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Atlanta Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
If you are the victim of an Atlanta-area car crash in which DUI arrest records prove the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you have a strong case for collecting damages. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a drunk driving victim to settle for much less than what they are actually owed. At Shane Smith Law, our personal injury lawyers have seen this happen far too many times. Before accepting less than you deserve, talk to our team. We want to help you.
What do I do if I am in an accident with an impaired driver?
As is the case if you are involved in any auto accident you should collect basic information from the other driver such as:
- Phone number
- License plate number
- Insurance company name
- Insurance policy number.
Find out if there were any witnesses and get their names, addresses and phone numbers. Contact the police department to have a police report generated. Use your cell phone camera to take accident scene photos including damage to each vehicle involved and the accident scene perspective in relation to the street.
After you leave the accident scene you should visit your doctor or an emergency room for a full examination. Though you may not have any noticeable bruises or broken bones it is possible that you may have sustained a concussion or have internal injuries that need immediate treatment. This examination will also provide medical documentation of your condition shortly after the accident.
What will a lawyer do for me?
By having an attorney who provides an all-out effort to get you the best compensation possible, you will be able to focus on recovering, healing, and moving forward with your life.
Our attorneys can help:
- Investigate your collision, talk to witnesses and collect critical information to help you obtain the best possible financial recovery.
- Handle all negotiations with the insurance companies involved.
- Pursue a personal injury lawsuit to seek further damages if the insurance company’s settlement isn’t acceptable.
- Pursue all available sources of compensation for you, including the other driver’s insurance coverage or your own insurance coverage.
What Compensation Can I Recover as a Drunk Driving Accident Victim?
The types of financial compensation you may be eligible for include:
- Medical expenses
- Ongoing care (physical therapy)
- Property damage
- Wrongful Death
- Pain and suffering
- Home renovations for disabilities
- Loss of income (missed time at work)
- Funeral expenses
A prior offender may be ordered to pay higher damages, which is why, as your lawyer, Shane Smith will advise you to wait until the criminal trial has concluded. In addition, the criminal court judge may order the defendant to pay punitive damages to the victim that are separate from and in addition to the damages claimed in a civil trial. Punitive damages may be awarded to you even if you are not injured in the accident.
Is a DUI a Felony?
In Georgia a DUI conviction is a criminal offense, which means it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Typically if the driver causes an accident that seriously injures, or causes the death of someone, it will result in a felony. Also, if a driver has had multiple offenses over a period of 10 years, it can result in a felony. A third offense is considered an aggravated misdemeanor while a fourth offense is a felony.
Why Would a Drunk Driving Victim Agree to Less Than They Deserve?
Attorneys for DUI crash victims often fail to take advantage of the rulings and evidence from the offender's criminal trial, including DUI arrest records. Victims often just want closure, so they accept the payout they are offered by the drunk driver’s insurance company and move on. But that can leave injury victims with much less than they deserve—and less than what they will need to begin to repair their lives following a devastating crash. At Shane Smith Law, our accident attorneys advise our Atlanta-area victims of DWI/DUI accidents to be patient.
When you work with us to fight for compensation following a drunk driving crash, we will advise you to wait to collect on your claim until after the criminal trial. We will take time to conduct a complete investigation of the crash and the other driver’s records in order to maximize the value of your case. If you are seeking closure, a civil trial will provide you with the opportunity to lay your emotional pain to rest.
Evidence Needed by DUI Accident Victims
The first thing you must show in a DUI accident case is that the other driver was, in fact, intoxicated. After a DUI accident, the police often report to the scene of the accident, perform breathalyzer or blood tests on the driver to test blood alcohol content (BAC), and arrest the offending drunk driver. The evidence of the police report and the BAC test can be used to show intoxication in your civil case, as well. A DUI attorney knows how to gather all of this evidence and use it to show the drunk driver was breaking laws and therefore acting in a negligent manner. Once you show this, you will likely be able to recover for all losses you incurred due to the accident.
In order to prove your losses, you also need to show evidence of all of your medical expenses, lost wages, as well as estimated future losses. Estimated future losses may include future lost wages, benefits, and costs for future medical procedures. These estimations may be complicated by potential pay raises, inflation, and more. Therefore, you will want an attorney who knows how to make these calculations and provide evidence to back them up.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injury is 2 years, which means that after two years from the date of the offense against which you wish to take legal action in the pursuit of civil compensation, you’re no longer able to file a claim.
There are some exceptions that’ll extend this timeframe, however. For instance, if the person who was injured was younger than 18 at the time of the accident, then he or she has 2 years from the date of his or her 18th birthday to file a claim against the negligent driver.
Although two years may seem like a lot of time, it can take months to compile the evidence necessary to proceed with an accident injury case, so you should reach out to an attorney as soon as you’re able to do so.
Dram Shop Liability
Establishments such as bars, restaurants and night clubs which serve alcohol also have the responsibility to make sure they are not sending drunk drivers out on the road. “Dram shop liability” is a term that holds businesses that serve alcohol accountable for the damages caused by their patrons.
Under Georgia’s liquor liability statutes, those who are seriously injured or have lost family members in drunk driving accidents can file a civil lawsuits for injury and wrongful death claims against the bar, tavern, restaurant, night club or other establishment that provided alcohol to a clearly impaired person. However, it must be proven that the driver was intoxicated when he was served his last alcoholic beverage.
We Help Georgia Drunk Driving Victims
Attorney Shane Smith is a long-time Georgia resident and is active in his community. As a personal injury lawyer, he believes in advocating for and informing his clients of all of their options when they have been injured in a DUI crash. We know you are feeling powerless after a drunk driver turned your life upside down. Our goal is to empower you to make decisions in your case that will benefit you for many years to come.
Are there financial limits when recovering damages in an impaired driver accident?Georgia courts award punitive damages to punish and deter similar infractions. Punitive damages are usually limited to $250,000 except in exceptions that are considered especially egregious. One of those egregious exceptions is impaired driving, thus eliminating any punitive damages limitations.
I was a passenger in an accident, what are potential damages that are recoverable from the impaired driver?
There are three types of recoverable damages from an impaired driver: special, general, and punitive. Special damages mainly include economic losses including past and future medical expenses, lost wages or future earnings, and funeral expenses. General damages include non-economic losses including compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of companionship. Punitive damages are intended to punish an offender and to deter others from committing the same offense.
Can I sue an impaired driver who killed a family member who was crossing the road in a crosswalk?
In Georgia a wrongful death claim is filed by surviving family members though the court views the family as the victim's representatives. According to Section 51-4-1 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), the order of the appropriate party to bring the wrongful death claim is: the spouse, children, or the victim's parents (if there is no living spouse or children).
Georgia juries in wrongful death claims may consider the victim's life, age, health, business situation, activities and other facts relevant to the case. Jurors may also consider the victim's expected earnings during the duration of his working lifetime, his medical benefits or retirement/pension that would have been accrued, any expected inheritance he had not yet received and the victim's physical or mental suffering endured prior to death as a direct result of his injuries.
Can I sue a driver who was impaired by prescription medication?
A driver who is impaired by any substance is liable for any accident he causes. This would include prescription medications that cause drowsiness or fatigue, over-the-counter medications with known side effects, illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and mind-altering substances such as glue-sniffing or bath salts.
Methadone, a prescription substance used to help addicts to overcome their addiction, can also be the cause of impaired driving. Methadone has many known side effects including drowsiness, dizziness, dulled response time, and sensory reduction. Methadone prescriptions warn against driving after taking the drug.
Is a driver liable for damages & injuries if They Have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% at the time of the accident?
If there is evidentiary proof that the impaired driver violated a traffic law and this was the proximate cause of the damage and injuries then Georgia law views that driver as negligent per se. It would be essential to show the BAC reading from a breath or blood test contained in the police report. A Georgia BAC of at least 0.08 percent is considered legally intoxicated. Drivers under 21 may be convicted of DUI with a BAC of 0.02 percent. Commercial vehicle drivers and truck drivers with a BAC of 0.04 percent may be convicted of DUI.
My car was hit by a drunk driver who just left a bar after watching a Georgia Bulldogs game. Is the bar liable for my injuries?
Places that serve alcohol to someone who is clearly intoxicated while knowing that the person would likely soon be driving can be held responsible according to Georgia's Dram Shop Laws. This is codified in Section 51-1-40 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.).
The place that provided the alcohol may be held liable for injuries to third parties caused by a customer if the victim can prove three issues:
- The defendant (bar, restaurant, etc.) knowingly furnished alcohol to someone under 21 years old, or to a person (21 or older) who was clearly intoxicated;
- The defendant did so knowing that the minor or intoxicated person would soon be driving a motor vehicle; and
- The act of providing the alcohol was the proximate cause of the victim's injuries.
Should I Apologize After the Accident?
DO NOT APOLOGIZE TO THE OTHER DRIVER AS THIS MAY BE INTERPRETED AS AN ADMISSION OF GUILT. The proper place and time to discuss the accident's liability is in court or with your attorney.
Should I try to get a statement from the impaired driver?
Exchange the necessary information with the other driver and render aid if you can and if such aid is necessary. Otherwise, do not engage in any conversation with the other driver or allow the other driver to hear any conversations you may have on the phone or with passengers. Any incriminating statements may be used against you and may be construed as admissions of guilt.
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