Hit by a Drunk Driver in Washington: What You Need to Know

If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, you might be wondering about your legal rights. Who will pay for your medical bills, vehicle replacement, and lost wages? And who will hold the driver accountable?

As personal injury lawyers, we’re here to help. We want to arm you with some valuable information about drunk driving accidents in Washington State. Also, we offer free case evaluations, so don’t hesitate to reach out to get legal advice about your specific situation.

How Common Are Drunk Driving Accidents in Washington State?

Simply put, driving under the influence in Washington State is a significant problem. Consider some of the following statistics from Target Zero and WSDOT:

  • Impairment is a factor in 58% of accidents in Washington State.
  • Between 2016 – 2020, drunk drivers killed 595 people and seriously injured an additional 2,051.
  • Drunk drivers often engage in other risky driving behaviors, such as speeding or lane departure.

While Washington State has seen a decrease of drunk-driving accidents over the past 30 years, additional challenges have emerged. For instance, Initiate 1183 was passed in 2011 which allows for the privatized sale of liquor. The following year, voters passed Initiative 502 permitting the sale of cannabis. Both initiatives have meant greater access to substances that can impair drivers. When a driver has used both alcohol and cannabis, the impairment is greater than one of those substances on its own.

Injuries from Drunk-Driving Accidents Can Be Severe

As mentioned in the section above, drunk driving often is accompanied by other risky driving behaviors, such as speeding. Unfortunately, this creates a situation which can be dangerous, if not deadly, for victims.

Plus, drivers under the influence lack quick reaction times and motor control which can contribute to head-on wrecks, rollover accidents, and collisions with pedestrians other bystanders.

Victims’ injuries could include:

On top of this, victims may be left with anxiety and trauma from the accident. Injuries and effects such as these can easily result in significant and ongoing medical costs, not to mention major impacts on lifestyle.

How Can a Victim Recover Damages for a Drunk Driving Collision?

When a drunk driver causes an accident, they are liable both criminally and civilly. Here is a brief explanation of the difference:

  • Criminal Case. In the State of Washington, driving under the influence is a crime (RCW 46.61.502). Therefore, a drunk driver will face criminal charges. Depending on the cirumstances, they could be charged with a felony. The criminal case seeks to establish if the defendant (the drunk driver) was guilty of committing the crime. If found guilty, they can face a variety of punishments, including hefty fines and jail time. The City or County’s prosecutor’s office will prosecute these cases.
  • Civil Case. The civil case, in the form of a personal injury claim, provides a way for victims to receive compensation for the damages they have incurred. If you’ve been a victim, it’s important to understand that you likely won’t receive any money from the criminal court proceedings. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you file a claim and represent you through this process.

If the driver that struck you is found guilty at their criminal trial, it adds credence to your personal injury claim but does not mean you are guaranteed a good outcome. The barrier to prove liability in a civil trial is less than a criminal trial, but all the issues in a civil case are not the same as the criminal case.

In a civil case, you must prove the defendant was negligent (apart from simply being intoxicated) and caused your injuries.

What Kind of Damages Can a Victim Claim?

Chances are that your collision has cost you in more than one way. In the State of Washington, victims can receive compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Let’s briefly explain each.

Economic Damages

Think of economic damages as any expense you could assign a dollar amount to. For example, economic damages include hospital bills, medical costs, and lost wages. We can gather invoices and bills and tally these up. What other out-of-pocket expenses has your injury cost you? Perhaps you’ve had to hire a dog walker or housecleaner since you’re unable to physically take care of these tasks. Sometimes, a spouse takes unpaid time off work to care for you. Or maybe you’ve had to forfeit a non-refundable vacation.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering. Other examples of non-economic damages could include anxiety, sleep disturbances, lifestyle changes, and shifts in your key relationships. It can be difficult to put dollar amounts on these types of damages. So, we recommend working with an attorney who can help determine the value of your case.

Understanding the total of these damages will help your attorney negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf.

What Kind of Attorney Should You Involve In a Drunk Driving Case?

It’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who specializes in car accidents to help with your claim. In many cases, the injuries that result from drunk driving collisions can be severe and catastrophic. A qualified personal injury attorney will work to secure you a settlement that restores you financially.

In our experience, insurance companies often want to settle too low and too quickly – before you really understand the value of your claim. And, once you’ve signed on the dotted line and cashed that check, you can’t go back and argue for more money. Because of this, it’s important that you involve a knowledgeable attorney as soon in the process as possible.

Can Surviving Family Members File a Claim?

Unfortunately, many victims of drunk drivers do not survive their injuries. If you are reading this page because your loved one was killed by a drunk driver, you might be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

At Ladenburg Law, we can help your family file a wrongful death claim. A settlement can help families struggling with financial pressures recover medical and funeral costs as well as lost income.

We Offer Victims Free Case Evaluations

Over the years, the team at Ladenburg Law has worked with many victims of drunk-driving accidents recover meaningful settlements. If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, please reach out to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss what happened.

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