“Help! I’m the victim of a drunk driving accident—
what are my options?”
Auto accidents happen regularly on Georgia highways, and many of them are exactly that — accidents involving sober drivers that occur when those drivers are distracted or make judgment errors while behind the wheel.
But some drivers make poor decisions before they even get behind the wheel—namely, drunk drivers.
Drunk drivers make the conscious decision to drive, thinking they can arrive at their destination with no problems. What many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to be drunk for a DUI accident to occur. In Georgia, the legal requirement is .08 BAC. However, judgment can be altered well below that intoxication level.
For those who are injured in an accident with a drunk driver, there are legal remedies in Georgia granted to victims of a DUI accident.
Criminal DUI charges and penalties in Georgia
Criminal charges are always handled first following a DUI accident. The outcome of the criminal case can have a direct impact on the associated injury (civil) claims. This is especially true if there has been a fatality. Vehicular homicide charges could also be applied, which could impact the victim’s ability to pursue damages if the impaired driver receives an extended jail term.
It also means that the state will be absorbing some of the resources that could be transferred to victims. With the help of professional legal representation from an experienced Georgia DUI injury attorney, a favorable outcome can be reached.
Civil damages for drunk driving accidents
Both compensatory and punitive damages could be available for victims following a DUI accident, under the right circumstances.
Compensatory damages could apply in all cases when the injured claimant’s comparative negligence percentage is less than 50 percent. In the case of drunk driving accidents, liability is typically easier to determine since the other driver was intoxicated. However, one problem that can arise is when both drivers were under the influence at the time of the crash. Comparative fault does still matter in a DUI accident case.
Two-car accidents in Georgia can be especially complex because of the 50 percent rule for financial recovery. All car accident claims (including those involving a drunk driver) can be reduced based on the comparative negligence percentage of the claimant.
Standard compensatory damages available for a DUI accident can include financial recovery for items such as:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Physical property damage
- Travel expenses for going to medical appointments
Understanding when a drunk driver must pay punitive damages
Georgia stipulates that drunk driving accidents are in a specific class of personal injury claims. State liability insurance minimums are set at $25,000 and many drivers carry the minimum, which means that drunk driving accidents usually make the injured victims eligible for the full amount (when there are no comparative fault issues).
Additionally, punitive damages are capped at $250,000 in Georgia. This is a considerable settlement amount, but the award can only be issued by a jury following a trial in which the elements of the case are thoroughly evaluated.
It is always essential to have experienced and aggressive legal representation on your side when your drunk driving injury case goes to court.
When to hire a Georgia personal injury lawyer
The average injured claimant is no match for a trained professional negotiator like an insurance company claims agent. Claims agents are educated in knowing how to use the law to avoid paying a claim, including submitting a quick low-ball settlement offer to avoid dealing with a possible punitive damage claim if the case goes to trial.
Insurance companies are obligated first to protect their client, and they are allowed to only pay the claimant whatever cash amount they will accept as a settlement. This offer is often well below the actual value of a drunk driving accident claim. Consulting a seasoned Georgia accident attorney means you’ll have a trained professional negotiator handling your case, regardless of the respondent’s defense.
In cases where the intoxicated driver was clearly and totally at fault, damage settlements could be very extensive. Punitive damages can be awarded by a sympathetic jury if and when a case goes to trial.