By Marc Diller, Esq.
DILLER LAW, LLP
If you were injured by a drunk driver, can you recover compensation from the drunk driver?
When a drunk driver injures you in Massachusetts, the drunk driver’s auto insurance company generally will defend and indemnify the drunk driver for the injuries his negligent acts caused you. Unfortunately, victims of drunk driving accidents can suffer serious injuries, can incur significant medical expenses and can lose substantial income resulting from those injuries. As a result, the drunk driver’s insurance may not be enough to cover your accident-related damages. Any time you have been the victim of a drunk driving accident, you should consult with an experienced attorney who can help assist you in recovering fair compensation under the circumstances.
What if the drunk driver does not have enough insurance coverage to compensate me for my injuries?
If the drunk driver does not have enough coverage for injuries caused by the drunk driver’s negligence, you should consult with a personal injury attorney about whether or not you can receive additional compensation from your own uninsured and/or underinsured coverage. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to review your policy coverage and advise you whether you may have rights to recover from your own policy.
Even if the drunk driver does not have adequate insurance to cover your injuries, you can recover against the drunk driver, personally. If the drunk driver’s insurance is not sufficient to cover your damages, a good personal injury lawyer can request that the court attach the drunk driver’s assets including but not limited to real estate and/or bank accounts. Moreover, public policy and the law provides protection to victims of drunk driving accidents because if you get a judgment against a drunk driver for injuries the drunk driver caused you in an accident, the drunk driver cannot discharge that debt in bankruptcy.
Time is a factor with respect to identifying and securing assets. The more time that passes, the more opportunity the negligent drunk driver has to squander or hide his assets. For example, the drunk driver may encumber and/or sell his assets to pay the cost of hiring a criminal attorney. It, therefore, is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as practicable about your case.
Can anyone other than the drunk driver be legally responsible for causing my injuries?
More than just investigating the drunk driver’s personal exposure, a good personal injury lawyer will investigate where and how that drunk driver became intoxicated and consumed the last drink. As a result, it is important that you consult with a personal injury lawyer early in the process to facilitate that investigation.
A good personal injury lawyer will help you discover whether the person who served and/or supplied the alcohol to the drunk driver should have stopped serving the drunk driver before s/he got behind the wheel of a car and whether anyone could have prevented your injury from occurring. Under some circumstances, Massachusetts’ courts have said that certain injuries are foreseeable and the server/supplier of the alcohol owed the victim a duty to prevent such injuries. As a result, your personal injury lawyer should find out who served the drunk driver his last drink. For example:
• A bartender and/or restaurant server (“server”) may be responsible for injuries caused by a drunk driver when they serve the drunk driver more alcohol after the driver appeared visibly intoxicated and the server could or should have expected the drunk driver to operate a vehicle.
• The host of a social party may be responsible for injuries caused by a drunk driver when the host controls the alcohol served to an already visibly intoxicated guest knowing that such guest may drive.
• An employer who hosts a social event (i.e. a holiday party) may be responsible for injuries caused by its drunk driving employee when the employer controlled the alcohol served to the already visibly intoxicated employee knowing that such employee may drive.
An experienced personal injury attorney will also look into whether the drunk driver consumed the alcohol while in the scope of employment as that can open the door to additional employer liability.
• The age and/or fitness of the drunk driver may also dictate whether you have a right to recover from someone other than the drunk driver. An experienced personal injury lawyer would want to know the age of the drunk driver and/or the history of that drunk driver. The supplier of alcohol may have a duty not to allow an underage (i.e. 17 years old) and/or unfit drinker (i.e. 2 prior convictions) to consume alcohol when it is reasonably foreseeable that such drinker may drive.
What if my own intoxication caused my own injury? Do I have any right to recover for those injuries?
The Courts, under some circumstances, have found servers and/or hosts responsible for the injuries a drinker causes himself. For example, if a minor is permitted to drink alcohol and the server and/or host should have known that such drinker is a minor, under certain circumstances, the server and/or host may be liable for causing the minor drinker’s injuries.
Ultimately, drunk driving causes many serious injuries and could or should be prevented. If you have been victimized by a drunk driver, you should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as practicable. As noted, many different facts come into play when determining your rights and what you should do to preserve them. You should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and determine whether any sort of claim or recovery can be made in relation to your drunk driving related injuries. Most reputable attorneys will provide a free consultation for this sort of case.
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For more information or a free confidential case review, contact a personal injury lawyer at Diller Law by calling (617) 523-7771, or filling out the form on the right of this page.