If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident, you may have the legal right to compensation in West Virginia. Salango Law personal injury lawyers have substantial experience helping injury victims obtain compensation and justice. We will carefully explain your rights and legal options and chart the best path forward. To learn more, contact a drunk driving accident lawyer at Salango Law by calling 304-342-0512 or contacting us online.
Drunk Driving Accidents
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other illicit substances is dangerous—not just for the driver but for passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. Drunk driving is illegal across the United States, including in West Virginia. Yet people die and sustain injuries because of intoxicated drivers every year. According to Resposibility.org, 56 people died because of drunk drivers in West Virginia in 2019—comprising 21.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities in the state.
Drivers who consume alcohol or drugs before or while operating a vehicle act recklessly and put West Virginians’ safety at risk. Alcohol impairs brain function, thinking, and reasoning while worsening muscle coordination. These impairments make it difficult to drive with care, making driving highly dangerous, according to the United States Department of Transportation. Some believe—mistakenly—that a cold shower, exercise, or coffee negates the intoxicating effects of alcohol. However, research has shown that once an individual has become intoxicated, the only way to become sober is to wait for the effects of alcohol to wear off.
West Virginia law prohibits driving under the influence, and DUI convictions lead to fines and jail time. When an intoxicated driver causes serious bodily injury, drivers face a $1,000 to $3,000 fine and two to 10 years behind bars.
Although drunk driving is illegal, on average, people drive drunk 80 times before their first arrests. Thus, the general public is almost always at risk of drunk driving accidents because they share the road with a high frequency of motorists driving while intoxicated.
When intoxicated driving accidents occur, victims suffer the consequences, experiencing severe injuries and even death. In West Virginia, drunk driving accident victims can recover compensation for their injuries. Family members of persons who die in drunk driving car accidents may also recover compensation for their losses.
Types Of Injuries Caused By Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk driving can lead to a variety of injuries that require medical attention, such as:
- Spinal cord injuries that cause partial or complete paralysis and chronic pain.
- Traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions that cause confusion, pain, and light and noise sensitivity, that lead to chronic post-concussion syndrome.
- Burns that may be severe, requiring skin grafts and resulting in permanent scarring and disfigurement.
- Organ damage, including injuries to the lungs, kidney, and spleen, necessitate immediate medical attention.
- Limb injuries, where victims may lose limbs in severe cases.
- Soft tissue injuries, such as contusions, sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, stress injuries, and strains, that result in chronic pain and require physical therapy.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder that develops after a drunk driving car accident. People experience recurrent nightmares and flashbacks about the crash.
- Other physical injuries that occur in drunk driving car accidents since each accident has unique circumstances.
As drunk driving accidents can lead to severe injuries, victims can incur significant medical fees for:
- Emergency room visits
- Prescription medication
- Long-term care – outpatient and in skilled nursing facilities
- Physical therapy
In many cases, victims miss work or are unable to return to work because of their injuries. In that case, they lose the opportunity to earn wages. Other consequences of drunk driving accidents include the less tangible emotional effects.
As drunk driving accident victims experience severe physical, financial, and emotional outcomes, people involved in drunk driving accidents can make claims against drunk drivers and recover financial compensation. Those wishing to pursue actions against drunk drivers may want to secure the help of skilled personal injury attorneys who understand West Virginia law and can effectively assert the interests of their clients.
West Virginia Drunk Driving Accident Claims
When an individual sustains injuries or dies as the result of a drunk driving accident, legal recourse is available in West Virginia for all those affected by the accident. Injured people can bring claims against the drivers who caused their accidents. Also, when people pass away in drunk driving accidents, their estates and families can bring legal actions against the driver.
Any injured individual can bring a claim against a drunk driver, asserting that the driver was negligent. Negligence has four main components that the victim or plaintiff must prove.
- First, victims must show that the drunk driver owed them a duty of care to drive safely and exercise reasonable care.
- Second, they must establish that the intoxicated driver breached their duty of care to drive safely by driving while intoxicated.
- Third, they must prove that they sustained actual injuries in the car accident.
- Fourth, they must show that the drunk driver caused their injuries.
When an individual dies in a drunk driving accident, family members and the deceased person’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim against the driver and recover compensation for the death. Family members must have been dependent on the deceased person to bring a wrongful death claim.
- The drunk driver caused or contributed to the victim’s death.
- The drunk driver was negligent, breaching their duty of care to the victim.
- The victim’s death impacted surviving family members.
- The death of the victim had an adverse financial effect on the family.
For example, if a deceased drunk driving accident victim was the primary earner for their family, leaving behind young children, the family of the deceased may have a strong wrongful death case because of the substantial negative financial impact on the family.
How A Criminal Conviction Of The Driver Might Affect Your Case
If the driver was convicted of a DUI, the existence of a criminal conviction might strengthen your case. Drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care and refrain from driving while under the influence. For example, at the scene of the accident, the police evaluated the driver for intoxication and concluded the driver was drunk. In this case, the victim may be able to use the police report as evidence of irresponsible driving. It may show that the driver breached their duty of care by driving while intoxicated.
What If You Contributed To The Accident?
In West Virginia, victims of drunk driving accidents can bring successful claims against drunk drivers even if they were partially at fault for their accidents. West Virginia’s comparative negligence rule states that individuals may recover damages for accidents if they did not bear the majority of the responsibility for the accident.
Can Passengers Sue Drunk Drivers?
Passengers who were in the car with a drunk driver who caused an accident may be able to bring lawsuits against the drivers. They may assert negligence claims, stating that the driver owed them a duty of care and breached that duty of care by driving while intoxicated.
Compensation Available To Drunk Driving Accident Victims
Compensation is available to drunk driving accident victims in personal injury lawsuits and the deceased person’s estate and family members in wrongful death lawsuits. Although there is no way to make up for the harm caused by driving while intoxicated, compensation provides justice to victims and surviving family members.
Compensation In Personal Injury Lawsuits
In personal injury lawsuits, victims may recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the measurable financial costs associated with the accident, such as medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages are the intangible costs of an incident, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Compensation In Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In wrongful death cases, compensation is available for financial and emotional losses. Types of compensation individuals—or the deceased person’s estate—may receive include:
- Grief and sorrow
- Lost income
- Loss of protection
- Absence of services of the deceased
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Burial or cremation services
The vast majority—approximately 95%—of cases resolve in settlement agreements rather than trials. The negligent driver may offer to settle the claim outside of court to avoid a trial. Typically, the driver offers the victim or surviving family financial compensation. Discuss your situation with a DUI accident lawyer at Salango Law to get a sense of what your case may be worth.
Time Limits On DUI Accident Claims
West Virginia law imposes strict time limits on people seeking to bring personal injury and wrongful death claims for drunk driving accidents. These laws are called statutes of limitations. For personal injury claims, individuals have two years following the accident or the date they learned the driver was negligent in which to file a lawsuit. For wrongful death claims, individuals have two years following the death to file a wrongful death action against the drunk driver.
West Virginia Drunk Driving Injury Lawyer
Drunk driving accidents can have devastating consequences for everyone involved. You may suffer severe injuries or, sadly, the loss of a loved one. Drunk driving is a criminal offense in West Virginia, and intoxicated driving accident victims have the right to recover compensation under West Virginia civil law.
Contact Salango Law drunk driving accident attorneys to learn more about how a skilled personal injury lawyer can help you seek justice. Please call 304-342-0512 to set up a consultation to discuss your case today.