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What Happens If I Have an Accident with a Drunk Driver?

For many cultures around the world, alcohol is associated with ritual celebrations like weddings and the birth of children. In some countries, the daily consumption of alcohol is a routine part of life. In yet other countries, the use of any alcohol is frowned upon. As a result, here in our melting pot, all of these cultural backgrounds are represented, and the law recognizes that alcohol has a long history of acceptance for many people.

But even those who consume alcohol generally appreciate the importance of moderation. And in those cases where a person overindulges, we have come to better understand the importance of not driving. But sometimes poor judgment prevails and intoxicated people get behind the wheel, often causing horrific harm. So, what happens if you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver?

Sobering Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29 people die every day in the United States in a motor vehicle accident involving a driver impaired by alcohol. This is a staggering number that averages out to one death every 50 minutes. The dollar cost is also high – more than $44 billion per year. In 2016, alcohol-impaired crashes represented 28% of deaths related to traffic accidents. One thousand, two-hundred and thirty-three (1,233) of the dead were children ages 14 and below. Law enforcement arrested one million drivers for driving under the influence of either alcohol or narcotics.

In Oregon, we’re blessed in that our number of drunk driving deaths falls below the national average, but it’s still a danger. Between 2003 and 2012, 1,232 people in Oregon died in crashes that involved a drunk driver.

Driving Prohibitions under Oregon Law

In Oregon, 2017 ORS 813.010 provides that a driver is under the influence of intoxicants if the person (1) has a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration; or (2) is under the influence of cannabis; an intoxicating liquor; a controlled substance or inhalant; or any combination of those substances. If you are hit by a DUII driver, they will likely be charged with a criminal violation of the statute. These drivers often plead guilty, which can later help you prove your civil case.

Steps Following an Accident

If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision with a drunk driver, here are some steps to take:

  • If you are able, check on everyone’s condition. Call 911 and request assistance, as needed.
  • If you are physically able to do so without jeopardizing your health, gather evidence. Take pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles. Get names and phone numbers from witnesses. If the other driver makes admissions, write them down so you will not later forget.
  • When law enforcement personnel arrive, cooperate completely. It is standard for officers to consider the sobriety of the drivers. Still, if you believe the other driver is under the influence of intoxicants, or have evidence that he or she is, make this information known to the investigating officer(s).
  • Seek appropriate medical attention. Remember, some injuries are not immediately noticeable. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get checked out, even if you think you were not seriously injured.
  • Contact your insurance company – it’s important to notify your insurance company of the accident.

When Should I Call an Attorney?

Truthfully, the sooner the better. An attorney can help investigate the claim. Also, we strongly advise against talking with the opposing driver’s insurance company until you hire counsel. The DUII driver’s company will be looking to limit their liability in any way they can, typically at your expense. We can even help you prepare for a conversation with your own insurance company to make sure your statements are completely accurate. We’ve learned that some people say things they don’t really mean because they don’t understand the legal meanings of certain words and questions.

Call with Questions

If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, you’re probably wondering how no-fault insurance, liability insurance, criminal law related to the other driver’s charges, and civil law all work together. The experienced lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are happy to answer these questions for you. And if you need representation, we’re here to help.