If you have been hurt in a car accident caused by a drunk driver in the Washington D.C. area, it is important you know what to do next. There are many factors that may lead you to believe alcohol played a role in the crash. Perhaps you smelled alcohol on the other driver’s breath, or there were open bottles or cans in the other vehicle, or the other driver was charged with DUI.
If you suspect you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, the actions you take following this type of accident could have a significant impact on your ability to recover the maximum compensation you deserve for all of your injuries and losses.
Here are some crucial steps to take after a crash involving a suspected drunk driver.
Call the police to report the accident.
The first thing you should do after any accident – and particularly when you suspect the other driver was intoxicated – is call 911 to request that police and paramedics be dispatched to the scene. If the other driver has been drinking, he or she may beg you to not call the police. He or she may promise to pay for any damage or injury-related costs out of pocket. While that may sound like a reasonable idea, there is no guarantee the individual will feel the same way after sobering up. If you fail to report the accident, you may lose a critical piece of evidence that you will need to seek full compensation.
Call the police. If the other person was intoxicated, he or she may face an arrest for driving under the influence. Even in cases where the other driver is not charged with DUI (or is charged but later acquitted), a police report is still important. Civil and criminal liability for a drunk driving accident are separate matters. Regardless of the outcome of any criminal charges against the drunk driver, you still have the legal right to hold the at-fault driver legally and financially responsible for the injuries and other losses you sustained as a result of his or her actions.
Cooperate with police, but don’t speculate.
Cooperate with the police officers who investigate the crash. Let the officers do their jobs. Answer their questions as honestly and accurately as you can, but don’t offer more than what you are asked. Be concise and specific. Provide only facts, not opinions about what you think happened. The evidence will speak for itself.
Seek medical treatment for your injuries.
Seek immediate medical treatment from paramedics at the scene. Even if you do not initially think you have been seriously injured, you should still seek medical treatment. Even if you decide not to go by ambulance to an emergency room, you should still go to a hospital, urgent care center or doctor’s office as soon as possible. In an accident, the body responds by flooding the system with adrenalin which has the effect of a pain suppressant. You may feel significant pain the next day or a few days later. There are also some serious injuries – such as traumatic brain injuries and internal injuries – that may not have immediate symptoms.
Look for evidence to confirm your suspicions that alcohol played a role.
Proving intoxication and negligence on the part of the other driver will require evidence. Take pictures of the accident scene, of your vehicle, the other driver’s vehicle, open bottles and cans you notice inside the other vehicle, the surrounding area and more. You can also take video, especially if you notice the other driver is slurring his or her words, staggering, unable to maintain balance or exhibits any other signs of intoxication. Making notes of what you see may be beneficial when preparing your claim.
Get contact information from eyewitnesses.
Get contact information from any witnesses so they can provide your attorney with a statement about what happened. Witnesses may be able to describe drunken behavior on the part of the other driver. Passengers in the other driver’s vehicle may be able to testify about his or her drinking prior to the crash.
Get help from an experienced attorney.
Before you talk to an insurance adjuster or accept any insurance settlement offer, be sure to get legal help from a qualified car accident attorney. Your lawyer can conduct a full investigation into the cause of the accident, including securing evidence of the other driver’s impairment. Your attorney can use this evidence to negotiate a full and fair settlement or take your claim to court if necessary.
If you want to build a solid case against the at-fault driver, you need a lawyer who not only has the skills, but also the resources to conduct an in-depth investigation into the cause of your accident. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer will be a viable asset when it comes to proving liability, regardless whether the other driver was charged with DUI.