According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three U.S. traffic deaths involves a drunk driver.
If you are hit by a drunk driver, you could be feeling a lot of different emotions, including anger, fear, confusion, and frustration. Those are all valid when you are in a vehicle accident.
It is important to stay calm and take the necessary steps to stay in control of the situation. Depending on your injuries you may be entitled to a significant settlement for the drunk driving accident.
What Is the Average Settlement for a Drunk Driving Accident?
Every vehicle accident is unique with damages ranging from minor property damage to multiple fatalities. There is no way to accurately determine the average settlement for a drunk driver car accident because they are all so different. Factors taken into consideration may include the extent of injuries, property damage, and insurance considerations.
No-Fault Insurance Settlements
Kentucky follows a “no-fault” system for vehicle accidents. Under a no-fault system, your own insurance company will pay your injury claim up to the limit of the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage you have purchased.
This no-fault system enhances your opportunity to receive full compensation because even if you are partially at fault you can still be compensated. The minimum personal injury protection plan in Kentucky consists of:
- $10,000 for medical expenses;
- Wage replacement of $200 per week up to 85% of lost wages;
- Funeral expenses;
- Lost income for surviving dependents; and
- Essential services that you are unable to perform.
However, you can purchase additional PIP coverage in Kentucky up to $50,000. It is always recommended to carry as much personal injury protection coverage as you can reasonably afford in a no-fault state.
Suing a Drunk Driver in Kentucky
Driving under the influence (DUI) can involve more than just alcohol. Someone driving under the influence of other substances, including prescription drugs, can also cause a serious accident.
If the impaired driver is at fault and your injuries exceed your PIP coverage limits, your next option is to turn your bills over to your medical insurance such as Medicaid, Medicare, or health insurance. They are then paid back when you collect money on your personal injury claim.
PIP coverage limits are often $10,000, so in the great majority of cases, these limits are exceeded and exhausted. You can then negotiate with the at-fault party to get additional expenses covered or file a lawsuit if you can’t reach a settlement. Personal injury lawyers generally file suit in only about 5% of cases.
To sue a drunk driver in Kentucky, or for any type of DUI, your injuries from the accident must have resulted in one or more of the following:
- A minimum of $1,000 in medical expenses;
- Any broken bones;
- Permanent disfigurement;
- Any permanent injury; or
- Wrongful death from the accident.
After the accident, the police will open a criminal investigation. The legal limit for alcohol impairment in Kentucky is .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for regular drivers and .04% for CDL drivers.
Both your insurance company and the drunk driver’s insurance company will also open investigations into the accident. If you choose to hire an attorney, they will also start the investigation process.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident?
Because of Kentucky’s “dram shop law,” the impaired driver may not be the only liable party. Under KRS 413.241, an establishment that sells or serves alcohol to a driver who is obviously intoxicated may share liability. A social host at a private function cannot be held liable unless the driver was a minor.
Settlement Calculation for the Victim of a Drunk Driving Accident
There is no standard graph or chart that can help you calculate the settlement amount for your DUI case or determine what is the average settlement for a drunk driving accident. Insurance companies will often reach out with a quick settlement offer as soon as possible after the accident. These quick offers can be significantly lower than what you need to cover the cost of the damages you have suffered.
One of the most important factors that affect the amount of damages you can collect is the amount of insurance coverage available to you. In Kentucky, drivers are required to have a minimum of only $25,000 of liability coverage unless they drive a commercial semi-truck vehicle.
If insurance is inadequate to cover damages or if the other driver is uninsured, you then can collect on your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policy. If you do not have UM/UIM coverage, no matter what your damages are you may not be able to collect more than the $25,000 policy limits.
There are three types of damages that you may be eligible for in a settlement for drunk driving accidents: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
The purpose of economic damages is to provide for verifiable monetary expenses that arise from the accident. These include costs such as medical expenses, property damage or loss, and past and future earnings.
Not all damages are monetary. Non-economic damages entitle you to compensation for things that don’t have a defined dollar amount, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
Under KRS 411.184, when a driver is so reckless that punishment is appropriate, punitive damages may be awarded. These are often used as a deterrent to prevent the driver from a repeat offense. In Kentucky, the insurance company must provide a minimum of $25,000 for punitive damages.
What Is a Fair Drunk Driving Settlement?
Understanding the factors that go into a settlement calculation for the victim of a drunk driving accident is the first step in receiving fair compensation for what you have been through.
The severity of injuries plays the largest part in your settlement offer.
Bruises and whiplash are much different from spinal injuries or lost limbs. The variance in injuries from DUI accidents can be extreme. Compensation should align with the severity of the injury. Generally cases are settled prior to filing suit in court. Once you’re in court, cases often settle in mediation, which alleviates the need for a jury trial.
If you do end up going to trial, a jury will take your health and age into consideration. If you had a pre-existing condition, you may have to prove the condition was exacerbated by the accident. Some injuries may last for only a short time, but others may be permanent or create future problems.
The best way to ensure you are receiving a fair drunk driving accident settlement is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
A fair DUI settlement in Kentucky will likely include punitive damages up to the $25,000 minimum amount Kentucky requires on a liability policy. This assumes that the defendant had insurance. Some may not have insurance if they lost their license due to previous DUI charges. If that is the case, you will need to collect from your own UM/UIM policy.
The amount you can collect depends not only on your injuries and medical treatment but on how much insurance coverage is available. We can help you determine all coverage available to you so you can maximize your recovery. In addition, our law firm makes sure that you get needed medical treatment from reputable physicians so that you will have the medical documentation you need to prove your injury claim.
Strengthening Your Drunk Driving Settlement Claim
If you choose to go to court and file a claim against the drunk driver, you must build a solid case to demonstrate what occurred at the time of the accident. Some important evidence may include:
- Police and accident reports,
- Witness statements and testimony,
- Blood alcohol concentration test results,
- Expert witness opinion about the accident scene,
- Surveillance video,
- Accident scene photographs,
- The 911 call recording, and
- Hospital and other medical records proving injury.
If the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances, they may receive a criminal DUI conviction. In that case, their criminal record can be very valuable in getting a settlement. A DUI conviction is worth a great deal when our attorneys settle a claim with a drunk driver.
An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to conduct a proper investigation and build your case using the facts obtained.
What to Do After an Accident with a Drunk Driver
If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of a drunk driving accident, there are things you can do to make the best of the situation.
- Always check for injuries and address immediate medical needs;
- Turn on your hazard lights to alert other vehicles to be careful;
- Move your car out of the road if possible;
- Call the police to get an accident report;
- Say as little as possible to the other party and never admit fault;
- Get insurance information from the other party if possible;
- Take photos at the accident scene;
- Notify your insurance company; and
- Consider contacting a personal injury attorney.
The police will likely escort the drunk driver to jail for the night, so it is important to follow up with the police. There may not be an opportunity for you to exchange insurance information like you would in a standard traffic accident.
Hiring an Attorney for Your Drunk Driving Accident Settlement
Getting the settlement you deserve can be a complicated process.
Flora Templeton Stuart Accident Injury Lawyers has been helping victims and their families with their personal injury needs for decades.
We work diligently to help you recover after your drunk driving accident and will not collect any legal fees unless we win.