Drunk driving is not only a crime, but it’s also a negligent and reckless act that can leave those involved to suffer injuries and extensive financial and emotional hardship. If you were hurt by a drunk driver, you could be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries.
Collecting evidence after a drunk driving car accident is essential to building a robust case for compensation. Further, you must act fast in retrieving it, as evidence can fade over time. There are certain steps you should take directly following the accident, as they could make a difference in your drunk driving accident claim. Contacting an experienced car accident lawyer should be a priority following your accident involving a drunk driver.
Evidence to Collect Immediately at the Scene of a Drunk Driving Accident
First and foremost, you should check yourself and others involved in the accident for injuries. Legally, you have a duty to render aid to anyone who is injured. You must also report the crash to law enforcement if there are physical injuries.
Some states always mandate reporting car accidents when property damage occurs. Failure to report the crash or assist the injured may constitute a crime. After calling 911, if you are able, you should begin gathering the evidence you may need later.
Notice Visible Signs of Drunk Driving
If you notice any signs of the other driver’s impairment, make a note of them. Documenting the driver’s behavior can be beneficial in demonstrating that he or she was drunk at the time of the crash.
Signs of drunk driving include:
- Sudden stopping
- Rapid acceleration and deceleration
- Delayed reaction to traffic lights
- Braking erratically
- Following too closely
- Striking or narrowly avoiding objects and people
- Swerving or drifting in and out of lanes
- Driving along sidewalks and curbs
- Driving down the wrong side of the road
Even if they don’t have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the statutory limit (0.08 in most states), and other evidence demonstrates that they were impaired at the time, a driver can be on the hook for your damages. The signs of inebriation you notice and the DUI conviction can be an asset in supporting your claim for compensation.
Obtain a Crash Report
If you were in a drunk driving accident and suffered injuries or property damage, your state may require you to report it to the police immediately. When officers arrive at the scene of the crash, they will document the accident in a report.
It may include information about who was involved in the crash, an account of what happened, when it occurred, a diagram of the collision, the other driver’s state of intoxication, and the officer’s determination of who caused the accident.
The report is crucial documentation in showing that the drinking and driving accident occurred. Additionally, it is evidence that may help your car accident lawyer investigate the accident and determine liability. The crash report may be available at the scene of the crash. If not, you can request the report number so you can obtain a copy of it later.
Police Officer Contact Information
Request the responding officer’s name, phone number, and badge number so that you can get in contact with him or her later on. You may need to ask questions or request the police report. Keep this information in a safe place.
Gather Witness Information and Statements
Obtaining witness statements can be integral to understanding how the drunk driving accident occurred. You may have missed some of the driver’s actions that led up to the collision. Not to mention, injuries and disorientation from the jolt could cause you to forget details.
Having an eyewitness account of the collision can support your claims of what happened and fill in any gaps. Ask eyewitnesses what they saw and if they would be willing to give a statement to the police. If so, request their contact information so that you (or, more likely, your attorney) can follow up with them with questions later on.
Take Photos and Video of the Crash Scene
Photos and videos of the crash scene are key pieces of evidence and investigative tools. You should take pictures and videos of the vehicles involved at different angles to show a comprehensive view of the damage. Both the vehicle damage and the positioning of the cars may provide insight into how the collision occurred and who may be at fault based on the point of impact.
Also, take photos of the crash location, such as street signs, traffic lights, nearby businesses, or landmarks, especially if they sustained damages. The pictures can demonstrate the severity of the crash.
Blood Alcohol Concentration Test Results
If the drunk driver took any tests to measure their blood alcohol concentration level, you may need the results of the test to support your case. If they took a breath test at the scene or shortly after they left, the crash report may indicate those results.
However, you may have a considerable amount of difficulty obtaining the results of a breathalyzer test, urine test, or blood test for the at-fault driver. A car accident attorney can help your retrieve evidence indicating the driver’s level of intoxication.
If the drunk driver was convicted of a DUI or other driving offenses, in most cases, this information is accessible online or through the courts. Criminal offenses and convictions are generally considered public records.
Although the verdict doesn’t affect your compensatory award, a lawyer can monitor the progression of the intoxicated driver’s DUI case and obtain public records noting their conviction to support your claim.
The Other Driver’s Previous Driving Record
The drunk driver’s driving record may also be relevant to your personal injury case, as it can indicate their history of driving offenses. Such evidence may be important because it supports your assertion that the other driver caused the car crash.
A driver with repeated traffic violations and DUI offenses is likely to draw the ire of a jury or judge who may award punitive damages in cases, especially if the driver has a history of dangerous behavior. Although rarely awarded, punitive damages aim to punish the driver for their gross negligence.
Through public records, your attorney can obtain evidence such as DMV records, driving history, traffic citations, driver status, and criminal records.
Photos and Videos of Injuries
You should also take photos of your injuries after the accident. Do this as soon as possible because you want to capture how bad the accident was from the start. Maybe ask someone to take pictures of you at the hospital or at your home while you recover.
You should also take pictures as the injury progresses or evolves. For instance, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, some soft tissue injuries might only present themselves with swelling at first, but after a few days, may turn into bruises. Capture any significant developments that occur.
Collecting Proof of Your Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident
In addition to gathering evidence of the car crash and the at-fault driver’s liability, you must compile documented proof of your accident-related losses. Your economic and non-economic losses are compensable through a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Proof of Financial Losses
With that in mind, you must save all documentation related to your financial losses, such as:
- Medical bills
- Receipts for necessary products and services
- Bank statements
- Check stubs
- Work schedules
- Vehicle repair estimates
An attorney can use these documents to calculate your financial losses, such as past and future medical care costs, lost income, reduced earning capacity, and property damage expenses. If you lost a loved one to a drunk driving accident, you may qualify to recover their funeral and burial costs.
Proof of Pain and Suffering
You’ll also need something to back up any demand for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. These damages are intangible and don’t have any financial value.
In this case, your attorney may determine the value of your damages based on things like:
- Your age
- The severity of your injuries
- Health status prior to injury
- Likelihood of recovery
- Any permanent or temporary disability
- Impact of the injury on your life, work, and relationships
- The compensation you are entitled to recover for economic damages
To support your claim for compensation, your drunk driving accident lawyer may obtain:
- Medical records
- Special doctor’s reports
- Testimony from people familiar with your situation
- Your own accounts of your life since the accident
- Research studies
- Expert testimony from medical practitioners, economists, life care planners, mental health experts, specialists in disability services, etc.
- Photos and videos of your injuries and daily life since the crash
Satisfying the Standard of Proof for a Drunk Driving Car Accident Case
Some negligent acts are crimes, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Acts like these go through criminal court but can be brought to civil court when they harm another person. Obtaining compensation for a drunk driving accident means initiating a civil claim. The standard of proof for these cases is that you need to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused your harm.
You may complete this task by demonstrating the theory of negligence, which consists of:
- The other party owed you a legal duty of care.
- They failed to uphold that duty by driving under the influence of alcohol
- They caused a drunk driving car accident and your injuries.
- You have damages.
Because a criminal case and a civil case are distinct, they can occur at the same time. So, you can pursue damages even while the defendant goes through criminal proceedings. Moreover, you can use a conviction arising out of the drunk driving accident as evidence to support your claim.
A Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Can Help You Collect the Evidence You Need
Collecting evidence after a drunk driving car accident can be challenging for one person to do alone, especially when hurt. As a car accident victim, your primary focus should be on recovering from your injuries. If you are able, gather as much information at the scene of the accident as possible, then contact a drunk driving accident lawyer’s office to help you collect the rest and take care of the rest of your case.
- Compile and analyze evidence
- Evaluate your past and future damages
- Fight for your right to compensation during settlement negotiations
- Identify the responsible parties
- Advocate for you throughout all legal proceedings
- Deal with all communication with the involved parties
Many law firms that take drunk driving accident cases work on a contingency-fee-basis. That way, you don’t pay any upfront, hourly, or out-of-pocket fees. Instead, they will take a pre-determined portion. They also usually offer free consultations, so you don’t have anything to lose.