Unlike other types of vehicular accidents, an impaired driver has knowingly put you and other people on the road at risk. If you’ve suffered injuries after an accident with a drunk driver, you’ll need to go through a slightly different process to receive compensation in Kentucky.
What Constitutes as a DUI?
Drivers can be convicted of a DUI if they are driving under the influence of any substance that impairs their ability to drive. In addition to alcohol, this includes illegal drugs, some prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs, and inhalants like glue, spray paint, and gasoline.
In terms of alcohol, Kentucky has implied consent. This means drivers must submit to a breath test to gauge their blood alcohol content (BAC). Drivers will receive a DUI if they have a BAC measurement of at least 0.08 percent. The exceptions are commercial drivers, for whom the limit is 0.04 percent, and drivers under the age of 21, from whom BAC can only be 0.02 percent.
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The Criminal Case
Anyone who is caught driving under the influence receives a criminal conviction. However, this conviction does not provide victims with any compensation to cover medical bills and other expenses. To receive compensation, you’ll need to use a personal injury claim.
Personal Injury Claims
Kentucky uses a no-fault system for insurance and accident settlements. To drive in the state, you must have personal injury insurance, which pays for all injuries and property damage claims up to the policy’s limit. By law, drivers are required to have a minimum coverage of $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 for total bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 for property damage.
This may be insufficient to cover your injuries, in which case you can choose to opt out of the no-fault system through a special waiver with the Department of Insurance. Then, you will be able to sue the drunk driver — although you should be aware that the driver will also be able to sue you. However, it’s important to note that you will only be able to sue if you meet certain terms: the accident must have resulted in either at least $1,000 worth of medical expenses, a broken bone, permanent disfigurement or injury, or wrongful death.
The injuries you suffer will often depend on the type of accident. It’s not uncommon for drunk drivers to collide head on with other vehicles on the road or hit the side of a vehicle at high speed, such as when running a red light. Possible injuries include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Crushed vertebrae or sternum
- Damage to internal organs
- Psychological distress
Types of Damages
You can claim two different types of damages if you’re in an accident. The first is compensatory damages, which covers medical costs, lost wages and diminished earning capacity, disability, pain and suffering, emotional distress or loss of enjoyment, and other losses not covered by insurance. The second type is punitive damages, which punishes the drunk driver for being reckless.
Furthermore, even though the proximate cause of drunk driving accidents in Kentucky is considered to be the consumption of alcohol, it is sometimes possible to sue the person or establishment who served the alcohol. For instance, this may be possible if the person was obviously intoxicated and the bar, restaurant, or server continued to sell the person alcohol and then allowed the person to drive.
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Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In the case a loved one has died due to the actions of a drunk driver, it may be worth pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. This will enable you to receive compensation for the financial stress caused by the death. If you are successful, the lawsuit may pay for your loved one’s medical bills, burial or cremation and funeral costs, lost income, and other types of financial loss you have suffered.
Steps to Take After Your Accident
To be successful with your lawsuit and to minimize the long-term impact of your injuries, it is crucial to take the right steps after an accident.
Immediately after the accident, try not to panic. This can be difficult, but it is important to stay calm to avoid exacerbating your injuries. Next, check yourself and any others in the car with you for obvious injuries. Once you’ve done this, you can decide what emergency services you require. If none of the occupants of your car require an ambulance, just call this police. It is critical that law enforcement does come to the scene, as you need to create an accident report as early as possible.
If it is safe to do so, you should also move your car to the side of the road. Turn on the emergency lights and, if you have any, set up cones around your vehicle. While you wait for the police, make notes about the accident, including the location, the damage to your vehicle, and the cause of the accident. Ask any witnesses and the other driver for their contact information and request insurance information from the other driver.
When the police arrive, stick to the facts when explaining the accident. This will be an emotional time (particularly if it is obvious that the other driver is intoxicated), but it is crucial you cooperate with law enforcement and convey what happened as clearly as possible. The police will likely take photos of the scene and the damage to your car, but it is worthwhile taking pictures for your own record.
Once all this is complete, go straight to a hospital — even if your injuries don’t seem severe. A physician may diagnose injuries you are unaware you have. Plus, it’s common to be in shock for some time after an accident, which could mean you fail to notice any pain immediately. If you are able, you can drive yourself to a hospital. Otherwise, you should wait for the paramedics to arrive and go in an ambulance.
The last step to take is to consult with a personal injury attorney who specializes in motor vehicle accidents. Such a lawyer will understand the circumstances of your accident and will ensure you gain the maximum compensation. Remember never to sign anything from any insurance providers until you have the go-ahead from an attorney.
If you have any questions and need to speak with a lawyer about a drunk driving accident, please contact The Fleck Firm today at (270) 446-7000. We can help you with the challenging issues you