Drunk driving continues to be a serious threat on Washington’s roads and highways.
According to statistics compiled by the state’s Department of Transportation, drugs and alcohol caused over 6,000 collisions in 2015. Of these, 237 were fatal collisions and 299 caused serious injuries.
If you were injured by a drunk driver, you should consider whether bringing a lawsuit is your best step forward. Unfortunately, we receive many calls from injured people stating, “I was hit by a drunk driver with no insurance.”
In that case, your options may be more limited. Below, we consider your options for receiving money to cover expenses caused by the crash.
Check if You Have Uninsured Motorist Insurance
If someone strikes you, you unfortunately cannot make a claim on your own bodily injury liability coverage. This insurance, which is required in Washington, only covers victims that you end up hitting. In other words, you can’t tap this insurance if someone else is to blame for your injuries.
However, you might have bought uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, which is a great policy to have. It will pay out benefits if you were injured by a driver without car insurance, so check your paperwork to see if you picked it up.
UM coverage is not required in Washington, so many budget conscious drivers decide to go without it. If you are paying for UM coverage, then you can submit a claim to your UM insurer, and they will pay you benefits for medical bills as well as lost income.
Tap Your Personal Injury Protection Benefits
Washington insurers are required to offer PIP policies, although you are not required to buy one and can reject the coverage in writing. PIP is no-fault insurance which will cover a collision with an uninsured motorist. PIP benefits cover:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Loss of services
- Funeral expenses
A PIP policy must have a minimum of $10,000 in coverage, though you had the option of buying more. Go through your paperwork and check whether you have PIP coverage.
Sue the Drunk Driver
You always have the option of bringing a lawsuit in court against the drunk driver who injured you. You’ll need to show that they were negligent while operating their vehicle and that their negligence injured you. Often, in drunk driving cases, these are not difficult to prove.
The problem with suing an uninsured motorist is that they might not have sufficient assets to pay out, even if you win a lawsuit. A person who can’t buy insurance probably doesn’t own many assets; but if they do, you can seize those assets after winning your case. Even better, a person who causes an accident because they were drunk cannot wipe out a court judgment using bankruptcy.
You Can Sue any Business that Served the Drunk Driver Illegally
Washington’s dram shop law (RCW 66.44.200) makes it illegal for a business to sell liquor to a person who is apparently intoxicated. This law can apply to both bars as well as to any business that is licensed to sell liquor by the state.
A bartender should be properly trained to identify which patrons have already had too much to drink. For example, they should look for slurred speech, watery eyes, aggressive behavior, and lack of coordination or balance. If the bartender goes ahead and sells alcohol to the customer anyways, then you can sue them for the crash you suffered.
Dram shop cases are complicated to bring, so you should have an experienced attorney in your corner who knows how to obtain the necessary evidence. Remember, if the driver did not appear inebriated when served, it can be very difficult to win a dram shop case.
Rely on Your Health Insurance to Cover Medical Expenses
Sometimes, the only option if you were injured is to use your own health insurance to defray the cost of medical care. You might have insurance through a job, or you could have bought it on the Obamacare exchanges. Either way, your insurance can help pay for medical treatment after you cover the deductible.
Helping Injured Motorists for Decades
At Kapuza Lighty, we pride ourselves on tackling the toughest cases that come through our door. Uninsured motorists present unique problems, and we can help you identify which option for receiving compensation is the best.
Please reach out to us today. You can call us at 509-866-4166 or fill out our contact form. We are experienced Yakima car accident lawyers who provide compassionate legal services to the community. Contact us today.