The same moment you get behind the wheel of your car, someone else is getting behind the wheel of their vehicle, drunk. If the two of you meet on the roadway, the results can be devastating for you and your passengers. If you think a drunk driving accident won’t happen to you, think again. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimates that two out of three people will have an encounter with a drunk driver on the road during their lifetime. If you or someone you love was injured due to a drunk driver’s negligence, consider contacting a drunk driving injury attorney to discuss your options.
Why People Choose to Drink and Drive
Numerous public safety campaigns denounce drinking and driving and promote smarter choices, like calling for a ride. Despite public relations efforts targeting this nation-wide problem, people continue to engage in reckless drunk driving behavior. Whether they are drinking to reduce stress or to celebrate a special occasion, their choice to drive home afterward can drastically change your life.
There are several reasons why people choose to drink and drive. One key reason is because of the way alcohol affects the human brain. Alcohol’s impact on brain chemistry causes a person’s neurotransmitters to influence their thought processes. The result leaves drunk drivers feeling invincible—incapable of being conquered, overcome, or subdued. The thoughts that home isn’t far away and that getting caught “won’t happen to me” add to the false sense of security drunk drivers experience.
Stopping a drunk driver before they crash into you is nearly impossible. Washington is among the few states where sobriety checkpoints are illegal and considered a violation of citizens’ personal rights. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), individuals drive drunk an average of 80 times before their first arrest. The consequence of an arrest and conviction in Washington includes license suspension, fines, and possible jail time.
For some drivers, arrest and punishment are not enough to deter them from repeating their dangerous behavior. One study estimates that 30 percent of offenders continue to drink and drive once they are allowed back behind the wheel.
No amount of defensive driving can prevent a drunk driver from colliding with your car. If this happens to you, call 911 immediately, accept medical attention, and cooperate with law enforcement. Once the dust settles and you know the extent of your injuries, consult with an attorney to discuss your case.
How Alcohol Affects a Driver
Operating a motor vehicle requires certain skills, including the ability to think clearly and react quickly. Alcohol impairs these skills and more as it impacts a person’s brain function and central nervous system.
To determine a driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level, law enforcement officers use either a breathalyzer or a blood test. BAC is a measure of the percentage of alcohol in a person’s blood at any given time. In Washington, the legal BAC limit is 0.08 for drivers 21 years and older, 0.04 for commercial drivers, and .02 for underage drivers.
Alcohol begins to affect the body at 0.02 BAC. During this early stage of drinking, a driver experiences a loss of judgment and a decline in visual function. By 0.05 percent, problems like lowered alertness and difficulty steering start to develop. Once a driver reaches the legal limit of 0.08, they have poor muscle coordination and a reduced capacity for processing information.
How quickly one becomes impaired when drinking depends upon a variety of factors including one’s gender, age, and weight. The NHTSA reports that in 2017, 21 percent of fatal drunk driving accidents involved men while 17 percent involved women.
Underage Drinking and Driving
Receiving a driver’s license is one of life’s many milestones. For teens, this new pass to freedom also comes with inexperience and peer pressure. Both are dangerous for other drivers sharing the road with teens.
Underage drinking is illegal in Washington. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol at any level is also illegal for people under 21. Washington has a Zero Tolerance Law, meaning anyone who is caught driving with a BAC of 0.02 to 0.07 percent results in a possible license suspension for 90 days.
Strict punishments often have little meaning for teens seeking peer acceptance. Social media—where pictures of parties and drinking abound—influence teen decisions regarding alcohol. Consider the following statistics regarding drinking and driving:
- 20 percent of teens reported riding with an impaired teen driver at least once within the past month;
- Teens who ride with impaired drivers or who drink underage are more likely to drive impaired; and
- Teen drivers are less likely to drink and drive than adults, however, when they do, the crash risk is significantly higher.
Teens are known for taking risks. This is due in part to the fact that the parts of their brains governing impulse control and decision making aren’t fully developed. Teens are also less likely to fully understand the consequences of their actions.
Encountering an inexperienced and drunk teen driver is not a matter of if but rather when. Their negligence behind the wheel demands accountability, just as it does for adults. If a teen driver’s reckless behavior caused you serious bodily harm, you deserve justice.
Common Injuries Caused by Drunk Drivers
With an average weight of 4,000 pounds, a vehicle operated by a drunk driver becomes a dangerous weapon. There is little time for you to react when an out-of-control car hits you head-on, t-bones you in an intersection, or rear-ends you. You may never see the vehicle coming and even if you do, there’s little chance of avoiding the collision.
The brunt force of the impact can result in one or more serious injuries. Here are just a few examples of traumatic injuries that can result from a collision with a drunk driver:
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – The CDC defines a TBI as a sudden bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. A severe Traumatic Brain Injury can affect a person’s cognitive and motor function. It can also affect their senses, such as hearing or vision. Your loved one may never return to the person you knew before the accident.
Your loved one may need specialized care at home or in a nursing home. The average monthly cost of a private nursing home room in Washington is $9,700, higher than the national average of $8,300. While you want the best care possible for your loved one, these costs can quickly escalate into an unmanageable amount. Pursuing a fair settlement that will cover current and estimated future costs is essential for obtaining quality care.
Spinal cord injury – The spinal cord performs important work in your body by communicating with the brain. The brain and the spinal cord control three main bodily functions:
- Motor: Directing your body’s voluntary muscle movements.
- Sensory: Monitoring sensation through touch, pressure, temperature, and pain.
- Autonomic: Regulating digestion, urination, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
An injury to the spinal cord is either complete or incomplete. A complete injury means there is no sensation or movement below the point of injury. An incomplete injury means limited sensation and movement is present. Both types of spinal cord injuries can result in short-term or permanent paralysis, making a power chair, home modifications, and vehicle accessibility modifications necessary.
The costs associated with a spinal cord injury can reach into the millions of dollars each year. Replacing medical equipment and frequent hospital stays can add to the ever-growing medical costs for your loved one.
Broken bones – With more than 200 bones in the human body, the chances of breaking one or multiple bones in a car accident is very real. A severe break may require surgery and extensive physical therapy. Patients with broken limbs often need assistance with daily tasks while they heal.
Neck and back injuries – A neck injury can make the simple movement of turning your head painful or impossible. A back injury can also limit movement, preventing you from lifting your child or sitting at your desk. Surgeries, braces to support the injury, and long recovery times are common with these types of injuries.
Internal injuries – Perhaps the most dangerous types of injuries are those that cannot be seen with the naked eye. You may feel fine following a collision with a drunk driver, yet internally, you may have bleeding or organ damage. Internal injuries are why it is so important to accept transport from the scene to a hospital.
Only a trained medical professional can properly diagnose internal injuries. By using such tests as an MRI or a CT Scan, a doctor can properly address any urgent problems like internal bleeding.
Planning for your long-term medical needs is essential to receiving the care you deserve. Unexpected complications relating to your injuries can occur or you may need to relocate closer to a larger medical facility. Medical costs only increase over time, and financially securing your future is imperative.
Why Fair Compensation Matters
Insurance company representatives typically prefer to settle cases quickly. When you receive an initial settlement offer, the amount may appear attractive to you and your family. The reality is that an initial settlement amount usually isn’t nearly enough to cover your future medical needs.
The aftermath of a traumatic accident leaves you in no position to make serious financial decisions. And representatives from insurance companies always offer the least amount possible—their interest is in protecting the company they represent and not you.
Having someone on your side who understands car accident law is essential for receiving a settlement you deserve. It affords you the peace-of-mind you need to rest and to focus on your health.
While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This is why discussing your case with a car accident attorney is a smart idea. No one should suffer physical, financial, and emotional stress due to another driver’s negligence.
Drunk Drivers Are Everywhere
The sad reality is that drunk drivers surround us as we drive. We may not know that someone just made the careless decision to get behind the wheel drunk until it is too late.
Stricter laws and punishment help but don’t always deter future behavior. A shocking 50 to 75 percent of drivers who lost their license due to a DUI conviction reportedly drive illegally without their license. Even more shocking are reports from the FBI stating that every day, 300,000 people drive drunk in the United States. Of those, only 4,000 are caught by law enforcement.
As long as people continue to take risks with alcohol and driving, you and your family are in harm’s way. Experiencing catastrophic injuries due to no fault of your own demands justice. Some car accident attorneys offer free case evaluations. By reviewing your case with a highly skilled attorney, you can learn about your best options for moving forward.
A Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Can Give You More Information About Your Case
Meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The statute of limitations for filing your case imposes a strict timeline for pursuing litigation. Be sure to gather any evidence, such as photos of the accident scene and contact information for witnesses. This information can greatly assist an attorney in evaluating your case.
Drinking and driving is irresponsible and dangerous. Some drivers never learn and continue to risk other people’s safety by getting behind the wheel drunk. Choosing to drive after a few drinks is a personal—and reckless—decision.
Having someone you can trust on your side during this difficult time is priceless. It allows you to focus on your top priorities, such as your health and your family. Drunk drivers are everywhere and until people stop choosing to engage in this irresponsible behavior, we are all at risk. Choose to protect your future by discussing your case with an attorney rather than directly with insurance representatives. You have a right to protect your best interests. If a drunk driver changed your life, be proactive about pursuing possible compensation. Contact the skilled attorneys at Boohoff Law today.