Seeking justice in the weeks following a drunk driving incident can feel frustrating. If you have suffered serious injuries, you'll likely want to discuss your case with someone who provides drunk driving injury attorney services. You also probably want to know what the process is like, so let's take a look.
Separating Criminal Charges from the Civil Law Issues
The possibility of criminal charges being filed is ultimately up to the police and the prosecutor's office in the county where the accident happened. Pursuing a related injury claim will have zero bearing on the outcome of the criminal case, and your focus in the civil proceeding should be on getting compensation to address injury-related expenses.
The Waiting Game
A drunk driving injury attorney may tell you to hold up on filing a claim. There are two reasons for this.
First, it's not wise to submit a claim until you have medical evidence that establishes the full extent of your injuries. This may take months to obtain, especially if you need to wait for surgeries to be performed. Given that some injuries may not be fully discovered until a surgeon gets in there and has a look, you'll want to wait to ensure you're getting the maximum compensation possible. Remember, if you've suffered catastrophic injuries, you may need that money to pay for years or even decades of living expenses, medical bills, therapy, and other costs.
Second, your drunk driving injury attorney may want to see what the results of the criminal proceeding against the at-fault driver yield. It's going to be a lot easier to present a claim to an insurance company if there's a criminal conviction against the other motorist.
Who Can Sue or Be Sued?
Obviously, if you were a non-intoxicated driver who was hit by a drunk driver, you have solid grounds for pursuing a claim. You may be surprised to learn who else can seek damages, and even who else you may be able to sue. For example, passengers in the drunk driver's car may be able to seek compensation for their injuries, too.
There is also a class of laws called "dram shop laws." These cover cases where alcohol was negligently sold by a bar, restaurant or shop to a customer who they had reason to believe was drunk. If you can prove such a sale occurred, you may be able to sue the business.