Drunk driving accidents are an unfortunate reality on our roads, and they can result in serious injuries, property damage, and even death. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drunk driving accident, it’s important to understand the steps you can take to pursue compensation, including the role of insurance companies, investigations, and potential lawsuits.

The DUI Accident Legal Process

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The drunk driving accident legal process can be complex and time-consuming, but it’s important to be patient and persistent in pursuing the compensation you deserve. With the right attorney on your side, you can hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and seek justice for the harm they have caused.

Medical Treatment

The first and most important step after a drunk driving accident is to seek medical attention. Even if you feel okay, it’s possible that you have internal injuries that may not be immediately apparent. It’s important to get a full medical evaluation as soon as possible, both for your own health and for legal reasons. The medical records can be used as evidence in any subsequent legal proceedings.

Contacting Law Enforcement and Your Insurance Company

Once you’ve received medical attention, the next step is to contact law enforcement. The police will come to the scene of the accident and make a report, which will include information about the other driver, witnesses, and any injuries or property damage. Be sure to provide the police with as much information as possible, including any evidence you may have, such as photographs or witness statements.

After a drunk driving accident, you’ll need to contact your insurance company to report the incident. Your insurance company will then investigate the accident and determine the amount of coverage that you’re entitled to. If the other driver was at fault, their insurance company may also be involved in the investigation.

Accident Investigation

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Once the accident has been reported, law enforcement and insurance investigators will begin to investigate the accident. This may involve gathering witness statements, reviewing medical records, and reconstructing the accident scene. The purpose of the investigation is to determine who was at fault for the accident and to establish the extent of the damages.

Comparative Negligence in Drunk Driving Accidents

In some cases, the victim of a drunk driving accident may also be partially at fault for the accident. This is known as comparative negligence. In states that follow comparative negligence laws, the victim’s damages may be reduced by the percentage of fault that the victim is found to have contributed to the accident. For example, if the victim is found to be 20% at fault for the accident, their damages may be reduced by 20%.

Hiring an Attorney and Filing a Lawsuit

If you’ve been injured in a drunk driving accident and your insurance company is unable to cover all of your damages, you may need to file a lawsuit. In most cases, you’ll file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident, although in some cases, you may also be able to file a lawsuit against the establishment that served the driver alcohol.

When considering filing a lawsuit, it’s important to hire a drunk driving accident attorney who has experience handling these types of cases. An experienced attorney can guide you through the legal process, negotiate with insurance companies, and help you pursue the compensation you deserve. When choosing an attorney, look for someone who has a track record of success in drunk driving accident claims and who has the resources to thoroughly investigate your case.

Statute of Limitations

It’s important to note that there is a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit after a drunk driving accident. This means that there is a specific amount of time after the accident during which you can file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations varies by state, but it’s typically two to three years. It’s important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after the accident to ensure that you don’t miss the deadline for filing a lawsuit.

Types of Compensation in Drunk Driving Accident Cases

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There are several types of compensation that a victim of a drunk driving accident may be entitled to receive. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim for their losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Other types of damages include punitive and emotional distress.

Punitive Damages

In addition to compensatory damages, which are intended to compensate the victim for their losses, some victims of drunk driving accidents may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their reckless behavior and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages are only awarded in certain cases and are typically reserved for cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious.

Emotional Distress

In addition to physical injuries, victims of drunk driving accidents may also suffer emotional distress. Emotional distress can include feelings of anxiety, depression, fear, and PTSD. If you’ve suffered emotional distress as a result of a drunk driving accident, it’s important to speak with an attorney who can help you pursue compensation for these damages.

Drunk Driving Accident Trials vs Settlements

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Drunk driving accident cases can be resolved through either a trial or a settlement. A trial involves presenting evidence and arguments to a judge and/or jury, who will then make a decision on the outcome of the case.

A settlement involves reaching an agreement between the victim and the defendant, often with the assistance of attorneys and/or insurance companies. Settlements can be reached at any point during the legal process, including before a lawsuit is filed or during the trial process.

Settlement Negotiations

Before going to trial, it’s common for both sides to engage in settlement negotiations. This involves the victim’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney attempting to reach a settlement agreement outside of court. If a settlement can be reached, it will typically involve the defendant paying the victim a lump sum of money in exchange for the victim agreeing to drop the lawsuit.


If a settlement can’t be reached, the case will go to trial. This involves presenting evidence to a judge and/or jury and arguing your case. Trials can be time-consuming and expensive, but they’re often necessary if a settlement can’t be reached.

Importance of Evidence in Drunk Driving Accidents

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Evidence is crucial in any legal case, and drunk driving accident cases are no exception. It’s important to gather as much evidence as possible after the accident, including photographs of the scene, witness statements, and medical records. This evidence can be used to support your case and to help establish the extent of your damages.


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The legal process for drunk driving accident victims can be complex and overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you have rights and options. By working with an experienced attorney, gathering evidence, and seeking medical attention, you can pursue compensation for your damages and hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.

If you’ve been the victim of a drunk driving accident, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified attorney or learn more about this process by reading this resource from the South Carolina car accident lawyers at Smith Jordan Attorneys at Law.