Atlanta Drinking and Driving
Drivers who hit the road after drinking are a major hazard on Atlanta’s roadways; drunk drivers are directly responsible for over 20% of the fatal crashes in our state. Nationwide, more than 16,000 fatalities are caused by drunk driving each year; that’s about 40% of the total motor vehicle fatalities in the United States. An additional quarter million people are injured in the US each year in accidents caused by drink driving.
If someone drives drunk and injures you or a family member or causes an accident with a fatality, they are committing a crime; they are also liable for damages. In Georgia, the law provides for both compensational damages and punitive damages to be awarded after a drunk driving accident.
How a Drunk Driving Accident Could Impact your Life
Aside from the obvious and immediate impact of the injuries sustained, a drunk driving accident could impact your life in a variety of ways. When you are in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you could experience not only immediate, acute injuries but long term damage as well.
- Neck and back injuries could impact your ability to work or even enjoy life in comfort, to months of physical or occupational therapy required to get back to your starting point, an accident could derail your life and plans.
- In addition to the prolonged recovery time, injuries may require you to take time off from work, often without pay. You’ll also encounter medical bills, even if you have insurance; co-pays and fees can add up quickly after an accident.
- Your property could be damaged as well; if your car is ruined in the crash, your ability to get to work, school and to handle the tasks of daily living could be impacted.
- You could experience increased stress, pain and emotional distress due to your injuries and the way they happened.
Injuries from Drunk Driving Accidents
While a drunk driving accident can cause many types of injury, they are known for causing catastrophic damage. Since the drunk person has reduced reaction times and may have been so impaired they did not even attempt to stop before the collision, injuries can be severe:
- Spinal cord and back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
- Crushing injuries to the chest and torso
- Extremity injuries to the arms and legs
Drunk Driving Accident Cases
While every case is unique, the State of Georgia allows you to sue for both compensatory and punitive damages when you have been injured by a drunk driver. The state has harsh penalties for drunk driving and courts are traditionally hard on those who cause accidents while driving drunk. The amount of punitive damages in a drunk driving case is unlimited, primarily to deter people from engaging in this dangerous activity.
FOUNDER | ATTORNEY
"As a former felony prosecutor, I believe that there is no fight that is too small or too big to fight when seeking justice for my clients."
Dram Shop Law Requirements
Under Official Code of GA § 51-1-40 restaurants, bars and other property owners may be held liable if they provide alcohol to someone who appears intoxicated. Personal injury attorneys representing victims must be able to show:
- Person showed visible signs of intoxication and the establishment should have been aware of the intoxication.
- The person providing the alcohol was aware the drunk person would be driving.
- The serving of alcohol to the drunk driver played a role in the accident.
These points are challenging but a highly-skilled attorney conducting a thorough investigation of the drunk driving accident may be able to prove these points. In general, most victims will wind up suing the drunk driver.
Suing the Driver: Understanding the Requirements
Because Georgia is considered a "fault" state, an injured driver may file a claim with their insurance company, with the at fault person's insurance company or they may file a lawsuit. If you're injured by a drunk driver, the first thing you should do before talking with an insurance adjuster is to contact an attorney who understands the laws as they apply to car accidents. Before filing a lawsuit, your attorney will want to discuss with you the events leading up to the accident, why you believe the other driver is at fault and whether you may be partially responsible. Since Georgia's personal injury statutes include a comparative fault clause, this information will be important.
Understanding Comparative Fault
When you are injured by a drunk driver, chances are they may be responsible for your injuries. However, there are still occurrences that can mean you may be held partially responsible for the accident. For example, if you ran a red light, you were speeding or you were not paying attention, the accident may have been preventable. While this does not excuse the other driver, it could mean any final settlement will be reduced by the percentage you are found to be at fault. This is another reason why it is so important to speak with an attorney before you speak with an insurance company.
Beware of Insurance Company Tactics
Insurance companies are in business to make money. The first step to making money is to have customers who pay premiums for the insurance coverage they receive. However, all insurance companies lose money when they pay out claims. To meet the demands of their shareholders and boards of directors, insurance company adjusters will often look for ways to deny or significantly undervalue your injury claim. This is true regardless of what type of claim you have and is typical in personal injury claims when you have been injured by a drunk driver.
Understanding Your Claim
Before you can file a civil lawsuit, you must be able to demonstrate a financial loss. If you were injured and required medical treatment, lost time from work or your car was damaged, these all count as financial losses. You are entitled to recover all financial losses you incur as a result of the accident.
Medical Losses: Understanding the Scope
For most people, medical expenses have the most significant impact after you are injured by a drunk driver. You may have been transported to the hospital in an ambulance, had various x-rays, and other tests and been admitted to the hospital. These costs can all be recovered. Other costs that typically fall under recoverable medical costs include prescription pain killers, rehabilitation therapy costs and braces, crutches and other similar appliances to help you get back on your feet.
Other Losses: Beyond Medical Costs
Unfortunately for most victims who were injured by a drunk driver, medical costs are only the beginning of their losses. Time lost from work is particularly costly; not only are you losing your regular income, you could also be losing money in your retirement account and overtime income. In addition, you may be forced to hire help to do regular household chores while you recover or pay someone to care for your children. The expenses seem to increase while your ability to earn is hampered due to your injury. Your Georgia car accident attorney will help you determine what damages you may be entitled to after an accident. Lost wages, additional expenses you may incur paying for services you may have performed on your own and even damages to your vehicle may be recoverable.
Unfortunately, thousands of Georgia residents are injured annually in car accidents. In many cases, those who are injured by a drunk driver assume by calling their insurance company they will get a reasonable settlement. The truth of the matter is, insurance companies are more concerned about maintaining a profit margin then they are about protecting you and making sure you get the compensation you are entitled to.
If you have been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, a Georgia car accident attorney can help. Your lawyer can examine the evidence, including the information you provide, the police report and photos from the scene and help you understand your rights and what to expect from your case.
While compensation will vary, an attorney can help ensure you are treated fairly and that you have the opportunity to recover your losses and get on with your life. A car accident lawyer will focus on the details of your case so you can focus on getting better and getting your life back on track.
If you’ve been injured in a drunk driving accident, we can help. We understand how devastating an accident can be and the effect it can have on all aspects of your life and will work hard on your behalf. Contact us to learn more about your options and to talk to one of our attorneys about your case. We’re here to help when you need us most.