In Washington, drunk driving took 166 people’s lives in 2018 alone. This startling statistic does not include all the people who are injured by drunk drivers but not killed — left to suffer from serious, life-altering impacts.
The impact of drunk driving accidents in Washington is enormous. The damage to your body, your mental health, and your finances is severe. You may find yourself wondering, “If I was hit by a drunk driver, can I sue?” Fortunately, victims in your position often do have legal options they can pursue. Read on to learn what to do if you’ve been hit by a drunk driver.
Drunk Driving Under Washington State Law
Washington law clearly forbids driving while under the influence. More specifically, you cannot drive or be in control of any motor vehicle if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher within two hours after driving (Revised Code of Washington, Section 46.61.502). In some cases, it is also possible to demonstrate that a person was under the influence with a BAC that is under .08%.
In most situations, breaking Washington’s drunk driving law is a gross misdemeanor. This is punishable by the following:
- Up to 364 days in county jail
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- Use of an ignition interlock device
If the drunk driver who hit you has certain prior offenses, they may be charged with a Class B felony. That could land them in prison for as long as 10 years with fines of up to $20,000.
Of course, these criminal punishments do not directly help those who have been hit by a drunk driver. But Washington law does have provisions in place to allow you to pursue compensation for your injuries and damages after a drunk driving accident you did not cause.
According to Washington law, those who have been harmed by someone who was acting with negligence can file a lawsuit to recover compensation. Driving under the influence is a widely known form of negligence, so you likely have a viable personal injury case if you were hit by a drunk driver in Washington.
What to Do After Being Hit By a Drunk Driver
After being hit by a drunk driver, there are a few steps you should take right away to ensure the accident is properly handled. These include:
The first step is to call 911. You’ll need to file a report with the police department immediately following the accident. The report will document what happened, including witness statements and pictures from the scene. This report will be an essential piece of evidence should you pursue legal action.
Seek Medical Attention
A medical professional may appear on site of the accident depending on the extent of injuries for any party involved. If a medical professional does not come to the scene, you’ll want to visit your doctor as soon as possible. They’ll document any injuries and prescribe treatment as necessary. This documentation and treatment plan may assist you in your hit by a drunk driver settlement.
Though the officers on scene will likely take photos of the damage, you’ll want to document your own as well. Photograph all of the damage to your vehicle as well as any physical injuries from the accident. File these pictures in a safe location for further evidence at a later date.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
A personal injury lawyer can assist you in building a case and ensuring that you receive the settlement you’re entitled to. The team at Will & Will is ready to help you pursue your hit by a drunk driver settlement and receive the maximum amount possible.
How Much Can You Get from a Drunk Driving Lawsuit?
The average drunk driver settlement amount is difficult to pin down because so many factors can influence how much compensation you receive.
For example, did you suffer serious injuries? If you were paralyzed in the accident or you are the surviving family member of someone who was killed in a drunk driving accident, your drunk driver settlement is likely to be much higher than that of someone who only suffered vehicle damage.
With that said, drunk driving settlements can vary widely. The state of Washington has seen settlements anywhere from $20,000 – $2,000,000.
Factors that Impact Settlement Amount
One major factor that can profoundly impact your settlement amount is whether you hire a skilled personal injury lawyer. An attorney can boost your chance of winning a settlement and maximize the amount that you will receive.
A few other factors that may influence your hit by drunk driver settlement amount include:
- Length of recovery from injuries. Track your recovery journey and let your personal injury lawyer know how long it took to fully recover from the accident.
- Cost of medical expenses (current and future). You may be entitled to additional money that covers the cost of your current and any potential medical expenses related to the accident. File medical bills away and provide copies to your lawyer.
- Amount of lost work earnings. If your injuries kept you from work, you may be entitled to repayment for the earnings you lost during your recovery.
- Emotional pain caused by an accident. Accidents can cause more than just physical pain. Discuss the emotional distress that may have occurred from the accident with your lawyer.
Legal Options After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver
You may be wondering, “If I was hit by a drunk driver, can I sue?” When seeking a drunk driver settlement in Washington, you have a few legal options to consider:
1. Other Driver’s Insurance
If you’re asking yourself, “How do I file against someone for damaging my vehicle under the influence?” or “How will the drunk driver afford to pay me for my damages?”, the answer to both questions is simple: insurance.
More specifically, the intoxicated driver’s insurance policy should cover your vehicle damage and medical bills. Under Revised Code of Washington, Section 46.29.090, drivers must carry insurance with the following policy minimums:
- $25,000 for the injury or death of one person in an accident
- $50,000 for the injury or death of two people in an accident
- $10,000 for property damage in an accident
That means that the other driver’s insurance company should cover your individual injuries at least up to $25,000 and your damaged vehicle up to $10,000. The fact that they should cover you does not mean that they will cover you. Insurance companies work hard to take advantage of victims in accidents — even when those accidents are caused by drunk drivers.
Insurers will try to offer lowball settlement amounts that won’t cover your damages, twist your words to use against you or make you wait so long that you are desperate to take any low offer they make later on. This is why it can be helpful to hire an attorney to help you seek your hit by drunk driver settlement. Your lawyer will not allow the insurers to push you around or mistreat you.
2. Your Own Insurance
Sometimes, drivers break state law by driving without proper insurance. If they get drunk and cause an accident that injures you, you do not have the option of pursuing compensation from their insurer because they don’t have insurance. But there may be another insurance-related option.
If your policy has uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries and property damage through your own policy. Not all policies have this coverage, however. And insurers are not always open about the coverage you have available to you, so it is important to ask and review your policy documents carefully.
3. Personal Injury Lawsuit
Many people who have been hit by drunk drivers file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver to recover compensation. A personal injury claim can compensate you for almost any harm you suffered as a result of the crash, so the compensation you receive may be higher than what you would get for an insurance claim.
Here are some of the damages you may be able to recover in your lawsuit:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Reduced quality of life
Keep in mind that you only have three years to file a personal injury claim in Washington. Also, the drunk driver is likely to have their own attorney and resist compensating you fairly. A trusted personal injury attorney can help you file your lawsuit on time, fight dishonest tactics from the defendant and maximize the value of your settlement.
Hit by a Drunk Driver? Call Will & Will
At Will & Will, our award-winning law team cares about every single client. In the thousands of cases we have successfully resolved, we have taken each client’s case personally. We will do the same for you. Your pursuit of a hit by drunk driver settlement will be our pursuit. Your victory will be our victory.
To learn more about how a personal injury lawyer can help you maximize your compensation after being hit by a drunk driver, contact Will & Will by calling 206-209-5585 or contacting us online.