It is every driver’s responsibility to drive safely according to California’s traffic laws. Unfortunately, not every driver takes that responsibility seriously. Too many times, accidents involve one driver who was driving drunk. These accidents may be especially dangerous because the drunk driver’s reflexes have been hindered, potentially causing greater damage. If you have been hit by a drunk driver, you may be immediately contacted by the drunk driver’s insurance company seeking to settle because they want to pay the minimum amount as quickly as possible.
Settling is attractive because you will not have to go through litigation, which can sometimes take years. You may also need some money immediately to help with your bills from the injuries suffered. However, before you sign anything, here’s what you need to know.
Don’t Settle Right Away
If you are considering a settlement, you want to keep in mind how long you have to file a claim. That way, if you can’t agree on the terms of the settlement, you still have protection from the courts. In California, a victim of a drunk driving accident has two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim with a court of law. Drunk driving accidents are treated just like other car accidents. That means that once the two-year mark passes, which is also known as the statute of limitations, you can no longer collect compensation for your injuries.
However, that doesn’t mean you should rush into a settlement. Most insurance companies will ask you to sign a “release of liability” form when you agree to settle. That will prevent you from seeking any other damages from the car accident if future injuries develop at a later time, no matter how severe.
In California, nothing prevents you from filing a suit while the drunk driver is also being criminally prosecuted for DWI. However, if the other driver has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to driving under the influence or other charges associated with DUI, then you would be in a better position to settle for a larger amount.
Types of Damages
When settling, it is important to understand what you are entitled to. If you have been injured in a drunk driving car accident, you are entitled to compensation, called damages. Damages are a monetary award because there is no other way to mend broken bones or soothe emotional injuries. The amount awarded however, is specific to the injury of the victim, as well as the conduct of the party at fault. Types of economic damages include:
Medical Expenses. You are entitled to the cost of any medical treatment associated with the car accident. That includes doctors’ appointments, surgery, hospitalization, prescription medications, etc. You are even entitled to medical expenses that you have not yet incurred, such as potential future medical bills.
- Lost Wages. If your injuries associated with your car accident prevented you from working, you can recover those wages. For those with severe, life-altering injuries, you may also be eligible to recover future lost wages.
- Pain and suffering. This category of damages refers to numerous non-financial damages. It can include both physical and emotional pain.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are rare, but justifiable in some cases when the liable party’s actions that led to the accident were especially horrendous.
If you have been hit by a drunk driver and have been offered a settlement, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to protect your rights. Even though we understand that money cannot change the situation, at Dan Rose Law, we will fight hard to protect your rights to get you the compensation you need. We invite you to schedule a consultation, at no cost to you, by calling 415-945-8900 or scheduling online to discuss your case.