What Should I Do If I’m Hit By a Drunk Driver?

Hit By a Drunk Driver in California 

Drunk driver hits you seek compensation
Despite the clear and inherent dangers of drinking and driving, many Californians still get behind the wheel after one or more alcoholic drinks. This reckless behavior not only endangers their own lives but also poses a serious threat to other road users. In 2022, 1,069 lives were lost in drunk driving accidents in California. 

If you were injured in a car accident because of an intoxicated driver, there is legal recourse for you to recover financial compensation. Our experienced car accident lawyer in Orange County can help you hold the drunk driver accountable for your injuries. Call The Law Offices of Daniel Kim today for a free consultation at (800) 719-9779


Drunk Driving Accident Statistics in California 

Any driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08% is considered alcohol-impaired by California law. With a BAC of 0.08%, drivers can experience:

  • Poor muscle coordination affecting balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing
  • Impaired judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory
  • Reduced concentration and short-term memory loss
  • Impaired information processing capability, such as signal detection and visual search and impaired perception 

In 2021, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reported that 1,370 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. This number represents a 16% increase from alcohol-related traffic fatalities from the previous year. 


What To Do After an Accident with a Drunk Driver

California law punishes dui driver
If you’re hit by a drunk driver in California, it is common to feel immediate shock. No one expects to be in a car accident, let alone one with an impaired driver. If you are able to do so, take the following steps to protect your well-being and legal rights: 

1. Call 911 and Remain Calm

Try to stay calm and ensure your safety and that of others. If there are any injuries, call 911 and seek medical help immediately. 

2. Stay at the Accident Scene

Remain at the accident location until help arrives and avoid admitting fault or discussing details with others. If a police officer responds to your accident, be sure to obtain the number or a copy of the police report. 

3. Exchange Information

Collect the drunk driver’s insurance company and contact information, as well as their driver’s license number and license plate number. If they are too impaired or do not cooperate with you, wait for the police to assist. 

4. Document the Scene

Take pictures of the accident, damages, and any visible injuries. You should also gather the contact information from any witnesses. 

5. Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Car accident injuries can vary greatly depending on the type of accident. Visit a doctor even if you don’t feel injured, as some injuries may not be immediately apparent. This will create a paper trail documenting your treatment. 

6. Contact Your Insurance

Inform your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. If the insurance company of the drunk driver attempts to contact you, be careful what you say to them. Many times, insurance adjusters are looking for any admittance of fault to reduce or deny your claim. 

7. Consult a Personal Injury Attorney

Even if you suffer minor injuries, you should still consider talking to a personal injury lawyer in California. Lawyers have extensive experience handling drunk driving accident cases. If the drunk driver hires a DUI lawyer, it is even more incentive for you to obtain legal representation.


Who Is At Fault in Drunk Driving Accidents? 

In a drunk driving case, it is fairly obvious that the drunk driver is at fault. However, there are certain circumstances where other parties are also liable. 

Dram Shop Liability

California’s dram shop liability law (California Civil Code Section 1714) protects bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other establishments from liability if they serve alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person who is involved in a drunk driving accident injuring someone. 

However, the law makes two important exceptions:

  • The first exception is when a parent, guardian, or another adult provides alcohol to someone under 21 at their residence. If the intoxicated, underage person gets in a DUI-related accident, the adult who provided the alcohol can be held liable for any damages. 
  • The second exception applies to those who are licensed to sell, provide, or serve alcohol. Under California Business and Professions Code Section 25602.1, employees at bars, restaurants, or liquor stores may face legal responsibility if they serve alcohol to a visibly inebriated minor, and that minor subsequently causes injury or death. 


Proving Fault: Four Essential Steps 

Drunk driver hits you car crash severe injuries
A driver’s intoxication is not an automatic indicator of fault. To establish liability for a drunk driver in an accident, it is necessary to demonstrate that the driver’s intoxication was the direct cause of the collision, which resulted from negligent or reckless behavior such as excessive speed, erratic lane changes, or failure to obey traffic signs.

In order to establish liability, you have to prove the following four elements of negligence.

  1. The drunk driver had a responsibility to operate their vehicle safely. 
  2. The drunk driver failed to uphold their duty of care. 
  3. The drunk driver’s actions caused or contributed to the accident.
  4. The victim suffered injuries or property damage because of the accident.

Under California’s comparative negligence statutes, it’s possible for both parties involved in a car accident to share fault. For instance, if a driver was exceeding the speed limit at the time a drunk driver collided with them, that driver may also bear a portion of the liability. 


Damages Available to Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents

When innocent people are injured because of the negligence of drunk drivers, they are entitled to certain compensatory damages meant to make them “whole” again. In a typical personal injury lawsuit, these are some of the recoverable damages available:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills incurred from past and future treatment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Future loss of earnings
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages meant to punish drunk drivers

The insurance company representing the drunk driver may attempt to settle with the injured person quickly to avoid a quick payout. Beware of these deceitful tactics – talk to an experienced attorney to help you with your insurance claim.


Do You Need a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer? 

If you suffered injuries at the hands of DUI drivers, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal rights, including how to seek compensation. 

The Law Offices of Daniel Kim is a highly respected personal injury law firm in California. Our dedicated and robust legal team is ready to help you begin the legal process toward justice. All you need to do is call our law firm and request a free consultation. We will take care of the rest.