Given all we now know about drunk driving and its dangers, you would think that few people would do it.
On the contrary, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on U.S. roadways every single day.
Sadly, many of these accidents are deadly. Each day in America, 28 people are killed in drunk driving crashes.
But most drunk driving accidents do not end in death. Instead, they tend to result in very serious physical injuries, many of which are life-changing or catastrophic. Every 90 seconds, someone in the United States is injured in a drunk driving accident.
Have you ever thought about what to do if you were injured by a drunk driver? As unpleasant as that might seem, thinking about it now will help you be prepared if it ever happens.
Alternatively, if you (or someone you love) have already been injured in a drunk driving accident in New York, the sooner you begin to take the right steps, the better positioned you will be to recover the justice you deserve.
1. Call the Police
First things first: call local law enforcement and report the crash. If you are injured or unsafe (or suspect injuries in anyone else at the scene), call 911 for emergency response.
2. Do Not Engage the Drunk Driver
Drunk drivers are not in control of themselves. They may respond irrationally, perhaps out of anger, confusion, or fear. If they are under the influence of drugs, they may be particularly dangerous.
Do not try to confront a drunk driver. Seek safety. If their behavior is threatening, ask to stay on the phone with 911 until help arrives.
Do not leave the scene until a police officer tells you to unless you are taken away by ambulance.
Finally, be careful not to make statements indicating any fault on your part. Whether you are talking to a police officer, emergency responder, the drunk driver, a passenger, a witness, an insurance adjustor, or anyone else — protect your legal interests by saying as little as possible.
3. Take Pictures
If possible, try to take a variety of detailed photographs while at the scene. The pictures may provide valuable evidence later, and they can help your attorney (and a court, if it comes to that) understand what happened.
Here are some things to capture in photos if you can:
- Vehicle damage
- Physical injuries
- Any evidence of alcohol or drugs
- License plate numbers
- The overall accident scene
- Street signs or other markers to pinpoint the location
- Traffic, roadway, and weather conditions
Try to take photos from a variety of distances, angles, and perspectives.
4. See a Doctor
Even if your accident did not cause an immediate medical emergency, it is important that you see a qualified physician as soon as possible. Some of the injuries associated with drunk driving accidents do not cause symptoms right away. Only a Medical Doctor can properly examine and diagnose a drunk driving crash victim.
In terms of what to do if you were injured by a drunk driver, there may be no more important step than seeing a physician ASAP.
5. Don’t Confuse a Criminal DUI Case with a Drunk Driving Injury Claim
Driving under the influence (DUI / DWI) of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants is a crime in New York. Accordingly, drunk drivers may be arrested and charged with one or more criminal offenses. They may ultimately spend time in jail, and they might also have to pay hefty criminal fines. (The money from those fines will typically go to the state.)
All of that is entirely separate from a civil law personal injury claim that you may file as the injured victim of the drunk driving crash. Your rights to financial compensation after the accident don’t have anything to do with the criminal case.
Whether the driver is ultimately convicted or punished will have no bearing on your rights. The civil and criminal cases proceed separately from one another, and they are each subject to a different set of legal rules.
The important thing for you to understand is that you will not automatically receive compensation if you were injured by a drunk driver in New York. While an insurance company might contact you with a settlement offer, that offer has likely been calculated as only a portion of what you might deserve.
To seek full and fair compensation, it is in your best interest to file a personal injury claim with the assistance of an experienced attorney.
6. Talk to a Kingston Drunk Driving Injury Lawyer
If there is a single answer to the question of what to do if you were injured by a drunk driver in New York — beyond getting emergency medical attention, of course — it’s talking to a car accident lawyer about your rights and options under the law.
You may be entitled to more compensation than you realize. Drunk driving injury claims are extremely complex, and the damages can be substantial.
O’Connor and Partners is a Kingston personal injury law firm that fights hard to maximize compensation for the clients we represent.
We are proud to offer our legal services to individuals living throughout the State of New York, including: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.
If you can’t come to us, we will come to you. Just contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with an experienced Kingston drunk driving injury lawyer today.