According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, drunk-driving accidents killed more than 10,000 individuals in 2010, or more than one person per hour. In Colorado, approximately 30,000 drunk drivers are arrested every year. Drunk driving can lead to both criminal and civil liability.
Basis for damages
Colorado courts have held that violations of a law can constitute negligence per se. This means that since drunk driving is against the law, drunk driving, by itself, can potentially lead to an automatic determination of negligence. In your civil lawsuit, your lawyer may therefore first attempt to establish that the other driver violated the law by driving under the influence.
Scope of available damages
If you can successfully establish that the drunk driver’s negligence caused you harm, you may be able to collect damages. The scope of damages can include direct damages, such as hospital and physical therapy expenses, indirect damages, such as pain and suffering and permanent impairment, and, in the case of a suit for wrongful death, damages to compensate for the loss of companionship of a loved one.
Courts in Colorado have also imposed punitive damages in cases against drunk drivers on the theory that it is in the public interest to punish those who engage in such reckless conduct.
Getting compensation in a drunk-driving accident
To receive compensation for your injuries following a drunk-driving accident, you must establish that the conduct of the drunk driver harmed you or a family member. The specific damage amount largely depends on the extent of harm caused.
To support your case, you and your attorney must gather evidence that describes the nature of the harm and the extent of your injuries:
- Police reports showing the blood alcohol content of the driver
- Accident reports
- Pictures of the damaged vehicle
- Hospital bills
- Medical evaluations showing the extent of your injuries (including future medical needs)
Statute of limitations
If you or a family member is injured by a drunk driver, you must sue within three years of the accident. Failing to sue within this timeframe may prevent you from recovering damages.
Following a drunk-driving accident, you should retain an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you clearly and effectively present the facts and circumstances to allow for maximum recovery of damages. For more than 20 years, Bell & Pollock, P.C. has been settling and winning civil claims against drunk drivers throughout Colorado.