In Washington, drunk driving took 278 people’s lives in 2016 alone. This startling statistic does not include all the people who are injured by drunk drivers but not killed — left to suffer with 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 0.08 percent 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.
How Much Can You Get from a Drunk Driving Lawsuit?
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 hit by 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.
One 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.
Legal Options After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver
If you are 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.