Hit By a Drunk Driver – What Kind of Settlement Can I Get?

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Getting hit by a drunk driver can change your life in an instant. You have the right to seek compensation from the driver and any other parties that have legal responsibility. As the victim, you need to know what kind of settlement you are entitled to. Our personal injury attorneys can explain the factors to consider for reaching a settlement if you’re hit by a drunk driver.

I Got Hit by a Drunk Driver – What Am I Entitled to?

When you’re hit by a drunk driver, you’re entitled to actual and punitive damages. Actual damages include reasonable compensation for your medical bills, lost income, property damage, other financial losses and pain and suffering. The settlement amount is determined by these factors and how the injuries you sustained have negatively impacted your life.

A victim of a drunk driver is also entitled to punitive damages which are imposed to punish and deter bad conduct. Actual and punitive damages should be pursued in every drunk driving accident where a victim is injured. The drunk driver’s insurance company, and sometimes other insurance companies, usually pay the settlement.

Average Settlement for Getting Hit by a Drunk driver?

There is no “average” settlement for victims of a drunk driver. Each case is different. Most people want to know “how much will my settlement be?” or “how long will it take to settle my case?”. However, there can be dozens of factors that must be analyzed before an attorney can provide you a reasonable calculation of the size and timing of a settlement. The truth is, the analysis can change dramatically depending on how well you recover (or don’t recover) from your injuries and the information obtained during the course of the drunk driving investigation.

When injuries are severe and legal fault is clear, the settlement amount may be much higher. Each case goes through the legal process on its own merits. What kind of settlement you can get depends on the individual circumstances of your case.

*Read how we helped a victim settle a drunk driving claim against an at-fault driver for $3.6 million.

What settlement can you get if you’re hit by a drunk driver?

The settlement you can get if you’re hit by a drunk driver can usually be split into two parts: actual damages and punitive damages.

Actual Damages

Actual damages are the harms and losses caused by the drunk driver. Actual damages can be economic damages (something easy to quantify like a medical bill) and non-economic damages (like pain and suffering, which is more difficult to quantify). 

Economic damages can include:

  • Past medical expenses
  • Future Medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation
  • Past lost income
  • Future lost income
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Lost business opportunities
  • Loss of property use, 
  • Cost of property replacement and/or repair of property damage
  • Rental vehicle expenses

Non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Disability and impairment
  • Loss of consortium (damage to marital relationship)
  • Inconvenience
  • Anxiety and worry
  • Grief
  • Disfigurement
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Embarrassment
  • Humiliation
  • Shame
  • Despair
  • And others

Non-pecuniary damages are awarded in proportion to the severity of the injuries. These are usually the most important types of damages. A significant injury or a death deserves significant compensation that matches the level of harms and losses. Nothing more, but nothing less.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are to punish the defendant for reckless conduct. They are also designed to deter others from being reckless by sending a message to the community that reckless conduct is not acceptable. To pursue punitive damages, the victim must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted willfully, wantonly or recklessly.

To determine the amount of punitive damages, some of the following factors can be considered:

  • the defendant’s degree of culpability; 
  • the severity of the harm caused by the defendant; 
  • the extent to which the plaintiff’s own conduct contributed to the harm;
  • the duration of the conduct, the defendant’s awareness, and any concealment by the defendant; 
  • the existence of similar past conduct; 
  • the profitability of the conduct to the defendant; 
  • the defendant’s ability to pay; 
  • the likelihood the award will deter the defendant or others from like conduct.

South Carolina laws for damages in drunk driving claims are found in South Carolina Code of Laws § 15-32-210.

Pursuing your settlement after an accident caused by a drunk driver

To evaluate a settlement against a drunk driver, an investigation into liability needs to be completed. Then, once liability is clear against the drunk driver and any others involved, each type of damages will be estimated based on the facts of the case and the expectation of what a jury might award if the case were to be taken all the way to trial.

Most cases settle long before trial, but an experienced personal injury attorney can help calculate the size of a settlement based on their experience of what a jury might do. This is why it’s important to hire an attorney who had handled drunk driving cases before your case. You do not want to be a “guinea pig” for an inexperienced lawyer.

Drunk Driving Settlement FAQs

Who can be held responsible for a drunk driving accident?

Part of getting the settlement that you deserve for drunk driver accident is knowing who can be held responsible other than the drunk driver. Other people or companies may have insurance coverage that can help pay the settlement. You may have also have a claim against:

  • The owner of the drunk driver’s vehicle
  • An employer of the driver if they are driving for work
  • A bar or restaurant that overserved the driver
  • A bar or restaurant that served an underage driver
  • Your own auto insurance company if the drunk driver is uninsured or underinsured

The drunk driver’s insurance company, if they have one, is typically responsible for the drunk driver’s actions. However, their employer may also be responsible for negligent hiring or supervision of its employees. A bar may have legal liability for serving the driver too much alcohol. Identifying the right party or parties in your case can increase the likelihood of getting the settlement that you deserve.

Is the drunk driver always at fault?

A drunk driver almost always shares at least some fault for a crash. However, fault hinges on whose actions caused the crash to occur. More than one party may be legally responsible based on negligent, reckless or intentional actions.

Do insurance companies pay out for drunk driving accidents?

Yes. Unless the drunk driver is very wealthy, his insurance usually pays the settlement.

Is it worth suing a drunk driver?

Most cases against drunk drivers settle before a lawsuit is filed. However, if the insurance company is unfair or unreasonable, a lawsuit is sometimes required to pursue fair compensation. 

Note: Financial compensation called restitution is sometimes paid through the criminal court system. However, that compensation is extremely limited. Let us help you understand how a civil claim can help you receive the settlement you truly deserve.

How long does a DUI settlement take?

A DUI settlement can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years. Each case is different and depends on how severe the injuries are, and your prognosis. It often takes several months for a victim’s condition to stabilize to the point where an accurate evaluation can be made.If injuries are catastrophic or the legal issues are complex, it may take longer than a smaller case. It’s important to balance the goal of wanting to resolve the case quickly with the importance of ensuring that your case is handled properly with every factor being accounted for. You only get one case. It’s important to do it the right way to make sure you are taken care of to the full extent of the law.

Attorney Consultation for Drunk Driving Settlements

Are you wondering what kind of settlement you can get for your drunk driving case? Contact Bringardner Injury Law Firm for drunk driving personal injury and wrongful death claims today for a free consultation about your case.

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