Injuries from DUI

Facing an Injury Lawsuit After a DUI-Related Car Accident

If you were involved in a car accident while driving under the influence, here is essential information about your legal responsibility for injuries and damage to vehicles. 

Being a part of a car collision can lead to considerable stress, even after the immediate aftermath and proper medical attention. While most claims for injuries resulting from car accidents get settled out of court, there are instances where lawsuits arise. Receiving the notice, “You’ve been served,” can be distressing, especially for the most composed individuals. This feeling is amplified if you were intoxicated while driving at the time of the accident. If you were found guilty of, or admitted to, a DUI/DWI (Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated) charge, anyone injured in the accident will likely initiate a legal case against you.

Navigating a lawsuit can be intricate and bewildering. Sometimes, a lawsuit is initiated within days or weeks following the accident, and being served with legal papers comes as an unexpected development. However, in certain states, the lawsuit window extends up to five years after the accident. By that point, you might have assumed that the injured party decided against pursuing a claim, or you might have thought that if a claim was pursued, your auto insurance company had already resolved the issue.

How Do I Know If I'm Being Sued?

The initiation of a lawsuit takes place when the injured party submits a formal request or statement, known as a petition or complaint, to the court. The individual who initiates the lawsuit is referred to as the “Plaintiff.” Once this legal process is set in motion, the person who is being sued, identified as the “Defendant,” must receive official notification of the lawsuit.

In the majority of states, legal regulations dictate that the defendant must personally receive a formal “service” of notice regarding the lawsuit along with a copy of the petition or complaint. This entails a sheriff’s deputy or a process server physically delivering these official court documents. Normally, the defendant is served within a span of thirty days from the date the lawsuit was formally filed. However, in certain states, this service can be conducted within three to six months following the filing date. In some cases, an extension might be granted if there are legitimate difficulties in locating and/or serving the defendant.

Act Quickly!

Upon receiving a summons, it is of utmost significance to act promptly. You are required to submit the necessary response document, often referred to as an “Answer,” within the time frame mandated by the court. Should you miss this deadline by even a single day, the court might issue a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff, resulting in an automatic win for their case, at least on a provisional basis.

Hence, upon being served with a summons, it’s crucial to immediately get in touch with your car insurance company. Typically, insurance companies provide a 24-hour telephone “hotline” that is available around the clock. You can utilize this hotline to inform the company about the receipt of the lawsuit summons.

Will My Insurance Company Defend Me in Court?

A common provision found in the majority of liability car insurance policies is that the insurer will provide legal representation on your behalf in the event of a lawsuit arising from incidents covered by your car insurance policy. Typically, the insurance company will engage and cover the expenses of a local attorney who specializes in handling cases of this nature (unless they attempt to deny coverage due to your involvement in a DUI/DWI-related accident).

Even though the insurance company is likely to appoint an attorney for you, if you have been charged with a DUI/DWI, it might be advisable to consult a separate attorney regarding your circumstances. In cases involving a DUI/DWI, the party initiating the lawsuit often seeks punitive damages alongside compensatory damages. While compensatory damages are typically encompassed by your liability insurance policy, punitive damages usually aren’t. Therefore, if the court grants punitive damages, you could find yourself responsible for covering these specific damages from your own resources.

For further insights into the realm of personal injury damages, delve deeper into the subject.

What Happens If I Don't Have Any Insurance?

Every state mandates that vehicle owners must possess automobile liability insurance or show proof of alternative financial responsibility to cover potential car accidents. However, if you find yourself driving without car insurance for any reason, it would be prudent to promptly get in touch with a legal professional to deliberate on your circumstances.

How Long Can the Lawsuit Take to Resolve?

Certain lawsuits reach resolution within a matter of months, while others extend over multiple years. There exists no fixed formula to determine this timeline.  Although a significant majority of claims arising from car accidents result in settlements, there is no assurance that your lawsuit will follow suit, particularly in cases involving DUI/DWI.

If I Was DUI, Does That Mean I'm Automatically at Fault for the Accident?

Typically, although it’s not an absolute legal certainty. Merely being cited for or found guilty of a DUI/DWI doesn’t automatically establish your responsibility for the car accident. The fault for the accident could lie with the other driver if they disregarded a stop sign, exceeded the speed limit, or violated other traffic regulations.

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