How to Fight for Compensation After Drunk Driving Accidents
December 16, 2021 | Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk driving accidents continue to be an unfortunate problem nationwide and throughout Missouri. Statistics show that, in a recent year, 189 Missouri drunk driving accidents resulted in fatal injuries, while 2,424 crashes led to less-serious personal injuries for accident victims. Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show similar statistics on a national level.
Motor vehicle operators must operate their cars and trucks within a reasonable degree of care. Nothing can be more unreasonable than choosing to get behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired by drugs especially given the potentially deadly consequences of intoxicated and buzzed driving.
Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (or while intoxicated) can subject offending drivers to serious criminal penalties not to mention the possibility of a civil lawsuit if someone suffers injuries in a collision.
If you or a person you care about has suffered an injury in a St. Louis drunk driving accident, you want to have knowledgeable legal counsel on your side. If an experienced attorney does not represent you in your drunk driving accident case, the insurance company will take advantage of you and offer you as little compensation as possible for your injuries.
A lawyer, on the other hand, will advocate for you and ensure that you recover all of the compensation that you deserve for the injuries you suffered in an unnecessary accident.
How Alcohol Intoxication Affects a Driver’s Brain and Ability to Function
Alcohol is a depressant, meeting that it slows down the central nervous system’s ability to function. When a motor vehicle operator has too much to drink yet decides to get behind the wheel of a car, they can experience various effects stemming from alcohol impairment. First of all, the driver might experience delayed reaction time.
Consequently, they might not stop a vehicle in time to avoid a serious collision. In addition, drunk driving can lead to various physical symptoms, including blurred vision and impaired judgment. For this reason, a drunk driver may have trouble judging distances and may not properly gauge their speed or the speed of another motor vehicle that might be approaching.
Any of these impairments can bring about a serious motor vehicle crash that leads to devastating injuries. If you suffered injuries because a drunk driver chose to get behind the wheel, a knowledgeable drunk driving accident attorney can investigate your accident and recover compensation from the insurance company.
Legal Limits Applicable Missouri Drivers
Part of a driver’s duty to operate a vehicle in a safe, prudent, and careful manner includes abiding by all laws related to safe driving. This includes laws that prohibit a driver from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, impaired by, or under the influence of alcohol.
In Missouri, a driver who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more is per se intoxicated. In addition, the driver of a commercial vehicle is per se intoxicated has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or higher. These drivers who operate large trucks and other vehicles for a living must abide by a higher standard of care than non-commercial vehicle operators.
Similarly, minors or individuals under 21 years old face a zero-tolerance policy if they operate a vehicle with alcohol in their system. The purpose of these laws is to ensure a safe driving environment for everyone.
Buzzed Driving Is the Same Thing as Drunk Driving
Even though motor vehicle operators might not be per se intoxicated while behind the wheel, they can still suffer the effects of alcohol impairment while driving. In other words, there is no such thing as operating a vehicle while a little drunk or buzzed. Buzzed driving is the same thing as drunk driving, and impaired drivers may experience the same side effects as a per se intoxicated driver.
For example, a buzzed driver can experience both blurred vision and delayed reaction time when operating a vehicle. Unfortunately, these side effects can lead to a crash that injures people.
Potential Criminal and Civil Consequences for Missouri Drunk Drivers
Drivers who operate their vehicles while drugged or under the influence of alcohol can face both criminal and civil penalties/consequences. A prosecutor will first need to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver operated a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. If the fact finder determines that the drunk driver is guilty of the underlying criminal offense, a sentencing judge might impose fines and other penalties including possible jail time for the drunk driver.
In addition to these criminal penalties, if the crash resulted in one or more injuries or fatalities, the accident victim can bring a civil claim against the drug driver’s insurance company. When that happens, the insurance company will be responsible for paying out monetary compensation to the accident victim for his or her injuries.
Why Are Drunk Driving Accidents So Dangerous?
Drunk driving accidents usually happen at high rates of speed, and the intoxicated driver might be totally out of control at the time. Consequently, the extremely hard force of the impact may cause significant property damage. More importantly, victims of drunk driving accidents can suffer serious personal injuries and other consequences.
Common drunk driving accidents include:
- Head-on collisions
- Rear-end impacts
- Side impacts
- T-bone collisions that occur at traffic intersections
A head-on collision happens when the front of one vehicle collides with the front of another vehicle usually on a dual roadway where there is one travel lane in each direction. When a driver is intoxicated, their vision can blur, causing them to inadvertently cross the center line and strike another vehicle head-on. Likewise, a rear-end accident occurs when the front of one vehicle impacts the rear of another vehicle. An intoxicated driver might not judge the distance between the front of his vehicle and the vehicle in front, resulting in a collision.
A side impact happens between two vehicles traveling in the same direction. Again, an intoxicated driver might inadvertently cause their vehicle to swerve across a divided line and impact a vehicle in another travel lane. Finally, a T-bone accident usually occurs at an intersection, where the front of one vehicle strikes the side of another vehicle. This might cause the vehicle on the receiving end to flip over or spin around multiple times.
A drunk driver may not judge accurately judge speed or might try to run a stop sign or red light, colliding with another vehicle in the center of the intersection. These accidents can lead to serious injuries that require medical treatment and rehabilitation for accident victims.
Potential Injuries Arising from Drunk Driving Accidents
Victims of St. Louis drunk driving accidents can sustain extremely serious injuries. Since these accidents typically occur at high speeds, the sheer force of the impact might cause the accident victim’s body to strike something in the vehicle, like the headrest, door frame, steering wheel, or window, resulting in an injury. Likewise, the impact force might cause the accident victim’s body to move around rapidly inside the vehicle, leading to further injuries.
Drunk driving accident injuries often include:
- Soft tissue contusions
- Broken bones
- Head injuries (including concussions)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Paralysis injuries
- Death in the worst accidents
If you have suffered one or more of these injuries in a drunk driving collision that occurred in St. Louis, your first step should be to seek immediate medical treatment for the injuries you suffered. Specifically, you should follow up at an urgent care center or hospital emergency room so that the doctor on duty can ascertain your medical condition. The doctor can take X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and perform other tests to determine the severity of your injuries. The doctor can also render emergency medical treatment if it’s needed and make recommendations for follow-up treatment, such as with an orthopedic doctor or another specialist.
You should follow through with all of this treatment promptly. Otherwise, the insurance company might assume that your injuries were not severe enough to warrant significant compensation. A St. Louis drunk driving accident attorney can begin gathering your medical records, bills, and other documentation while you finish treating for your injuries and prepare to submit your drunk driving accident claim as soon as your treatment concludes.
Damages in St. Louis Drunk Driving Accident Cases
For a drunk driving accident victim to recover monetary compensation for their injuries, the accident victim must first satisfy the legal burden of proof. Specifically, the accident victim will need to show that the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision and that as a result, the accident and injuries occurred. In cases where a responding police officer already deemed the at-fault driver responsible for the accident due to alcohol intoxication, it should be fairly easy to establish the liability portion of your drunk driving accident case.
This is especially true if the officer issued the at-fault driver a citation for DUI/DWI or reckless driving while still at the accident scene. Some insurance companies may go ahead and stipulate liability when it is clear that the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision. However, in that instance, the accident victim will still need to show that he/she suffered injuries that occurred because of the accident.
When an accident victim can prove the legal elements of a personal injury claim, then they might recover various damages. The damages that a drunk driving accident victim may recover in Missouri will depend upon the severity of their injuries, the cost of medical treatment, and the type of medical treatment that the accident victim received. Generally speaking, the more serious the injuries and the more costly the medical treatment, the higher the damages an accident victim will be eligible to recover.
Potential damages in a St. Louis drunk driving accident case can include compensation for medical expenses and lost wages if the accident victim needed to miss time from work to recuperate and attend medical visits. In addition, accident victims can seek compensation for their inconvenience, mental distress, emotional anguish, pain and suffering, loss of use of a body part, and loss of life enjoyment. Accident victims might also claim the loss of family support or spousal consortium in the event of a serious injury.
Accident victims might also seek punitive damages in drunk driving accident cases. These damages penalize an at-fault driver for reckless and egregious acts and dissuade other drivers from behaving similarly. Punitive damages might be available if a driver had a BAC well above the legal limit or had several previous DUI convictions or drunk driving accidents in the past.
Finally, if the drunk driving accident killed someone, the accident victim’s surviving family members or a personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate can file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit that seeks various damages. Those damages might include the costs of burial and funeral expenses, loss of support (both personal and financial), and the cost of medical treatment from the accident date until the deceased individual’s death.
A knowledgeable St. Louis drunk driving accident attorney in your area will help you to pursue the monetary compensation you need to feel whole after your drunk driving accident. This is a traumatic experience, but a drunk driving accident lawyer can help you through it.