Car accidents can be traumatizing, especially when they involve a driver who is under the influence of alcohol. Wrecks involving a DUI often lead to severe injuries, making it especially essential to have a qualified Caldwell, TX and Buffalo, TX car wreck lawyer on your side to help. One of your first steps should be to call a lawyer, but there are some other steps to take if you’re injured by a drunk driver.
What Are the Steps to Take If You’re Injured by a Drunk Driver?
1. Ensure Your Safety and Health First
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Even if the injuries seem minor, it’s crucial to visit a medical professional right away. Some injuries might not be immediately apparent but can have long-term consequences. Getting a medical examination can also provide documentation for any legal actions taken later.
Move to a Safe Location
If possible, and it’s safe to do so, move away from the accident site to prevent further harm, especially if the accident occurred on a busy road.
2. Contact Law Enforcement
Always call the police after an accident, especially when it involves a potentially intoxicated driver. An official police report can be invaluable in any subsequent legal actions. When the police arrive, be sure to cooperate fully. Provide your account of the incident but avoid both admitting fault or laying blame at this stage. Simply state the facts as you remember them.
Even if you think you know for certain what went down, it’s very common for video or third-party, neutral eyewitness testimony to add nuance to an accident report, and the police or your lawyer may uncover evidence that can help you. You may think you were entirely to blame, but video from a dash cam or nearby store may reveal a third vehicle doing something that affected the situation in ways you don’t remember or didn’t really notice because you were focused. So don’t offer to take responsibility and don’t get heated in blaming the other driver, either. Simply tell what you remember and call a lawyer.
3. Gather Evidence and Information
You should follow the steps below only if you are not badly injured, and only if it is safe to do so. If you are injured, but a passenger was not, they may be able to help you with this.
Document the Accident Scene
Use a phone or camera to take pictures of the accident site, the vehicles involved, license plates, and any visible injuries.
Collect Witness Details
If there are witnesses to the accident, gather their names and contact details. Their accounts can be crucial in building a case.
Obtain the drunk driver’s name, contact details, driver’s license number, and insurance information, and be sure to volunteer yours, as well. However, you should otherwise limit your interaction with the other driver, and particularly if they appear intoxicated. Don’t engage them in discussion or confrontation. Stick to gathering necessary information. If the driver is belligerent or you feel unsafe, don’t talk to the other driver until the police arrive.
4. Consult a Car Wreck Lawyer in Caldwell, TX or Buffalo, TX
Given the all that goes into investigating and seeking compensation after drunk driving accidents, having a professional on your side is even more crucial here than after a normal, run-of-the mill accident. A qualified lawyer with knowledge of Texas law, city ordinances, and local courts can ensure your rights are protected. A personal injury attorney can also explain your rights and all potential avenues for compensation. This includes understanding how insurance will play a role and what claims might be valid.
5. File a Claim with the Insurance Company
Report the Accident
Notify your insurance company about the accident. It’s important to do this promptly, even if the other driver was at fault. If you’ve managed to get insurance information from the other driver, call his or her insurance company, too.
Be Cautious with Statements
When discussing the accident with insurance adjusters, be wary of making definitive statements. Remember, they might look for reasons to minimize the compensation. Stick to the facts in your initial contact, and for all follow-up contacts, consult with your lawyer.
6. Keep Track of Your Recovery and Expenses
Keep Detailed Records
Document medical visits, therapy sessions, and any other related expenses. These records will be critical when you are seeking compensation for medical bills and other damages.
Follow All Medical Advice
Adhere to the treatment plan and recommendations of your medical professionals. You should do this not only for health reasons but also because refusing to cooperate fully in your own recovery can negatively impact your compensation claim.
7. Start the Legal Process
Initiate a Personal Injury Claim
With the assistance of an attorney, begin the process of filing a personal injury claim against the drunk driver. This claim seeks compensation for your injuries and losses that are due to the other driver’s negligence.
Follow the Statute of Limitations
In Texas, there’s a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, meaning a victim has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. An attorney can help you keep to this timeframe. There are a few exceptions, but they are rare, so be sure to act quickly.
Work With Your Lawyer to Estimate Potential Damages
Compensation might include coverage of medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and in cases of extreme negligence, even punitive damages. Your lawyer needs your cooperation to build a case that gets you all the compensation you are owed. Help by keeping careful records and by responding quickly to all requests for information.
Prepare Diligently for Trial
If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the case may go to trial. Your attorney will be busy gathering evidence, securing witness testimonies, and building a strong case to present before the court. However, they may also need to prepare you for court if you’ll be testifying. Even if you’ll only be present, you should know about proper court etiquette and procedure, so listen to what your car wreck lawyer has to say.
8. Stay Informed on the Criminal Case
It’s important to understand that any criminal proceedings the state may bring against the drunk driver will be separate from your personal injury civil lawsuit. While the outcome of the criminal case can influence your civil case, the two operate independently.
In some instances, it may be beneficial to attend the drunk driver’s criminal hearings. This can provide insight into the strength of the prosecution’s case against the driver. If the drunk driver is convicted in their criminal case, this can be used as evidence of their negligence in your personal injury lawsuit.
9. Protect Your Mental and Emotional Well-being
The trauma from a car accident, especially one involving a drunk driver, can have long-lasting emotional and psychological impacts. Consider seeking therapy or counseling to cope with the aftermath.
10. Fulfill All Your Legal Obligations
Once a settlement is reached or a verdict is given, ensure that all your legal obligations are met. This might include paying your attorney fees, settling medical bills, and being careful to follow any conditions that are set forth in a settlement agreement.
Being injured by a drunk driver can be a traumatic experience, with far-reaching physical, emotional, and financial consequences. If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, call Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer now for a free consultation with an experienced local car accident attorney.