What to Do If You Are Hit By a Drunk Driver
Sept. 29, 2022
Every year, drinking and driving is responsible for several traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths in Kansas and across the United States. According to the Kansas Traffic Crash Facts Book, there were 2,226 total alcohol-related crashes statewide in 2020, causing 1,177 injuries and 85 deaths.
Being involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident can be a devastating experience. Thankfully, personal injury laws in both Kansas and Missouri allow victims to seek compensation for their injuries through claims or lawsuits. An accomplished Kansas personal injury attorney can inform you about the next steps to take when you're hit by a drunk driver and help you pursue fair compensation.
At Biesterveld & Crook, LLC, we have the comprehension, resources, and practice to help you hold the responsible drunk driver liable for your injuries. Our seasoned attorneys will battle compassionately for your best interests and help you seek the maximum possible compensation for your injuries, damages, or losses. Our firm is proud to serve clients across Overland Park, Kansas; Jackson County, Missouri; Johnson, Douglas, and Shawnee Counties in Kansas, as well as the Kansas City Metro area.
Steps to Take if You are Hit by a Drunk Driver
Being hit by a drunk driver can be difficult and unsettling. Nonetheless, you need to remain calm and never allow your emotions to overcome you. When involved in an alcohol-related traffic crash, you should take the following steps where possible:
Get to safety, and help other accident victims if you can.
Call 911 to receive prompt medical help for your injuries.
Report the incident to law enforcement. Give a detailed statement.
Take mental notes if you suspect intoxication.
Document the police report, witness statements and testimonies, accident scene photos, and other physical evidence such as the vehicle's description and pictures.
Document all treatments received, medical records, hospital expenses, your personal account of the accident, and its effect on your life and work.
Notify your insurance provider about the drunk driving accident.
Hire an experienced lawyer to help file your injury claims and negotiate a fair financial settlement with the insurer.
However, the next steps you take — or do not take — could potentially affect the outcome of your injury claims. A well-informed Kansas car accident attorney can check the facts of your case, help file your insurance claims, and establish liability, where required.
Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents in Kansas
Kansas is a no-fault auto insurance state. All motorists in the state are expected to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. The PIP policy will pay for your medical expenses, lost income, and other accident-related costs suffered from the auto accident, notwithstanding the at-fault party.
However, you may be able to opt out of the no-fault system and file a lawsuit or claim against the negligent drunk driver if your injuries meet the state's statutory threshold. In order to opt out of the no-fault system:
You must have exceeded your PIP coverage for your medical expenses, and
You must have suffered a "serious injury."
Under Kansas law, a serious injury is any injury which results in permanent disfigurement, permanent loss of a body function, permanent injury, fracture of a weight-bearing bone, or compressed, compound, or displaced fracture of any bone.
In addition, a claimant who sustains injuries in a Kansas drunk driving accident can establish a negligence per se claim by proving a violation of Kansas Statutes Section 8-1567. This requires showing that the defendant violated a safety law meant to prevent injuries or protect people like you and that such a violation caused the claimant's injuries.
Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents in Missouri
Furthermore, Missouri is an "at-fault" auto insurance state. Under the state's at-fault laws, the person who caused the accident (the at-fault drunk driver) will be held financially and civilly liable for medical expenses, property damages, and other accident-related losses suffered by the injured victims.
Also, Missouri's negligence per se statutes establishes that any individual who breaks the law and causes injury to another person will be automatically responsible for the person's injuries. Thus, you can prove liability by showing that:
The at-fault party violated a safety law by driving while under the influence of alcohol.
The at-fault party violated a law that was meant to prevent an injury similar to what you suffered.
The law was designed to protect people like you.
You suffered bodily injury, actual harm, or other losses due to the defendant's violation of the safety law.
A proficient personal injury attorney can help file your injury claims, establish liability, and attempt to recover the maximum possible compensation for your injuries.
Punitive Damages for Drunk Driving Accident Injuries or Wrongful Death
Additionally, punitive or exemplary damages may be awarded in a Kansas drunk driving accident case to further punish the at-fault party for their willful or wanton conduct. Similarly, punitive damages may be awarded in a drunk driving accident case in Missouri to serve as an additional punishment to the at-fault drunk driver for their reckless behavior or flagrant disregard for the safety of others.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
However, if the drunk driving accident caused another person's death, the following parties may be eligible to file a wrongful death action:
Wrongful Death Claim in Kansas
According to Kansas law, the deceased person's "heirs at law" who have suffered a loss from the death may be entitled to file a wrongful death action. These include the decedent's surviving spouse, parents, children, siblings, and grandparents. A wrongful death claim must be filed within two (2) years from the date of the victim's death.
Wrongful Death Claim in Missouri
Under Missouri law, the following individuals may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim:
First in line, the deceased person's surviving spouse, parents, children, or children's descendants.
Next, the deceased person's surviving siblings or their descendants.
Next, a "plaintiff ad litem" appointed by the Missouri court to handle the claim.
Also, a wrongful death claim must be filed within three (3) years from the date of the victim's death. A compassionate wrongful death attorney can fight for your family's best interests and help you seek fair compensation for your untimely loss.
How Biesterveld & Crook, LLC Can Help You
Unfortunately, an accident involving a drunk driver can result in minor or serious injuries, missed time at work, hospitalization, or even death. Regardless, you're not alone. At Biesterveld & Crook, LLC, our wise attorneys are ready to assist, direct, and represent victims of drunk driving accidents in their injury claims.
We will assess every element of your case, educate you about what to do, and analyze your potential legal options to seek damages. In addition, our loyal legal team will fight to protect your legal rights and help you recover deserved compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other potential damages or loss.
If you were injured in an auto accident involving a drunk driver, you may pursue fair compensation. Contact Biesterveld & Crook, LLC today to arrange a straightforward case evaluation with reliable car accident attorneys. We're proud to serve clients across Overland Park, Kansas; Jackson County, Missouri; Johnson, Douglas, and Shawnee Counties in Kansas, as well as the whole Kansas City Metro area.