Alcohol is the number one contributing cause of deaths from automobile accidents. In Wisconsin, approximately 190 deaths a year are caused by drivers who are drunk. Nearly a third of all pedestrian and motorcycle accident victims involve drunk drivers.
The number of injuries caused by drunk drivers each year is staggering. Although the number has been decreasing in recent years, nearly 3,000 people are injured by drunk drivers on Wisconsin roadways every year.
INVESTIGATING DRUNK DRIVING CAR ACCIDENTS
When a drunk driver has caused serious injury or death of others, law enforcement will conduct a thorough investigation. In addition to testing the suspect’s blood alcohol level, officers will typically try to locate witnesses to help establish a timeline for where the suspect was drinking and how much he or she consumed. Unfortunately, law enforcements investigative information is not available to the victim, until after the prosecution of the drunk driver. Experienced car accident lawyers know the importance of conducting independent investigations to supplement what will eventually be released by law enforcement.
Experienced car accident lawyers will have investigators do the following in order to preserve evidence that will be necessary to get full compensation for victims of drunk drivers:
- Photograph the scene and the vehicles involved in the accident.
- Measure all distances at the accident site from available landmarks, gouges in the roadway, tire tracks on the shoulder or off of the road.
- Locate witnesses both to the accident and to the perpetrators drinking prior to the collision.
- Examine and photograph the interior of the victim’s vehicle, to later help explain how the victim died or sustained the serious injuries from the drunk driving accident.
WHAT TYPE OF RECOVERIES ARE AVAILABLE FOR DRUNK DRIVING CAR ACCIDENTS?
In addition to compensation for wrongful death or injuries caused by a drunk driver, punitive damages may also be awarded. The following factors have been identified by Wisconsin cases as relevant to whether punitive damages will be awarded:
- The level of alcohol concentration in the drunk driver’s system at the time of the collision.
- Whether the drunk driver had previously been convicted of other drinking and driving offenses.
- How reckless the drunk driver was operating his or her vehicle. This would include excessive speed, ignoring traffic control signals like stop signs and traffic control lights, racing with other drivers and failing to keep the vehicle within the proper lane of travel.
Punitive damages are generally only collectible from the drunk driver, not the driver’s insurance company. However, some commercial insurance policies do cover punitive damages. It is important that an experienced car accident attorney examine all insurance policies that might apply to the accident that caused a death or serious bodily injury.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE INJURED OR A LOVED ONE IS KILLED BY A DRUNK DRIVER?
It is important that victims of drunk drivers and their families cooperate with the police investigation. However, it is also important to consult with an experienced car accident injury attorney as well. While the police have an important role to play in the investigation of a drunk driver, an experienced personal injury attorney will make sure that an independent investigation is also conducted. Critical evidence can be lost, if it is not discovered and documented shortly after an injury crash. Many times, the evidence of gouge marks, skid marks, tire tracks off the roadway, etc. only lasts a number of days or possibly weeks after an automobile crash. An experienced attorney will know what to have investigators look for and how to preserve the evidence properly for use in pursuing a recovery for the drunk driving accident victim.