Your Rights When Hit by a Drunk Driver
Drunk driving is a very serious problem in the United States, especially in Massachusetts. In 2014, there were 133 traffic fatalities resulting from drunk driving in Massachusetts — a number that represents more than 40 percent of all traffic deaths in our state during that year.
Even more upsetting is that this figure represents a 12.7% increase from 2013, which means that our state’s drunk driving problem seems to be getting worse, even as we take measures to eliminate it.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is lobbying to expand Melanie’s Law — a Massachusetts statute which requires all repeat offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles — to include first-time drunk drivers. They estimate that 1.77 million drunk driving attempts could be prevented with these devices, but they have not succeeded in their lobbying efforts thus far. Since sensible legislative action has yet to take hold, we will likely continue to see the rates of these preventable accidents increase on an annual basis.
Thankfully, if you’ve been the victim of a drunk driving accident, the law is on your side. Before the law can help you recover compensation for your injuries, though, you and your attorney will be required to prove that the drunk driver is responsible for your accident. When discussing this process, it’s important to note that the drunk driver’s intoxication — regardless of severity — cannot be presented as the primary cause of the accident in these cases. Rather, the negligent driving behavior of the drunk driver — which in turn may have been caused by the alcohol — must be presented as the main cause of the accident.
To understand what this means, consider the following example: If a driver is returning home after drinking excessively at a party and broad-sides your vehicle as a result of running a red light, the driver can be found negligent and thus liable for the accident. However, if you fail to prove that the driver ran the red light or engaged in some other negligent driving behavior such as speeding, then the driver cannot be found liable solely on the basis of being intoxicated at the time of the accident.
In almost any wreck in which a driver is cited for possessing an open container or arrested for DUI or DWI, their actions will display some degree of negligence. Still, here are a few suggestions for ensuring that a drunk driver who causes an accident is held liable for their actions:
- If you smell alcohol or marijuana, be sure to alert the officers on the scene as to your suspicions so that they can perform a sobriety test.
- If you spot the driver using eye drops in the time it takes for officers to arrive on the scene, it’s possible that they are trying to hide the effects of alcohol, marijuana, or another substance, so you should let the attending officers know about what you witnessed.
- If the driver is attempting to dispose of alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia, let the officers know about it.
- Be sure that you make a note of who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. Many intoxicated drivers will attempt to persuade law enforcement that they were passengers in the vehicle to cover up their culpability.
- Obtain an official copy of the police report. These copies are inexpensive and can prove invaluable in court or during settlement negotiations.
- Follow up on the outcome of the driver’s criminal case. If they are found guilty of a drunk driving offense, your odds of achieving a favorable settlement or judgment increase significantly.
- Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney right away after receiving medical treatment for any injuries related to the accident. An attorney can use their expertise to help your case in a number of critical ways, including investigating the accident to make sure no evidence is lost and drawing on their knowledge of the law to advocate for you at the negotiation table and in court.
The Law Offices of George A. Malliaros
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury as a result of a drunk driver’s reckless and negligent behavior, please contact the Law Offices of George A. Malliaros. Our firm has years of experience handling drunk driving cases, and we will work with law enforcement, accident reconstruction experts, and reputable medical professionals to determine negligence, document the severity of your injuries, and establish the length and cost of necessary treatment so that you can get the compensation you deserve.
Please contact us today at (800) 856-4449 or complete the form on this page to receive a free consultation. Our contingent fee policy ensures that you do not pay a dime in fees or expenses unless we are able to achieve a recovery on your behalf.
DUI & DWI in Massachusetts. (2016). DMV.org. Retrieved from http://www.dmv.org/ma-massachusetts/automotive-law/dui.php
Massachusetts Drunk Driving. (2015). MADD. Retrieved from http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/state-stats/Massachusetts.html