Drunk driving is a major problem in Massachusetts and Rhode Island; nationally, it continues to be one of the leading causes of fatal accidents. The statistics reveal just how bad the problem truly is: Someone dies in a drunk-driving accident every 51 minutes, and every two minutes, someone is seriously injured by a drunk driver.
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While the criminal justice system is designed to ensure that drunk drivers are punished for their poor decision-making, it does nothing to help the victims of drunk driving accidents secure compensation for their losses. These losses – as you may already know all too well – can be substantial. From bills for emergency treatment to the costs of ongoing therapy and rehabilitation, the medical expenses alone can be too much for many families to bear. When you add in the loss of income, pain and suffering, loss of support, and the rest of the long list of damages that are all-too-common in drunk driving accidents, the harm can easily climb into the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.
Aggressive Advocates for Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents
At Bottaro Law Firm, we are committed to helping victims of drunk drivers stand up for their legal rights. We are passionate about what we do, and in each case, we focus on making sure that our clients receive the largest possible insurance settlements or court verdicts for their losses. While this will almost invariably involve filing a claim against the drunk driver, in many cases, it will involve filing claims against other responsible parties, as well.
Who is Financially Responsible for Drunk Driving Accidents?
In a typical drunk driving accident, the party that is most obviously responsible is the driver. It is the drunk driver who chose to put himself or herself in a position to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, and the drunk driver deserves to be held accountable for this tragic mistake.
However, in many cases, the drunk driver is not the only one who can be held financially responsible. Often, victims will also be able to seek compensation from either a licensed liquor establishment or a social host who improperly served the drunk driver.
Dram Shop Liability in Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Under what are known as “dram shop” laws, licensed liquor establishments that over-serve intoxicated drivers can be held financially liable for ensuing drunk driving collisions. These laws require bartenders, servers, and other employees to all be properly trained to identify signs of impairment, and they require licensed liquor establishments to take appropriate steps to avoid serving alcohol to patrons who are intoxicated.
Establishments that can be subject to dram shop liability include:
- Liquor stores
- Social clubs
- Sports stadiums
These types of establishments will usually carry substantial insurance policies to protect themselves, in the event that one of their patrons cause an accident. As a result, DUI victims who are injured by drunk drivers coming from licensed liquor establishments can often file insurance claims against both the driver’s auto liability policy and the establishment’s dram shop liability policy.
“Social Host” Liability in DUI Collisions
Massachusetts and Rhode Island both also have laws that make “social hosts” liable for certain drunk driving accidents. The definition of a “social host” is somewhat complicated, but the easiest example to think about is someone who hosts a house party where alcohol is being served. If the social host serves alcohol to a minor who subsequently causes a drunk driving accident, in many cases, the social host will be liable for the victims’ injuries.
As with dram shop cases, in the case of social host liability, the social host is liable in addition to – not instead of – the drunk driver. This is critical, because it means that victims potentially have two sources of financial compensation for their injuries.
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Schedule a Free Consultation about Your DUI Accident in Massachusetts or Rhode Island
When you contact us about your drunk driving accident, we will conduct a thorough investigation to identify all of the parties that may be responsible for your injuries and losses. We want to help you secure maximum compensation, and our “No Fee Guarantee” means that our interests are 100 percent aligned with yours. To learn more about our guarantee and find out if you may be entitled to a significant financial recovery, call (401) 777-7777 or send us a message online today.
DUI Personal Injury FAQs
What should I do if I was hurt in an accident with a drunk driver?
If you were involved in an accident with a drunk driver, the first and most important thing to do is to seek medical treatment immediately by contacting the authorities. No matter how mild or insignificant you think your injuries might be, it is important to get checked out by a medical professional. Even small injuries may fester into something more serious if not treated in a timely manner.
If you are able to do so, you should observe and document as much as possible while at the scene of the accident. Talk to witnesses and take photographs. If you are unable to gather this information at the time of the accident, make sure to request copies of your medical records and the relevant police reports, including witness statements and contact information.
Shortly following your accident with a drunk driver, you likely will be contacted by a representative of his or her liability insurance company. It is very important that you do not discuss your case with or give any statements to an insurance company investigator without first consulting with a reputable attorney with significant experience handling drunk driving accident cases, also known as DUI personal injury cases.
The legal team at the Bottaro Law Firm can assist you in all aspects of your case, including negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf to ensure that you receive the best possible results.
Can I file a personal injury action against the drunk driver in order to obtain damages?
Yes. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, drunk drivers involved in accidents causing personal injuries or death generally are prosecuted under the relevant criminal code. And, while a drunk driver certainly deserves to face such prosecution, it does little to help the injured party or parties receive compensation for their suffering – whether economically, physically, or mentally.
However, if you are injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, you may be able to bring a civil, personal injury action against the driver, completely separate from any pending criminal case. A civil DUI personal injury lawsuit is typically based on the legal theories of negligence or wrongful death.
In a drunk driving accident claim based on negligence, you, as the injured party, must successfully prove the following elements:
- That the drunk driver had a duty to you to drive reasonably and with care;
- That the drunk driver breached that duty to you by driving while intoxicated;
- Because the driver was drunk, he or she caused an accident; and
- That accident directly caused your injuries.
In addition to bringing a basic negligence claim, you also may be able to bring a separate claim of negligence per se against the drunk driver. A defendant is negligent per se if a plaintiff can demonstrate the following elements:
- The defendant violated a specific law (i.e., the drunk driving statute);
- That said law provides for a specific criminal penalty (prison);
- That the defendant’s conduct caused a harm that the law specifically was meant to deter (injuring others due to DUI); and
- That the plaintiff is a member of a group which the law was designed to protect (you).
Both Massachusetts and Rhode Island courts allow claims based on negligence per se.
If a loved one or relative died because of injuries sustained in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim.
Can I file a lawsuit against anyone else other than the drunk driver?
There are many potential parties that may be liable for your injuries caused by a drunk driving accident, including the following:
- The drunk driver’s liability insurance company;
- If the drunk driver has insufficient or no liability insurance coverage, you may be able to name your own insurance company in the lawsuit based on your underinsured or uninsured motorist policy;
- The drunk driver’s employer and/or the employer’s insurance company if the driver was performing work duties (i.e., on the job) at the time of the accident;
- Under certain circumstances, a licensed liquor establishment or social host that served alcohol to the drunk driver prior to the accident. Both Massachusetts and Rhode island have “dram shop” acts.
The legal team at the Bottaro Law Firm has successfully pursued DUI personal injury cases against all of these types of defendants.
What are the types of damages I can recover in a DUI personal injury case?
There are different types of potential damages that you may be able to recover, depending on the type of action you bring.
Typically, in a drunk driving accident personal injury action, you may be able to recover economic, compensatory damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc., and noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, etc.
In wrongful death actions, loved ones and representatives of the deceased individual’s estate may be able to recover compensatory damages, noneconomic damages, and possibly punitive damages, which are awarded to the plaintiff for the purpose of punishing the defendant and to deter others from drunk driving.
Why should I hire an attorney to help me bring a drunk driving accident personal injury action?
In a DUI personal injury case, the attorney you hire will handle your case by dealing directly with the defendants, insurance companies, and the court. An attorney will also develop and strengthen your case by conducting a comprehensive investigation of the accident and the events leading up to it in order to identify all potential defendants and the many types of potential damages that you may be entitled. A legal team with significant experience bringing successful drunk driving accident cases will help you navigate the legal system while representing your best interests.