Hit By a Drunk Driver: How to Maximize Your Settlement

Posted on Tue Apr 13, 2021

Because another driver chose to drink and drive, you are now suffering the consequences. After such an accident, you may wonder, "I was hit by a drunk driver, can I sue?" Yes, you can file a lawsuit, but you need legal help to obtain a favorable settlement with the drunk driver.

Average Drunk Driver Settlements in Alabama

Drunk driving is a serious issue in Alabama. In 2017, the state ranked fifth in drunk driving fatalities. The number of injuries occurring in Alabama due to drunk driving runs into the thousands. The average drunk driver settlement in Alabama depends on the individual case. The state requires all motorists to carry a minimum of $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability insurance. All drivers must purchase at least $25,000 in property damage liability. These are the minimums, and insurers recommend that most drivers buy additional coverage.

Rear-end accidents caused by drunk drivers are common. While these accidents do not generally result in serious injuries as those of head-on or side-impact crashes, they are among the most frequent causes of neck and back injuries. Each case is unique, but drunk driver settlements are typically higher than accidents without drugs or alcohol. 

Victims with more severe injuries may receive higher than average settlements too. Severe injuries can include:

  • Amputation
  • Burns
  • Fractures
  • Internal organ damage
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury

In Alabama, damages are punitive and compensatory. In many drunk driver cases, a portion of the settlement or judgment will probably be for punitive damages. That means these damages are meant to punish the defendant because of the egregious nature of their wrongdoing. It also serves to deter future wrongful conduct because of the substantial penalties.

How to Increase Your Settlement When Hit by a Drunk Driver

One of the best ways to increase your settlement when hit by a drunk driver is by immediately hiring a personal injury lawyer. Do that before speaking with an insurance company. Insurers want to pay out as little as possible in a settlement. Their representatives may try to settle your case for far less than you deserve. Your attorney will handle negotiations with the insurer so that you do not inadvertently say something that may harm your claim. Insurance representatives may try to take your statements out of context to minimize your compensation.

Time is of the essence, as the attorney will immediately begin investigating your case and may send a traffic investigator to the accident scene as soon as possible. Waiting to obtain legal counsel means valuable evidence that can help your claim is lost.

While a personal injury case is heard in a civil court, drunk driving is a criminal offense. The traffic investigator's evidence can be given to the prosecutor to assist the criminal case’s prosecution. 

It is possible to sue a driver for drunken driving even if they were not charged with a DUI. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt." In a civil case, it is the less strict "preponderance of the evidence."

Keep a Detailed Record of Evidence

Maximizing your settlement involves producing as much evidence as possible after being hit by a drunk driver. If possible, begin collecting evidence at the accident scene. Photograph the vehicles involved, as well as your injuries. Seek prompt medical attention, even if you do not think you were hurt badly. Some injuries do not appear right away. Not only is it important for your health to visit the emergency room or an urgent care provider, but it can make all the difference in your claim. If you wait to see the doctor, the insurer may allege your injuries were not caused by the drunk driver.

Keeping detailed records of your physical and emotional pain and suffering is one way of increasing your settlement. Write down how you are feeling in a daily journal. This information should include pain levels, where the pain is occurring, what makes it worse, and the kind of medication, therapy, or rehabilitation involved.

A drunk driver settlement can take some time. You want to make sure your injuries are fully healed, or that you have reached what doctors refer to as maximum recovery. That means you are not expected to improve significantly. It is critical to wait until healing has taken place because you do not want to settle only to discover there are additional complications. Once a settlement is accepted, you cannot reopen the claim.

Get the Outcome Your Case Deserves

The dedicated lawyers at Warren & Simpson can help you maximize your drunk driver settlement or judgment. We know a fair settlement amount based on your injuries and the circumstances of your case. We protect your rights and negotiate with insurance companies so that you receive the settlement you deserve.

Arrange a free consultation by contacting our Huntsville office. While most claims are settled, our experienced litigators will take your case to trial when necessary.

All of our work is done on a contingency basis. You do not pay a fee unless you receive compensation.