Drunk driving accidents cause a number of deaths nationwide. Many of these cases involve a victim that survives the crash only to suffer serious bodily injury causing permanent disfigurement or disabilities. Even non-serious bodily injuries can require years of treatment and hospital visits. The restitution ordered in some states for felony intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault case rarely covers all of the damages.
The law also provides for the recovery of money damages for drunk driving victims from the driver or the driver’s insurance company. In these personal injury cases, the most important factor in maximizing the recovery for the injured victim or the surviving family members involves proving the driver was impaired by drugs or intoxicated by alcohol. The victim and the victim’s family members should take several steps to protect their rights during the criminal and civil proceedings to obtain justice in these difficult cases.
Immediately After the Auto Accident
Obviously, your first concerns after the auto accident will be your safety and the safety of your passengers. Dial 911 or call the local police immediately after the accident. Note the make, model and license plate number of the other vehicle. If the other driver has a suspended or revoked driver’s license, is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is on felony or misdemeanor probation or has an outstanding arrest warrant, then the other driver may attempt to flee or leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive.
It is important that you follow up with the police to make sure that the report is accurate. An accident report can serve as official documentation as to what happened at the accident scene. It is important to correct any incorrect information on the accident report because it can be used in a court of law to either help or hurt your position.
Obtaining Experienced Representation from a Personal Injury Attorney
Contacting a personal injury attorney after the auto accident remains an important step in understanding and preserving your rights to a fair resolution of the personal injury case. Your Houston auto accident attorney can assist you in preserving evidence after the crash, especially one involving an impaired driver or the serious injury of a pedestrian, passenger in the vehicle or the driver of another automobile.
If possible, obtain the names and phone numbers of any witnesses that offer to help you. Ask the witnesses to take pictures of the scene, including the location of the vehicles, any skid marks on the roadway, and damage to the vehicles if you are unable to immediately preserve this evidence because of your injury. Hopefully, the law enforcement officer assigned to investigate the case will also preserve such evidence.
Take pictures of your injuries immediately after the accident and during the days following the accident as your wounds begin to heal. If the vehicle is not held as evidence in the criminal case, seek the advice of an attorney before making any repairs to the damage on the vehicle. Your personal injury attorney may want additional pictures or an expert to inspect the vehicle before it is altered.
Write down your recollection of the events for your attorney soon after the car accident while the details are still fresh in your mind. Remember that the typical car accident case may not go to trial until a year or two after the accident. The notes that you take after the accident may be helpful in refreshing your recollection at some later stage of the personal injury case.
You should also keep all evidence of your damages including documents related to your medical care and lost wages. Create a special folder to keep such documents. Keep a copy of any letters from your insurance company, and the prosecutor for the criminal DWI, intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter case.
Victim Rights in the Criminal Case Against a Drunk Driver
Make sure the prosecutor and the clerk’s office have your correct contact information so that you can be contacted about court dates and negotiations in the pending criminal or traffic court case against the other driver. Keep a special calendar handy so that you can keep track of upcoming court dates.
Under the law, the victims in the DWI, felony intoxication assault or felony intoxication manslaughter cases have special rights to be informed about the progress of the case. The victim may wish to make a statement at sentencing in the event a plea bargain is reached to resolve the case short of trial. You may also wish to keep a daily log of your pain, your healing process, and how the injuries impact your daily life including notes about bills that are going unpaid, lost wages, and your medical care and expenses. The victim’s family may also have a right to be heard in the criminal case.
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