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Drunk Driving Cases in Washington State

What changes when a drunk driver is involved in an auto accident?

  • Liability against the drunk driver is easier to prove. A drunk driver is a negligent driver. The liability part of your case is better when a bad actor such as a drunk driver caused your injuries.
  • On the other hand it is painful to know that a grossly negligent person has caused you injuries and inconvenience.
  • In the end it’s still an accident subject to vehicle crash law, with the usual complications and concerns.
  • You may also be able to bring a lawsuit against additional defendants — usually the person or bar/restaurant the gave the driver the alcohol — if
    • the adult was already “apparently under the influence of liquor” RCW 66.44.200 or
    • the drunk driver was a minor
  • Juries don’t like drunk drivers
    • juries matter because the case could go to trial
    • even though more than 90% of the cases don’t go to a jury trial, insurance companies evaluate cases in part based on what a jury might do

Civil vs Criminal Drunk Driving Cases

  • Civil cases are about the payback. It is an exchange of money to pay for the damage the drunk driver caused. It’s about suing someone. It’s about settling out of court or going to trial. It’s about getting paid for what you have lost.
  • Criminal cases are about the State prosecuting the wrong doer for their crime. It’s about getting a ticket or getting arrested and charged. It’s about prosecutor, plea bargains and jail time. It’s about probation, restitution, credit for time served and paying fines. If you need a further explanation about the criminal system, talk to the victims assistance unit or your lawyer.
  • A Seattle auto accident involving a drunk driver can easily be BOTH civil and criminal.
    • Civil – The drunk driver owes the victim money for property damage, bodily injury, and the inconvenience they caused. Talk to your lawyer about how to get paid what you deserve for these losses.
    • Criminal – The drunk driver, when the police are involved and do their job, will go through the criminal court system. They face fines and jail time. They may lose their driver's license. You might be a witness in their DUI trial.

What's the Difference Between DUI and DWI?

Whats the difference? Not much.

  • DUI means driving under the influence
  • DWI means driving while intoxicated
  • Washington State favors the term DUI

DUI can be by alcohol or drugs, both illegal drugs and legal prescription drugs. The legality of the drug makes little. It makes no difference in the court system.

Liability Insurance for Accidents Caused by Drunk Driving

Negligent drunk drivers are obligated to pay for the injuries and losses they cause to innocent victims. They are liable, because they are at fault. Their insurance is liability insurance. You hope they have enough liability insurance so you can be paid for your losses.

If they have no liability insurance, or not enough liability insurance, then your UIM insurance should cover your losses.

UIM Insurance

You buy under insured motorist insurance (UIM) so that you will have insurance coverage if the drunk driver has no insurance, or not enough insurance.

Your UIM insurance can be a blessing in these situations.

Here is My Story

Chris Sharpe

I was t-boned by a drunk driver. Here’s a picture of the totaled car of the drunk driver. My car was also totaled. I went to the hospital, she went to jail. Criminal law punished that drunk driver with a DUI and subsequent court proceedings, but did nothing for me. I had a totaled car, hospital bills, loss of work and permanent serious injuries. The civil court system allowed me to get my medical bills paid for and compensation for my losses. I did not represent myself; I hired a lawyer.

What to Do if Injured by a Drunk Driver. Can I DIY?

  • Have the police investigate and write a report
  • Find and interview witnesses
  • Go to the emergency room if appropriate
  • Tell the doctors about all your symptoms. Make sure they write them down
  • Get all the medical care you need for all your injuries
  • Understand the various types and amounts of insurance and how they apply to you
  • Understand the implications of subrogation
  • Mind the statute of limitations
  • Careful what you say to the insurance adjuster
  • Careful what you post on Facebook and other social media
  • Get a fair settlement or file a lawsuit and make them pay

What Do I Do Next?

That depends upon the facts of your case and where you are in the process. I think a discussion would be helpful.

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