What To Do If You’re In A Car Accident With A Drunk Driver

Introduction

Unfortunately, getting in a car accident with a drunk driver is becoming more and more common. It is important to understand your rights both as a driver and a passenger when hit by a drunk driver.

In 2022, according to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics, over 17% of fatal car accidents in Arizona were alcohol-related. This is a frightening statistic, as it means many of these accidents and deaths could have been avoided if a driver was not intoxicated. What is worse is that people know the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, yet continue to do it.

If you or someone that you know was injured in a car accident because of a drunk driver, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. At JacksonWhite, we offer a free consultation to gather and understand the details of your case, and you only pay if we win the case. Give us a call at (480) 378-8802 or fill out a form online to start working towards recovering from your accident today.

Legal Alcohol Limit for Driving in Arizona

To understand your rights and the laws when involved in a car accident with a drunk driver, it’s helpful to understand what classifies as drunk driving in Arizona. Arizona has a legal drinking age of 21 years old. Once an individual is 21 years of age, they have the legal right to consume alcohol. However, driving a vehicle while intoxicated is illegal.

In Arizona, an individual over the age of 21 will receive a DUI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is found to be 0.08% or higher. Meanwhile, anyone under the age of 21 with a BAC over 0.00% will be charged with a DUI if they’ve had any alcohol at all. If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol with a BAC, you will receive a DUI.

After an accident, if there is suspicion of an impaired driver, a police officer may request that the driver take a breathalyzer test. Any time a driver is asked to take a breathalyzer or sobriety test, they have the right to say no, based on Arizona law surrounding DUI checkpoint rights and sobriety tests. 

A sobriety test is not mandatory and drivers have the right to refuse. Drivers also have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but it may result in arrest or suspension of the driver’s license. If you have been in an accident with a drunk driver, it is recommended to contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately after your accident to receive legal advice on how you should proceed.

Being Involved in a Car Accident with a Drunk Driver

Drunk drivers involved in an accident will face more serious repercussions depending on the outcome of the accident. Fault in an accident will generally lean towards the impaired driver, but that doesn’t mean an impaired driver is automatically at fault, as this will depend on the rules and laws of the road. 

The driver at fault in an accident will be liable for more damages, and their insurance will have to cover the accident. For example, if a person is at fault in an accident with a drunk driver, they will be liable for the damages, but the other driver can still be charged for driving under the influence. 

Some insurance policies have impairment clauses that absolve the insurance company of some of the liability due to the driver’s choice to drive impaired. Such clauses may result in some of the costs being placed on the insurance of the person who was hit, potentially leading to high rate increases and out-of-pocket expenses. 

If you’re involved in an accident with a drunk driver, it’s important to know how to respond so that you can protect yourself against high costs and unnecessary suffering.

If you drive drunk and are involved in an accident, you should:

  1. Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney At this point, the police are likely en route to the accident. Now is the time to set a game plan so you do not further incriminate yourself.
  2. Call your insurance company – It is helpful to notify your insurance agent quickly after an accident to avoid delays in coverage.
  3. Do NOT speak with the other driver’s insurance – The opposing insurance companies are looking to place all fault on you. Anything you say to their insurance can be twisted and used against you.
  4. Refuse the field sobriety test– Field sobriety tests are not an exact science, and many things can go wrong during the administration that can wrongly accuse you of impairment. Keep in mind that you also have the right to refuse a breathalyzer device test, but a refusal will automatically result in you being taken into custody, and your license will be suspended.
  5. Remain silent – If you are arrested, you do not have to speak with anyone (including other inmates): Simply state, “I am going to remain silent.”
  6. If you are taken to the hospital for injuries, do not consent to giving the police your blood tests – According to HIPPA laws, an officer may not see your medical records without your permission or a warrant granting them access.

If you were hit by a drunk driver, you should:

  1. Call the police immediately after the accident – Any delay between the accident and the police’s arrival allows the driver’s BAC to drop. Be sure to tell the police that you suspect the other driver of drunk driving. This can add to the reasonable cause to solicit a breathalyzer test.
  2. Record the driver’s license plate number – Take note of the driver’s license plate number as soon as you can, in case the driver attempts to flee. If you have a dash cam that records audio, read the license plate numbers out loud so that the recording can hear. If you do not, try to repeat the number out loud to yourself for your memory or take a picture of the driver’s license plate if it’s safe to do so.
  3. Be observant – It is helpful to watch what the other driver is doing or saying. Some people try to dispose of alcohol bottles or throw up to get the alcohol out of their system.
  4. Take photos of the damages – Insurance companies will use the images to not only determine damages but can determine fault based on the placement of the damage as well.
  5. Make a claim with your insurance company – It can be helpful to contact your insurance company in case the impaired driver has no insurance or not enough coverage.
  6. Gather appropriate evidence to build a case – In addition to photos from the scene, other pieces of evidence can support your case, like witness statements, medical records, and a journal recounting your experience.
  7. Contact an attorney to assist you in the process – An experienced attorney will help you build all areas of the case so that you can receive compensation for all of the damages you experienced, accounting for the harm you suffered, the damages to your vehicle, and any medical charge

Car accidents are stressful for everyone involved. Adding an intoxicated driver into the scenario causes greater frustration and difficulty. Remember to stay calm, make sure everyone is safe, gather the appropriate information, and let the authorities handle the rest.

Suing a Drunk Driver

Accidents involving a drunk driver can have some serious penalties for the driver, including jail time and fines, but they can also face civil charges. If you or a loved one were involved in an accident with a drunk driver, there is recourse. As with all car accidents, a driver has the legal right to file a claim against the other driver for damages not covered by their insurance.

Dealing with the fallout from a car accident can be burdensome and confusing, but filing a car accident lawsuit for damages is a viable option for anyone who has been in an accident involving a drunk driver. An experienced personal injury attorney at JacksonWhite Law can assist you in determining the best course of action to ensure you or your family members receive appropriate justice.

Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 378-8802 to discuss your case today.

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