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How Should I Handle an Injury Caused by a Drunk Driver?

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With summer in full swing, plenty of people across the country are hitting the open road. Traveling, vacations and outdoor events are common throughout the summer. More celebrations and more traveling inevitably lead to more drunk drivers out on the road. Independence Day is the deadliest day of the year and has the more auto-related fatalitiesthan any other day. August and July have the highest auto-related fatalities and are two of the deadliest months out of the year for traffic fatalities and injuries.

32% of all auto-related fatalities are alcohol-related, and over 50% of car accidents are caused by intoxication and impaired drivers.

The injuries suffered from a car accident can be not only costly but debilitating. Hospital bills can accrue quickly, and injuries may force you to take significant time off from work.

What Should You Do If You're Injured by a Drunk Driver?

Make sure you keep records and documentation of the injuries. You want to keep copies of hospital bills and insurance claims. When you report the accident to your auto insurance company, make sure you cooperate with law enforcement if the drunk driver is prosecuted. You may also be eligible for victim's compensation.

When the accident first occurs, call and report the incident to the police immediately. Try to remember as many details about the accident as possible. If the driver had any alcohol in their system and was under the age of 21, or if the driver's blood alcohol level was above .08, California law dictates that they were legally intoxicated. Drivers are also considered to be intoxicated under California law if they were under the influence of prescription drugs or illegal narcotics.

How Are You Protected by the Law?

California law allows you to sue the intoxicated driver for injuries and damages you suffered from an auto accident. You can file a civil lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include hospital bills, property damage, lost wages, and incurred losses. California Civ. Code, ยง 3294 allows individuals to sue for punitive damages when the tortfeasor is "guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice." Parties in California have successfully received judgments for punitive damages for injuries caused by drunk and intoxicated drivers.

Punitive damages are awarded to punish the offending party and demonstrate that the liable parties' behavior is intolerable to a civilized society. Insurance companies do not cover punitive damages, and you must sue the driver personally to receive compensation for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and future lost earnings.

If you suffer injuries that prevent you from working, or compensatory damages failed to cover all of your losses, you may want to consider filing a civil lawsuit to recover additional damages.

Getting hurt in a car accident can be stressful. Trying to navigate the insurance claims process and civil litigation procedures on your own can be tough. If you need help figuring out the next steps to take after a drunk driving accident, contact the experts at Rush Injury Law for a free consultation.

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