Driving while intoxicated is an all-too-common mistake that results in thousands of motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths every year. Studies show that an average of 28 people in the U.S. die every day in drunk driving related crashes. The task of driving is a privilege, not a right. Unfortunately, many drivers forget this and treat getting behind the wheel too lightly.

Drunk drivers are irresponsible and reckless. They’re also legally responsible for any damages that result from the unlawful act. If a drunk driver hit you in West Virginia, here’s what to do next.

Protect Your Rights at the Scene

Directly after the accident, call the police as soon as you suspect that the other driver has been drinking. Signs of drunkenness include slurred speech, poor coordination, and the scent of alcohol on the person. Don’t confront the driver, as he/she could be belligerent, aggressive, and dangerous. Tell the police officer who responds to your call of your suspicions. The officer will then conduct chemical and/or field sobriety tests to assess the driver’s intoxication levels.

Once you’ve received medical care for your injuries and reported the accident to your insurance company, obtain a copy of the police report from the local Sheriff’s Department. There will be an official police record, the results of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration tests, and most likely footage of the arrest. These documents may serve as evidence of the driver’s intoxication during the claims process with an insurance company or with the civil courts.

Thoroughly Consider Your Claim Options

Driving under the influence is one of the most flagrant examples of negligence in existence. Most courts will rule drunk drivers “grossly negligent” or “reckless” depending on the circumstances of the crash. If you’re involved in a case with a drunk driver, it’s in your best interest to fully assess your injuries and legal options before accepting an insurance settlement. A personal injury claim against the driver will almost always result in greater compensation for injuries since it offers the opportunity to collect damages such as:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional suffering
  • Lost capacity to earn
  • Lost quality of life

An insurance settlement may not compensate you for these important noneconomic damages. You’ll also miss the chance to receive punitive damages from the court as a way to punish the drunk driver for his/her wrongdoing. The state of West Virginia takes drunk driving very seriously. Going to trial with your claim could result in the compensation award or judgment that your serious injuries demand.

Speak to an Attorney Before Settling

Always speak to a West Virginia DUI accident attorney after a drunk driver hits you or causes an accident. Settling right away can cost you more than you realize. A skilled lawyer can maximize your recovery by making the best use of any available leverage against the at-fault driver, such as the extent of your injuries, emotional trauma, or the driver’s history of negligence or traffic citations. There’s also the possibility of suing the alcohol vendor for negligence under West Virginia’s dram shop laws. These laws allow you to recover from a third party as well as the drunk driver in certain circumstances. An attorney can help you explore your legal options.