You wake up on an ambulance stretcher – your mind is groggy, but you slowly take in your injuries. As the paramedics bandage your wounds, set your ribs, and check you for a concussion, you realize that you can’t feel your legs. They inform you that you were hit by a drunk driver.
You know you’re lucky to be alive, but you worry about how long it will take to recover. The hospital and ongoing therapy bills will be expensive. How will you manage while you’re out of work?
Thankfully, insurance should cover most—or even all—of your financial losses. Filing a personal injury claim can help you recover lost wages in addition to paying for medical bills.
With no doubt that the other driver was intoxicated, you should be able to pursue drunk driver compensation through a settlement rather than a trial. Our Folger Law team provides this article to help you understand the basics of Arizona injury settlement cases.
ARIZONA “DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE” (DUI) LAWS
Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, and for a good reason. According to the state’s DOT, almost 3,000 people received injuries in Arizona’s alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents in 2019 alone. While we may hope that the steep financial penalties and jail time for even first-time offenders might deter would-be repeaters, these punishments, unfortunately, don’t do much to help the victims.
However, our state laws do allow you to seek a settlement from the at-fault driver’s car insurance company. This money could help compensate for any losses you suffer as a result of your injuries. By working with one of our personal injury lawyers, you’ll have a better chance of recovering the money to which you’re entitled.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANY
While the drunk driver’s insurance company may want you to settle early, doing so is not in your best interest. The insurer’s goal is to pay out as little as possible and quickly close the case. Taking the time to fully assess your injuries before you settle is imperative. Even accidents that seem minor at first can cause severe injuries that may not appear until later. To avoid paying out of pocket, you need to add the cost of medical care to your insurance claim.
If you agree to the early insurance settlement, they will also request you to sign a liability release. This document prevents you from making any further claims for injuries related to the incident, no matter how costly. Before you consider an offer, then, make sure that your condition has stabilized completely—and keep records of all related financial burdens such as lost wages, medical bills, and your totaled vehicle.
HOW TO MAKE A DRUNK-DRIVER COMPENSATION SETTLEMENT WORK IN YOUR FAVOR
The at-fault driver’s insurance company will do whatever possible to avoid going to court. If its client has pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of, DUI, the company knows that a judge is likely to be more sympathetic to your demands. Waiting until the legal system has resolved the offending driver’s charges can give you a more leverage to obtain a larger settlement.
Arizona has a state limit on how much an insurance company will pay out to an injured party. And if multiple claimants exist against the same driver, the limit for each party diminishes. If your financial damages are extensive, filing a civil suit may be the only way to recover the money you deserve.
UNDERSTANDING MONETARY DAMAGES FOR DRUNK DRIVER COMPENSATION
Most personal injury civil suits end in a pre-trial settlement, but they follow the same rules as if they had gone to trial. Arizona state laws allow you to seek not only special and general damages but also punitive damages against the other driver. You can also recover third-party damages against the business that served the drunk driver alcohol.
Special damages are the financial costs that you incur as a result of the accident. Medical bills and lost wages both fall under this category, but so do things like vehicle repair and childcare costs that stem from the accident.
General damages cover pain and suffering. While it’s impossible to put a price tag on someone’s mental anguish, a monetary settlement can help a family start to rebuild their lives.
The law allows for the awarding of punitive damages to punish a defendant, but these are rare. Courts only award such damages in cases where the defendant deliberately set out to harm the plaintiff or disregarded the knowledge that their actions would create a substantial risk of injury.
Third-party damages hold a bar or restaurant liable for serving an already intoxicated patron. This law encourages an alcohol-serving establishment to observe the law in the future more closely. At the same time, it can also increase your potential settlement since restaurant insurance policies have higher limits than car insurance policies.
By now, you should be able to see that settling a personal injury claim for drunk-driver compensation can be a complicated venture.
The Folger Law Firm can help. Please call us today at (602) 774-0033 to schedule a free consultation.