Drunk Driving Accidents
Birmingham Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
On weekend nights in Birmingham and across Alabama, you’ve probably driven by cops patrolling for inebriated drivers. When you turn on the TV, arrests for serious and fatal alcohol-related crashes are on the news. Ever since you learned to drive, you associate drunk driving with DWI, handcuffs and jail time.
It’s easy to forget that drunk drivers can – and should – be held not only criminally liable for their actions, but also financially responsible for the pain and suffering they cause. Drunk drivers cause thousands of serious injuries on Alabama roads every year. DUI accidents rob Birmingham residents of their health and livelihoods. A car accident attorney can win a substantial settlement for victims of drunk driving crashes – if you have the right attorney.
At Pittman, Dutton & Hellums, we have been successfully securing car accident injury settlements and winning verdicts for Birmingham families for nearly 30 years. If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, contact us when you’re ready. Our attorneys can help you take the first step toward getting your life back on track.
What a Drunk Driving Attorney Will Do
Drunk driving cases essentially work the same way as other personal injury claims. You and your attorney will need to gather specific evidence to prove your case. You will be trying to prove that the driver’s decision to drink or use drugs resulted in the negligent operation of his or her vehicle, which caused injury, death or property damage.
Tips for establishing a successful case:
- If the drunk driver received a citation for having an open container of alcohol or was arrested for DWI or DUI, you will be in a very strong position to win in a civil lawsuit. This is because with those citations or arrest, the police have supplied evidence showing that they believe alcohol was involved in the crash.
- After the crash, notice if the suspected drunk driver has alcohol on his or her breath. The drunk driver may try to conceal this with breath spray as you wait for police to arrive, so be sure to tell the cops if you think this is the case.
- A driver impaired by drugs may use eyedrops to hide redness in their eyes. Telling police you saw the other driver use eyedrops after a crash may be enough to get police to administer a sobriety test.
- The driver may try to hide evidence. If you see the other driver attempt to hide beer cans, bottles or drug paraphernalia, be sure to tell police.
- Make sure you know who was driving. If a drunk driver has a sober passenger, he or she will often try to get that passenger to say and appear as though they were driving at the time of the crash.
- Get a copy of the police report. This may be your strongest piece of evidence against a drunk driver. Police reports are available at police stations shortly after crashes. They contain evidence of how the crash unfolded and precisely what officers observed.
- If the drunk driver is charged criminally, following his or her court proceedings closely. See if he or she is convicted and even follow up with your local district attorney’s office. They work for victims like you.
Civil vs. Criminal Proceedings For DWI/DUI
Civil lawsuits against drunk drivers are entirely separate from criminal proceedings. In a criminal case, the function of the court is to keep the public safe by taking a drunk driver off the street, or by deterring him or her from getting behind the wheel drunk again. Drunk drivers can be punished for their reckless driving even if there was no accident or injury involved.
In a civil lawsuit, the goal is to establish that the drunk driver is responsible for the injuries you or a loved one suffered. This can be your only chance to recoup lost wages, medical costs and property damage compensation. The court’s sole purpose is to determine liability and how much compensation the victim should receive.
Criminal courts in Alabama are intended to determine if sufficient evidence exists to convict the driver of DWI or DUI. A criminal court judge can order a drunk driver to pay restitution to a victim, but that does not include compensation for pain and suffering. Civil settlements and verdicts usually surpass what a criminal court can hand down in restitution, bringing victims and their families the full, rightful settlements they deserve.
Always remember: No matter what happens in criminal court, if you have been hit by a drunk driver, you should speak with an attorney.
If a drunk driver is found not guilty in criminal court, or not charged with a crime, it does not mean he or she cannot be held liable for civil damages. There have been cases where drunk drivers are acquitted of criminal charges, but determined to be liable for significant civil damages. That is because the burden of proof is less in civil cases than in criminal cases.
Conversely, many people also mistakenly assume that because a drunk driver is found guilty in a criminal case, it means the guilty party is automatically liable for civil damages. This is not true. A drunk driver’s criminal conviction will almost always be an extremely strong piece of evidence in your favor in civil court – but it’s no guarantee of a settlement or winning verdict. You will need experienced lawyers to build the strongest case possible under Alabama law.
Birmingham Drunk Driving Facts and Statistics
For a clearer picture on just how dire an issue drunk driving is in Birmingham and elsewhere in AL, here are some of last year’s statistics from Mother Against Drunk Driving:
- There were 260 drunk driving fatalities in Alabama last year. That represents 30.5% of all traffic-related deaths and an alarming 8.3% increase from two years ago.
- There were 2,657 injuries reported from alcohol-related crashes in the state, or about 7 per day.
- There were a total of 5,398 alcohol-related crashes, or about 15 per day.
- The taxpayer cost of drunk driving fatalities last year was $1.2 billion.
Common Injuries in Drunk Driving
Victims that survive crashes are often left with serious, lifelong injuries that cause hardship to entire families and often require a long recovery. The injuries our lawyers have seen in drunk driving cases are among the worst that car crashes can cause:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): Drunk driving crashes are one of the leading causes of TBI. There is a frightening amount of speed and force in many drunk driving crashes, and the brain can be easily damaged as a result. The medical expenses can be astronomical, such as in the case of 22-year-old Sean Carter. He speaks through a computer and is learning to walk again after a brain injury caused by a drunk driving crash. His medical expenses exceed $1 million each year.
- Broken bones: Broken arms, legs, wrists, collarbones and ribs are common in high-impact crashes.
- Neck injuries: These are often caused by the severe whiplash that occurs on impact. Neck injuries can be as mild as sprain or as severe as a dislocated disc.
- Back injuries: Lower back injuries in crashes are especially common.
- Spinal cord injuries: Because of the impact in drunk driving crashes, bone fragments and discs in the spine can be damaged, causing paralysis. Living with paralysis is debilitating, expensive and permanent.
- Internal injures: The impact of a drunk driving crash can cause damage to your organs, bowels, lungs, spleen or heart. Fractured ribs can also puncture lungs or other internal organs.
- Psychological injuries: These can sometimes be the most severe. Imagine you were involved in a crash in which a loved one was killed by a drunk driver. You may suffer from post-traumatic stress, crippling depression, severe anxiety and more. You can and should seek compensation for these conditions.
Alabama Drunk Driving Laws
The clearest examples of drunk driver liability involve lawsuits filed by the person a drunk driver injures. This includes:
- Drivers and passengers in another vehicle the drunk driver struck.
- Pedestrians a drunk driver struck while behind the wheel.
- Passengers in the drunk driver’s vehicle. This can sometimes be more difficult to prove, as attorneys for the drunk driver will often argue that if a passenger gets into a car with a drunk driver, that passenger has accepted liability for what may happen. But it’s not always that simple, and that is why you should speak with a lawyer.
Drunk driving cases are not limited to serious injury. Drunk drivers who crash into cars, buildings and other property can also be held liable for property damages.
Aside from the drunk driver, anywhere that served alcohol to an already intoxicated person can be held liable in certain cases. Under dram shop or social host laws in Alabama, a third party that serves an obviously intoxicated person can be held responsible for the drunk driver’s actions.
Dram shop laws do not decrease personal liability. In other words, they do not lessen responsibility on the part of the drunk driver, but rather establish that the bar, restaurant or party that served the drunk driver can be held liable as well.
Get a DWI Accident Attorney
At Pittman, Dutton & Hellums, we have no compassion for drunk drivers. They kill and injure thousands of Birmingham motorists each year, tearing families apart and leaving innocent people with a lifetime of damage to repair. Our attorneys are here to hold drunk drivers responsible to the fullest extent possible under the Alabama drunk driving law and secure you the compensation you need to move forward the best you can.
We’ve won hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. Our legal record speaks to our commitment, passion and success.
If you or a loved one were injured in drunk driving crash, call us when you’re ready at (866) 515-8880 or contact us here. There is no obligation whatsoever when you speak with us. We’ll listen to your story and let you know your legal options going forward. After that, the choice is yours.
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