Being the victim in a drunk driving accident can be one of the most life-changing and scary moments of your life. It can also be a confusing time, leaving you wondering: What is the next move, and where do you go from here?
The steps to dealing with a drunk driving accident can be different than your average auto accident and can involve a little more care. If you are not sure what to do after being hit by a drunk driver, keep reading for seven helpful steps.
1. Stay Calm, Collect Yourself
The first and most important step is to stay calm and collect yourself. Try and determine whether you or anyone else that may have been in the vehicle is hurt and call 9-1-1. Breathe deep and try not to think of the consequences or who to place blame on, just make sure you and your loved ones are okay first.
Do not create additional issues by starting fights or putting yourself in a dangerous position. Turn off the ignition if the car is still running to avoid any further damage and try to calm your nerves. It can be hard to do but remaining calm really is one of the most important things to do.
If anyone else is in the car, ask them if they are feeling okay. If someone appears injured, including yourself, do not try and move them, as this can make the injury worse in certain situations. Leave the medical care to the medical professionals, as they will know the proper way to proceed.
Of course, our instincts get the best of us in situations like this, so if you move someone to save their life or end up doing something brash, nobody is going to fault you. But doing these things can impact your case in the long run, so unless you know you can save a life with your immediate actions, you really should avoid moving anyone who appears injured.
You also want to take note of any damage done to your vehicle, as well as your body, but make sure you are calm and collected before doing anything too drastic. Just breathe and tell yourself that everything will work out in the end, because it will.
2. Stay at the Scene, Get Medical Attention and the Police
Never leave the scene of the accident until the proper authorities arrive. Make sure someone calls the police if witnesses have not done so, and make sure to get medical treatment. Even if nobody appears seriously hurt, adrenaline and shock can mask pain, and some injuries will only show after things calm down.
If you wait too long to get your injuries treated, it can be difficult to determine whether the accident was the cause of the injury or not. Work with the police and emergency service workers and help them help you.
Further, it is important to listen to your doctor’s orders. If you have sustained a serious injury, make an effort to take any medication they have prescribed, attend any follow-up appointments they may schedule, and actively work on completing any physical therapy that may be recommended. If you actively work toward doing this it will show that your injury is serious and you are in need of help to return to your usual self, which can help your personal injury lawsuit.
The police will determine whether or not the driver responsible for the accident is drunk or not and may test you as well. Cooperation is key, as well as not admitting any fault to the police. You are not the drunk driver and everything probably happened pretty fast—the worst thing you can do is make yourself seem more responsible than you are.
Tell the police how you recall the accident and whether or not you suspect the driver to be drunk.
3. Move Your Vehicles (If No Injuries Are Sustained)
The rules concerning moving your car after an accident vary in some locations, but most of the time if there are no serious injuries or deaths at the scene, you should move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. You should do this as soon as possible to avoid further accidents from drivers outside of the situation and keep the flow of traffic going. If the car is not drivable, obviously you do not have to move it.
However, the drunk driver should not move his/her vehicle, as this would mean further driving while impaired.
4. Contact a Lawyer
It is important to call a lawyer shortly after the accident happens, especially if you are the victim of the accident. The quicker they get on the case the fresher the evidence will be, including witness statements, and the more likely it is that they will be able to protect you. There are plenty of injury and accident lawyers who specialize in drunk driving accidents and should provide a free consultation.
Finding a good lawyer is crucial in dealing with a drunk driving accident, especially if you have sustained a serious injury or someone in your vehicle died. You will want to find someone with experience in the field who really understands the case. Cooperate with your lawyer and give them any photos, videos, and witness contact information you may have collected, and tell them the story of the accident exactly how it happened.
Your attorney will help you through every step of the process, and a good one will guide you in the right direction.
5. Collect Contact Information From Any Witnesses to the Drunk Driving Accident
When defending yourself as the victim of a drunk driving accident you want to have as much evidence of your innocence as possible. Collecting names, numbers, addresses, and anything that the witnesses will provide you with will help you during the investigation and deposition. The more people that saw what happened, the more likely you will be to get out of this thing on top.
Some witnesses may not be comfortable doing this, and there is always the chance they saw things differently, but either way, it is important to ask. Without witnesses, the story is up to the police to pass on, who usually did not witness the accident at all. Police also do not always take the information of all witnesses, especially if no fatalities or serious injuries took place.
6. Do Not Admit Fault at the Scene
You should generally keep your interactions with the drunk driver to a minimum. In the case of a drunk driving accident it is almost always the drunk driver at fault, so taking part of the blame can hurt your case and lead to the drunk driver getting off easier, or your receiving lower compensation for your traumatic experience.
Try not to talk to the drunk driver about the accident. It is okay to ask if they are okay and exchange information, but any deep dialogue should be held until a lawyer or police officer is present. Until an investigation is done you may not even know what really happened, so apologizing, while it may be one of your first instincts, can only hurt your case.
7. Take Photographs
This may seem invasive, but the more photographic evidence you have of the crash and your injuries and damage sustained the easier you will be able to defend yourself. Take pictures of any cuts, bruises, and otherwise that you have sustained from the crash, and take pictures of any and all damage done to your vehicle. It is also important to try and get a video or photograph of the drunk driver.
If you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, you can ask a friend, family member, or witness at the scene. You can also ask witnesses if they have any footage. A drunk driver may try and deny their drunkenness, and photographic or video evidence can prove that they are not being truthful.
It is impossible to predict when a drunk driving accident might happen, so it is important to be prepared just in case it does. These seven steps above will help you keep on top of the situation as it unfolds, all the way to the end. Hopefully, you never have to put these tips to use, but it is always better to know than to be left in the dark.
If you need a skilled lawyer after a drunk driving accident or any other type of accident, check out the auto accident section of our website and learn how to get a free consultation. And feel free to contact us with any questions, comments, or concerns. We would be happy to help.