Every day, drunk drivers impact the lives of innocent victims throughout Wisconsin. When a person knowingly gets behind the wheel after even just one drink, they put the lives of others at risk. At Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers, we know how difficult it can be to process a drunk driving accident. That's why we've worked hard to ensure our clients have the resources they need after a severe accident.
The law allows you certain rights if you or someone you love has been affected by a drunk driver. In some cases, you may be able to recover financial damages. If you are the victim of a drunk driving accident, help is available. Contact our Wisconsin drunk driving accident lawyers at (715) 226-6149 or fill out our online request to request a free consultation with a member of our legal team.
The shocking truth about drunk driving
It would seem we have enough information that we would have reached a place where drunk driving is no longer a problem. Drunk driving constitutes pure negligence. Unfortunately, driving under the influence is a serious problem in Wisconsin. According to Insurify, 4.3 percent of Wisconsin drivers have at least one DUI. Nationwide, Wisconsin ranks fourth for the highest percentage of drivers with a DUI.
But it gets worse. Of the 614 traffic fatalities reported by the NHTSA, 39 percent involved a driver driving under the influence.
Nationwide, the facts paint a bigger picture:
- According to the CDC, drunk driving kills, on average, 29 people each day, or one person every 50 minutes.
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports driving under the influence is the highest among drivers between the ages of 26 and 29.
- A report from SafeHome.org found over 22 percent of drivers 21 and over reported driving under the influence at least once in the last year. Over 12 percent say they do so often.
- The NHTSA reports that about 30 percent of all traffic fatalities result from drunk driving.
The dangers of drunk driving
Driving under the influence is dangerous because alcohol impairs the body's ability to function correctly. After just one drink, a person may notice some loss of judgment or an altered mood.
Other dangers of drunk driving include:
- Slowed reaction time
- Vision problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of coordination
- Poor reasoning
- Reduced ability to maintain lane control
If you are in an accident involving a drunk driver, it is important to recognize they may be in an altered or emotional state. For this reason, if you suspect the other driver is under the influence, your best option is to remain in the vehicle and wait for the police to arrive.
Signs that may indicate the driver is under the influence include:
- Swerving between lanes
- Sudden stops
- Erratic behavior
- Driving the wrong way
- Sudden acceleration
- Driving off-road
Potential injuries following a drunk driving accident
Drunk driving accidents can result in serious injuries. While a sober person may be able to see an accident happen and make corrections to minimize the impact, somebody under the influence usually does not have the same control. Because of this, these accidents can be severe. Potential injuries include:
Traumatic brain injuries
The brain is the body's command center, regulating and controlling every function. A brain injury causes devastating repercussions.
Traumatic brain injuries happen when the brain sustains a severe trauma, such as a blow to the head or a penetrating head wound. Because every person is different, there is no way to predict how anyone will respond to a head injury.
Common symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mood changes
- Memory difficulties
If you experience these or any other symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. A TBI can be a life-threatening injury.
Spinal cord injuries
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) reports motor vehicle accidents as the number one cause of spinal cord injuries. During an accident, the force of the collision can cause bleeding or swelling that can interfere with the spinal cord’s ability to send and receive messages.
When a person suffers from a spinal cord injury, the most common symptom is loss of function from the point of the injury. Unfortunately, in many cases, this loss of function is permanent. However, one thing many people do not realize is that in some cases, loss of function may be preventable. In this case, a doctor may be able to stop or reduce swelling to maintain function.
Always go to the hospital after a serious accident. In many cases, prompt treatment can make a difference. Do not move if you think you may have experienced a spinal cord injury at the accident scene. Instead, call 911.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury include:
- Extreme pain
- Tingling or numbness in the limbs
- Difficulty moving or walking
- Difficulty finding balance
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
Broken bones are extremely common after a severe injury. Many people who sustain a broken bone can expect a full recovery with proper and prompt treatment. However, as the severity of the injury increases, so does the chance of permanent disability.
Long-term consequences of a broken bone may include:
- Loss of mobility
- Loss of function
- Decreased strength
- Nerve damage
- Inability to participate in activities
A drunk driving accident can leave you questioning everything. It can cause fear, anxiety, and anger. It is not abnormal for severe accident victims to suffer from long-term mental health problems. If you have difficulty after an accident, reach out. Many resources are available to help you process your feelings and get the help you need.
What to do after a drunk driving accident
Drunk driving accidents differ from other car accidents because you cannot predict how the other driver will react. The other driver may be disoriented, angry, or defensive after an accident. Your number one priority is to protect yourself. This is why we always recommend that you wait for the police to arrive before exiting your vehicle.
Typically, after an accident, we would advise victims to exchange information and gather evidence. However, once again, your safety takes precedence. Once the police arrive, they can get the driver’s information and make a report to the scene.
With that, there are some things you can do to help your case:
- Get prompt medical attention: Drunk driving accidents can cause serious injuries. Even if you feel okay, go to the doctor. Additionally, seeking medical attention shows that you take your health seriously. This is important when you go to seek financial damages.
- Take notes: What do you remember about the accident? Did you notice unusual behavior signs that the other driver might be drunk? Write down everything that you can recall while it is fresh in your mind.
- Speak to an attorney: Drunk driving accidents involve many complexities. Therefore, it is never advisable to try to handle this type of case on your own. At Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyer, our attorneys have experience handling drunk driving accidents and will be able to assist you throughout the process.
Understanding the difference between a civil case and a criminal case
Drunk driving is not only selfish; it's a crime. If there is evidence that the driver is under the influence, the police may arrest or cite the driver at the scene. Criminal drunk driving proceedings take place separately from your civil case.
This means that even if the other driver was not arrested at the scene or received a not guilty verdict, you still have grounds for a civil personal injury case. In the same regard, a guilty verdict does not automatically guarantee you will be able to recover damages. Both matters go through different courts, and each will have the opportunity to review the evidence and decide.
Can I sue a bar or social host if they served the driver before my accident?
In some states, the law allows victims to pursue damages from a bar or social host if they over-served the driver. However, this is not the case in Wisconsin.
That said, two exceptions make a bartender or social host liable:
- The bartender or host knowingly served alcohol to a person under age 21.
- The person forced someone to drink or deceived them, i.e., they told the person the drink did not contain alcohol.
In both cases, the person can only be liable if your attorney can prove that the person’s actions directly contributed to the accident and, consequently, the victim’s injuries.
Financial damages after a drunk driving accident
After an accident, a victim may have the right to pursue damages from the other party if they can prove that person was negligent in their actions. To do this, you must open a personal injury case. Through this, you may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages.
Every case is different, and there is no way to predict what your case will include.
However, standard costs include:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Rehabilitative services
- Pain and suffering
Most personal injury cases do not include punitive damages. Punitive damages are a financial punishment the court imposes on the responsible party to deter others from repeating the same mistakes. While punitive damages are not common, they are more likely for drunk driving accidents than lesser offenses.
If the court awards punitive damages, you will get them on top of your other damages. Requesting punitive damages can be complex, so working with an experienced Wisconsin car accident attorney is always best.
Wisconsin’s statute of limitations
The statute of limitations for most car accidents in Wisconsin is three years. The court will refuse to hear your case if you file a claim after this, with few exceptions.
- Inability to locate the defendant
- The victim was a minor
Though three years may seem like plenty of time, time can go by quickly as you recover from your injuries. Additionally, you want to allow your attorney enough time to review the evidence and build your case.
Contact Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyer today
You deserve justice when someone else's selfish actions cause you pain and suffering. Following a drunk driving accident, you will need extra support and resources as you recover. At Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyer, we know your challenges and how to address them.
When you work with us, you can count on our team to fight for the maximum compensation and ensure you have the tools you need moving forward. Now is the time to stand up and fight. Contact Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyer at (715) 226-6149 to speak to one of our experienced legal professionals or fill out our online contact request form to request a free initial consultation.