making it a faster, more streamlined process.
How Drunk Driving Affects a Claim
There will be an insurance claims adjuster assigned to your claim. The role of the adjuster is to settle your claim quickly and with as little payout as possible. This is where information gathering is essential. The more information you have documented as evidence, the better you will be able to prove your case to the adjuster. However, it is always best to consult an attorney before talking to the adjuster and handing over your gathered information to your attorney and letting them be the voice on your behalf.
Keep in mind the adjuster’s role. They would rather pay you a settlement out of court, than the added expense of a court appearance. A verdict in your favor is more common than not and in turn, causes the payout to be larger. Do not settle out of court or in court without a lawyer. The lawyer will understand the tricky part of the legal process: impairment due to alcohol or drugs does not make the alleged responsible for the accident. Negligence on their part or mistakes made because of the intoxication is what makes them responsible for damages.
Fault vs. No-Fault Insurance Laws
Because some states have no-fault laws, your insurer is responsible for injury claim coverage instead of the driver at fault. There are many different monetary limits regarding injury claims or personal injury protection that also depends on health insurance coverage. Since no-fault insurance policies pay only up to 75% of wages in lost earning allegations, you could come up short on what your compensation should have been if you are filing in a no-fault state.
Serious injuries or claims that exceed a specific cost threshold, often allow the pursuit of additional claims against the driver at fault.
If you are hit by a drunk driver, don’t settle right away
Besides the monetary gain, injuries should come first. Do not settle so early that your medical needs are not met. Often insurance companies try to leverage the early settlement to close the case to keep payouts low and have you sign a release of liability. This release of liability stops you from compensation to any future claims even if the claim is severe and directly related to the accident. If you are involved in a car accident because of a drunk driver, you are entitled to compensation for not only property damage but injuries, and pain and suffering.