There are far too many car accidents caused by drunk drivers in Oregon and the US as a whole, with more than 10,000 killed in drunken driving accidents nationally in 2010.
About DUI Injuries in Oregon
If your car accident was caused by someone accused of DUI, there are several differences in your case, as compared with regular car accidents. These are complex cases, and you nearly always should be represented by a personal injury attorney.
DUI case is different because drunk driving is illegal. If you have suffered DUI injuries due to a drunk driver, you have a right to sue for compensation from him. Keep in mind however that this is a civil, not a criminal, lawsuit. Even if the local district attorney does file criminal charges, you will not obtain any compensation from that lawsuit. You can, however request a similar compensation, called restitution. District Attorney's office will send you needed forms to fill out.
When you file your civil lawsuit against the drunk driver, you are generally eligible for these types of damages:
- Economic: Medical, loss of wages, property damage, out of pocket expenses
- Non-economic: Pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of life enjoyment
- Punitive: Designed to punish the defendant for reckless actions
Usually, a DUI accident where you have suffered injuries can increase your settlement by up to 50% in some cases. This is because insurance companies have a special incentive in a DUI case to settle amicably; they know that if they must defend a suspected drunk driver at trial, there is an excellent chance they will be hammered for a large verdict and punitive damages.
Note however that obtaining punitive damages can be difficult without an attorney. A separate motion is required, and that motion must show specific facts that the DUI driver’s actions were especially reckless.
Beware of Settling DUI Injury Case Early
After the DUI car accident, the insurance company for the other driver may contact you. They will likely offer you a small sum to quickly settle the case. Remember that the car insurance company is motivated to settle the case for as little money as possible. They want this because they want to avoid paying for your future medical costs, which could be substantial.
The other party’s insurance company is not working on your behalf, so you should never accept any settlement or sign anything at this point. The insurance company DOES have incentive to settle, but you should have an experienced personal injury attorney negotiating for you.
In Oregon, you are required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance of $15,000. This can be used to pay your medical bills and lost wages up to $15,000. After you reach $15,000, you can use your health insurance to pay your medical bills. You can of course sue the other driver in civil court for damages and get most or all of this money back, plus other damages. Whether you must pay the benefits back to your insurance companies will depend upon what your personal injury attorney does early in the case.
Dram Shop Laws and Social Host Liability In Oregon
If you are hurt in a DUI accident by another party, the driver may not be the only party that may be sued for damages. You could be able to sue other people as well as businesses, depending upon the circumstances. In Oregon, according to ORS 471.565, you can hold an alcohol vendor liable after a DUI accident if you can prove the following:
- That the vendor sold alcohol to the DUI suspect while that person was ‘visibly’ drunk
- That the injured person did not ‘significantly contribute’ to the DUI driver’s drunken state
- As the injured person, you may be found to have ‘substantially contributed’ to the situation if you bought alcohol for the drunk person, or encouraged that person to buy alcohol.
Further, Oregon law states that private individuals who serve alcohol at parties and other social events can also be held liable for DUI injuries. You can sue under social host liability in Oregon if:
- The drunk person was ‘visibly intoxicated’ when served, and you the injured party did not contribute in a significant way to the intoxication
- The drunk person was under 21 and the social host failed to check ID
Uninsured/Underinsured Drunk Drivers
One of the problems with many DUI injury cases is that the driver either does not have insurance coverage or does not have enough. That is why using a personal injury attorney to bring a dram shop claim against a bar or restaurant can be vital.
If the drunk driver lacks sufficient insurance, you also can file a claim against your own insurance company. You are required in Oregon to carry car insurance for underinsured and uninsured drivers.
DUI Investigation Tips
- Right after the car accident, you are part of a criminal investigation of the other party. It is critical that you cooperate with the authorities. Each of your statements will be used to build a case against the accused driver.
- Right after the accident, you may be upset and want to see that the other driver is punished. Do not exaggerate your statements to the police however. Stick to the facts. Just tell them what you remember and nothing more.
- After the police are done with their investigation, you could be contacted by the district attorney for another interview. You also could be subpoenaed to testify in court. Your attorney can usually help you to prepare to testify against the at-fault driver.
- If the other driver is convicted of DUI, you could receive punitive damages in a lawsuit, in addition to regular damages. As noted earlier, in Oregon your damages can include:
Economic: Medical, loss of wages, property damage, out of pocket expenses
Non-economic: Pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of life enjoyment
Punitive: Designed to punish the defendant for reckless actions
- Punitive damages only will be awarded in cases where it is proven that the other driver acted in a reckless manner, as outlined in ORS 31.730. If punitive damages are awarded, 33% go to you and your attorney and the rest go to the state, as stated in ORS 31.735.
- If you were drunk yourself but did NOT cause the accident, note that your right to recover damages also is affected. You may not be able to collect non-economic damages, as noted in ORS 31.715. However, this may be overcome by your attorney if the other driver was drunk or was acting in a reckless manner.
Summary of DUI Injuries
In summary, being in an accident with a drunk driver can be even more complex and frustrating than a regular car accident. There will be more issues to deal with in the case, but the trade off is that you are more likely to obtain a larger settlement or verdict. Also, if there is a DUI conviction, you almost certainly have a very strong personal injury case to discuss with your attorney.
If you have been injured by a suspected drunk driver, please contact Herron Law LLC today for a no-obligation consultation.
5 Helpful Safety Tips to Avoid Drunk Driving Injuries
- Many people are simply social drinkers. If you ever plan on going out to have some drunks with friends or you plan on having a drink or two with dinner, make sure that you don't have to drive afterwards. Here are a few safety tips that you can use to help avoid a potential alcohol-related accident and drunk driving injuries:
- If you plan on drinking make sure that someone else plans on being the designated driver
- If your friend has had too much to drink, don't let them drive drunk. Take their keys from them.
- If you have been drinking, don't take any risks. You can always call a taxi a ride home.
- If you throw a party and you serve alcohol to your guests, remind them to drink responsibly. Make sure that every guest leaves with a designated sober driver.
Causes for Drunk Driving Injuries
Alcohol is a natural depressant that affects our physical and mental state. Many people forget that drinking not only impairs your reaction time and your reflexes, but you also have an altered depth perception and tend to forget the rules of the road. Alcohol can greatly affect your driving capabilities and not only put you and your passengers in danger, but also the vehicles and pedestrians around you. The most common causes for alcohol-related accidents include:
- Reckless Driving
- Wrong-way Driving
- Swerving into Other Lanes
- Running Red Lights
- Running Stop Signs
- Falling Asleep at the Wheel
Drunk driving is a preventable crime, which means that drunk driving injuries are only the result of another person's negligence and carelessness. Every 90 seconds someone sustains injuries in an alcohol-related accident, this number is far too great. That is why the law is trying to enforce ignition interlocks for every convicted drunk driving offender. The use of sobriety checkpoints is also strongly suggested so we can catch drunk drivers before they injure someone.
Searching for a lawyer for your drunk driving injury case in Portland?
Here at Herron Law, LLC we offer our injured clients the trusted and experienced legal counsel they deserve. We understand the devastation that alcohol-related accidents can have on a family and just how fast someone can lose their life because of other peoples' poor choices. We have been serving the Portland community for over 19 years and we have extensive courtroom experience and sharp litigation skills that we can put to work for you. Let us help protect your rights and recover the full amount of compensation that you are legally entitled to. We believe that the drunk driver should be held accountable for their actions.
Contact our firm today for a FREE & CONFIDENTIAL case evaluation.
Have you been injured in a drunk driving accident in Portland?
Impaired driving is the cause for over 30 fatalities every day throughout the United States. Statistically, this means that someone dies every 48 minutes as a result of a drunk driver. Alcohol-related crashes happen far too often and have grown to be a big problem here in the states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 10,228 people killed in drunk driving accidents back in 2010. This high number accounted for nearly 31% of all traffic-related deaths that year in the U.S.
Need a lawyer for a drunk driving accident case in Portland? If you have sustained drunk driving injuries or have lost a loved one in an alcohol-related accident, then we can relentlessly seek justice on your behalf. Speak with a Portland personal injury lawyer from our firm today for the aggressive legal representation you need to secure a fair settlement.