Average Settlement for Being Hit By a Drunk Driver
Drunk driving poses a serious public health risk. According to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control, one in three U.S. traffic deaths involve a drunk driver. Despite a steady decline from their peak of 5,412 in 1989, California experiences thousands of drunk driving fatalities each year.
The reduction in fatalities is a positive development, as is the fact that Californians admit to getting behind the wheel after drinking too much at a rate that is lower than the national average. However, drunk driving accidents continue to be a serious public health problem with far-reaching consequences.
If you or a loved one is hit by a drunk driver, you know personally how such an event can affect your life. At this point, you may have many questions. Questions like:
- What should you do next?
- What can you expect from a hit by drunk driver settlement?
- Do you need a lawyer?
- What amount is typical in drunk driver accident settlements?
These are valid questions. Starpoint Law has the answers.
Is There an Average Settlement For Drunk Driving Accidents?
No. There is no average settlement for drunk driving lawsuit settlements. Every accident has a unique set of circumstances surrounding it, so it is impossible to assign a dollar value to an 'average' drunk driving accident settlement. However, there are certain factors that are critical in determining a drunk driver settlement amount.
Important Factors Affecting Drunk Driver Settlement Amounts
While there are many factors that will affect the final amount of a drunk driver settlement, the most critical factors are the extent and type of damages, and comparative fault or negligence.
As with most states, in California, damages are split into economic and non-economic damages. Essentially, economic damages are monetary damages. They include:
- Cost to repair property damage;
- Medical costs (including hospital stays, mental health evaluations, physical rehabilitation, surgery, etc.);
- Funeral or burial costs;
- Loss of earning potential;
- Loss of wages; and
- Loss of employment or loss of future wages.
All of these damages have a finite monetary value attached to them. Damages with a high value, such as death, surgery, or loss of employment, can significantly increase the final dollar amount of a settlement.
On the other hand, non-economic damages cause damage but don't have a specific monetary value. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of society and companionship; and
- Injury to reputation or humiliation.
These damages don't cost money. You do not receive a bill for the pain you suffer but that does not make the damage that pain causes any less real.
California Law also permits the recovery of punitive damages in drunk driving cases. Punitive damages that are awarded to punish the defendant for willful and dangerous conduct. To recover punitive damages, you must show that:
- the drunk driver voluntarily consumed alcohol or drugs to the point of intoxication; and
- The drunk driver knew that he/she would have to drive after.
It also helps to show that the drunk driver had driven drunk in the past. Your lawyer can find this information through discovery.
Whether or not these damages apply to your case, and to what extent, can affect your final settlement amount. It’s important to consult an attorney immediately if you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver.
Comparative Fault or Negligence
California is a 'pure comparative negligence' state. According to pure comparative negligence rules, damages are only recoverable by someone based on their proportion of fault. For example, if you and the other party are both equally at fault, you are equally responsible for damages. Similarly, if you are 20% at fault, the other party is responsible for 80% of the damages.
In an accident involving a drunk driver, comparative fault would apply if, for example, the person struck by a drunk driver was walking in the middle of a dark road, wearing dark clothing and facing away from traffic. In that situation, the victim’s actions likely contributed to the accident.
Comparative fault would come into play if a drunk driver's vehicle was struck by another motorist who was texting and driving. In that situation, the drunk driver would likely face criminal charges. However, in a civil claim, the comparative fault or negligence of the person texting while driving would come into play and potentially affect the final settlement amount.
How A Lawyer Can Help Resolve DUI Accident Settlements
Because each drunk driving accident case is unique, it is crucial to have a lawyer on your side. Your lawyer will help you collect evidence and determine the extent of damages. Importantly, a lawyer will also help navigate comparative negligence rules to show that you are not at fault. The other party's insurance company will try to prove you are 100% at fault and has lawyers to do so. To be on equal footing, you should have a lawyer too.
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one is hit by a drunk driver, we at Starpoint Law are here to help. Based in Los Angeles, we focus on helping our clients get the justice they deserve and giving back to our community.