As a nation, we have lived with heightened public awareness of the dangers of drunk driving for decades. Anti-drunk driving messages constitute a core component of drivers’ education curricula, of local and state law enforcement public relations efforts, and of prosecutors’ policies aimed at keeping roads safe.
Nevertheless, drunk driving continues to take an enormous, unacceptable toll on the public.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-related traffic fatalities rose on Washington State roads by 11.3 percent to 178 deaths in 2017, continuing a troubling, multi-year upward trend. Thousands more were injured in drunk driving accidents.
As the WTSC reported in a recent study of alcohol and drug use behind the wheel, driver impairment due to alcohol and/or drugs is the number one contributing factor in Washington fatal crashes and is involved in nearly half of all traffic fatalities. Poly-drug drivers (combinations of alcohol and drugs or multiple drugs) is now the most common type of impairment among drivers in fatal crashes.
Drunk drivers inflict enormous physical, emotional, and financial pain on their victims, on the families of those whose lives they take, and our community. Those hurt in a drunk driving accident deserves strong, skilled legal representation to help them recover every dollar of available compensation for their injuries and losses. At Boohoff Law, we help victims of drunk drivers assert their legal rights and seek accountability. Contact us today to learn more.
About Boohoff Law Drunk Driving Accident Injury Lawyers
Attorney Tatiana Boohoff and her team of legal professionals have been representing victims of drunk driving accidents for decades. We take pride in delivering personalized, compassionate legal services to clients struggling with catastrophic injuries and losses.
Attorney Boohoff earned her juris doctor at top-ranked Boston University School of Law, one of the finest law schools in the country. With her skills and background, she could have served any clients she wanted; instead, Tatiana chose to fight for the interests of those unfortunate people in the community harmed by someone else’s carelessness, because they deserve effective counsel just as much as the big insurance companies and well-funded defendants who owe them damages.
The Extreme Recklessness of Alcohol-Impaired Driving
You are probably already all-too-familiar with how irresponsible and dangerous drunk driving is. As the NHTSA explains in its comprehensive overview of the national drunk driving problem, consuming alcohol “reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination,” all three of which happen to be “essential to operating a vehicle safely.”
Drunk driving laws nationwide, including here in Washington State, set 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter as the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level at which drivers cannot safely operate a motor vehicle. But, even a BAC far below this “legal limit” can impair driving function, according to the NHTSA. A BAC of just 0.02 causes a decline in visual functions and in performing simultaneous tasks, both of which are essential to safe driving. Which is likely why, as the NHTSA observes, over 1800 people died in 2017 in accidents involving a driver whose BAC was above zero but still “legal.”
Bottom line: driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous at any BAC level above zero. That is why, at Boohoff Law, we work tirelessly on our clients’ behalf to hold drivers to account when they get behind the wheel with alcohol in their system, whether or not the law calls them “drunk drivers.”
Legal Liability for Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Drunk drivers whose wrongful actions harm others should face criminal and civil legal liability for their actions. Depending on the circumstances of an accident, drunk driving in Washington State is either a gross misdemeanor or a felony punishable by imprisonment, fines, and suspension of driving privileges.
Drunk Drivers and Those Legally Responsible for their Actions
Criminal law, however, is not our primary concern at Boohoff Law. We help victims hold drunk drivers accountable through the civil legal process by seeking damages from them, their insurance companies, and others who may have legal responsibility for the drivers’ reckless behavior. Who are those “others”? They may include:
- The employer of a drunk driver, if the employer knew or should have known their employee would drive under the influence, and failed to prevent him or her from doing so;
- A restaurant, bar, or club that over-serves a patron who subsequently injures someone as a drunk driver, especially if doing so violated Washington law because the patron was apparently under the influence of liquor or was under the legal drinking age of 21.
- Manufacturers of “ignition interlock” devices that are supposed to prevent an intoxicated driver’s car from starting, if those devices malfunction and allow the driver to operate a motor vehicle;
- Friends or other acquaintances of the drunk driver who knew he was intoxicated and took affirmative steps to encourage him to drive.
This is not a complete list. The law generally requires people to exercise a duty of care not to harm one another. When people’s careless actions have the reasonably foreseeable outcome of causing someone else harm, they face potential legal liability. Anyone to whom that description fits could face liability when a drunk driver climbs behind the wheel. An experienced drunk driving accident injury attorney can help you determine who may have legal responsibilities of a drunk driver in your particular circumstance.
Others With Potential Legal Liability
Although alcohol is involved in them, drunk driving accidents are, fundamentally, car accidents. So, in addition to the drunk driver and anyone legally-responsible for his actions, a wide range of other parties could face liability to victims of a drunk driving accident, just as if they were victims of an accident that didn’t involve alcohol. Those parties can include:
- Other drivers, whose actions in relation to the drunk driver were, themselves, unsafe or reckless;
- Auto manufacturers, if they designed, built, or failed to warn the public about defective products that caused the accident; and
- Local and state government entities, if their failure to design, build, and maintain safe roads for the driving public contributed to the accident.
Again, this list is not complete, nor could it be. Every accident is different, even when alcohol plays an underlying role. That is why it is so important to have a skilled, experienced car accident attorney on your side if you sustain injuries or lose a loved one in a drunk driving accident. Part of an attorney’s job is to investigate how the accident happened in order to pinpoint every potentially-liable party, so that the client has the best possible chance of recovering maximum damages.
Common Injuries in Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk drivers frequently leave their victims severely harmed. As the WTSC noted above, alcohol plays a role in almost half of all traffic fatalities. Even when victims of drunk driving accidents survive, they often face severe, life-altering injuries. Alcohol-impaired drivers tend to speed and to make other driving decisions that increase the violence of accidents. Common injuries stemming from drunk driving accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries that leave victims in a coma, in a minimally conscious state, or with a lifetime of motor and cognitive impairments;
- Spinal cord injuries that cause partial or total paralysis;
- Crushed or traumatically-amputated limbs, such as when the legs of drivers and passengers in a front-end collision get pinned;
- Burns from explosions and permanent scars from lacerations caused by sharp metal and glass;
- Broken bones and orthopedic injuries; and
- Severe internal and soft tissue damage.
Emotional trauma often accompanies all of the injuries above, especially when one occupant of a motor vehicle survives and another does not. At Boohoff Law, we understand the full range of devastation drunk driving accidents can cause, and we work to help our clients recover compensation for all of it.
Common Damages for Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
When a lawyer is able to prove legal liability for her client’s injuries and losses in a drunk driving accident, she will demand payment from the liable parties and, if necessary (and only with the client’s approval), file a legal action. Generally speaking, Washington law allows car accident victims to recover two broad categories of damages from the parties with legal liability: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages represent payment for current and future fixed, out-of-pocket expenses related directly to the injuries the victim suffered in a drunk driving accident. Typically, they include:
- Current and future medical costs;
- Chronic or long-term care costs;
- Assistive medical devices and home modifications;
- Physical and mental health therapy;
- Lost income from time off work while recovering; and
- Lost income or employment opportunity due to injuries.
Under Washington law, any party with legal liability for these economic damages may have the right to make periodic payments to the victim rather than paying the damages as a lump-sum.
Non-economic damages represent the harm the drunk driving accident victim (or the family of a victim tragically killed) suffered that is more difficult to quantify, such as:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
Washington is different from many states in that it places a cap on non-economic damages, which cannot exceed 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington (a figure set by law) multiplied by the victim’s life expectancy at the time of the accident (which cannot be less than 15 years). Accident victims in Washington State also cannot typically recover punitive damages.
Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Under what conditions does Seattle consider someone driving while intoxicated?
Washington state statute RCW 46.61.502 criminalizes driving under the influence of alcohol or another controlled substance. Civil courts often review these criminal standards during drunk driving accident litigation.
Generally, the law considers a Seattle driver drunk if he or she was operating a motor vehicle and at least one of the following was true:
- The person was “under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug.”
- The driver had a blood-alcohol count (BAC) of 0.08 or over.
- The driver had a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more.
- The driver had a THC blood concentration of 5.0 or more.
If an operator’s Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol test indicates that he or she had a BAC over 0.08, the individual is strictly liable for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, even one drink may impair a driver’s ability to drive under the law. Just because a driver tested under the legal limit does not mean he or she wasn’t driving drunk at the time of the accident. Circumstantial evidence, such as testimony regarding slurred speech or swerving, could prove a driver was operating a vehicle while impaired. Such evidence might help personal injury claimants recover compensation after being injured in a Seattle drunk driving accident.
Is a drunk driver automatically liable for a Seattle car accident?
Proving a driver was operating the vehicle in violation of the state statute establishes driver negligence, under a legal theory called negligence per se. Seattle personal injury plaintiffs must then show that the negligent driving caused or contributed to the accident. For example, a drunk driver might be guilty of a DUI after being rear-ended, but he may not be civilly liable for the rear-end accident itself. You want our experienced Seattle drunk driving accident lawyers to fight to bring a DUI conviction from a criminal case into your civil claim.
Can I use a negligent driver’s Seattle DUI conviction during personal injury litigation?
Injured claimants may use a DUI conviction related to the accident to establish driver negligence. Most criminal cases resolve more quickly than civil cases. Further, criminal convictions require evidence of a DUI beyond a reasonable doubt. You should speak with a qualified Seattle car accident lawyer at Boohoff Law before filing a liability claim, if Seattle prosecutors charged the drunk driver with a crime. Establishing the conviction might save claimants time during civil personal injury litigation.
What are the penalties for a drunk driver who injured me in Seattle?
The penalties for a DUI in Seattle increase from a gross misdemeanor to a class B felony, if:
- The person has three or more previous offenses
- The person was previously convicted of vehicular homicide or vehicular assault while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug,
- The person was guilty of a comparable out-of-state offense
If a crash results in serious injuries and responding officers reasonably believe drugs or alcohol were involved, the negligent driver must submit to a blood-alcohol test. Hospitals must share high BAC results with law enforcement. Plaintiffs may use this critical evidence during subsequent personal injury litigation stemming from a drunk driving accident.
These sanctions may bring some satisfaction to you as an injured party, but they won’t reimburse you for the medical and vehicle repair bills caused by the accident. For that, you will want to call Boohoff Law’s Seattle drunk driving accident lawyers.
What types of Florida car accidents do drunk drivers usually cause?
Intoxicated driving often results in speeding, decreased reaction times, inability to perceive surroundings accurately, and blackouts.
Accordingly, drunk drivers might cause the following types of Florida car accidents:
- Head-on collisions: These potentially fatal crashes primarily occur when drunk drivers drive on the wrong side of the street.
- T-bone/intersection accidents: Even a single alcoholic beverage may significantly affect a driver’s perception of traffic signals, causing impaired drivers to run red lights and stop signs.
- Sideswipe accidents: Swerving and the inability to focus often result in merging and sideswipe crashes that may cause vehicles to spin out.
- Rear-end impacts: Reduced reaction times due to alcohol often result in rear-end crashes that can cause serious spinal injuries.
- Chain-reaction crashes: A driver’s reckless speeding or dangerous lane changes on roadways can result in serious multi-vehicle collisions.
- Overturned vehicle and off-road accidents: Other drivers frequently recognize and attempt to avoid inebriated drivers by quickly changing lanes or running off the road, resulting in overturned vehicles.
Unfortunately, many of these serious drunk-driving accidents cause fatal injuries. If a loved one died due to the actions of a drunk driver, you should contact a wrongful death lawyer. These claims must be filed within two years of the date of death. However, injured claimants normally have four years to file personal injury litigation.
What are some common injuries caused by drunk driving accidents?
Most car accidents result in neck and back injuries, depending on the force of the impact.
Because drunk drivers often drive erratically, claimants injured in drunk driving accidents also report the following conditions:
- Concussions (traumatic brain injuries)
- Herniated discs
- Dislocated shoulders
- Leg fractures
- Broken ribs and internal bleeding
- Severe whiplash
- Knee injuries and torn ligaments
- Numbness and tingling in extremities
- Facial lacerations and fractures
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
An experienced Seattle car crash lawyer may help you recover medical compensation after being injured by a drunk driver, including damages for anticipated future medical needs and pain.
What compensation am I entitled to after being injured by a Seattle drunk driver?
Seattle law permits seriously injured claimants to recover damages for pain, mental anguish, suffering, inconvenience, and direct economic losses caused by a drunk driver.
Direct losses may include:
- Actual and anticipated lost wages
- Lost employment bonuses, commissions, and fringe benefits
- All related medical expenses, including doctors, hospitals, rehabilitation, nursing care, and medications
- Property damage to a vehicle or other personal items
- Paid help with activities of daily living
- Counseling and mental health expenses
Expert economists often work with doctors to calculate the value of past and future losses. Typically, liability insurance companies offer a lump sum settlement for all compensable damages related to an accident.
Can I recover punitive damages if a drunk driver hit me in Seattle?
Unfortunately, Washington state generally does not allow punitive damages, which other states use to punish intentional or grossly negligent behavior like drunk driving.
Don’t let that stop you, however, from calling to discuss available compensation with a reckless driving accident attorney at Boohoff Law if you or a loved one was injured in an egregious drunk driving accident. You may still seek economic and noneconomic damages.
Does it matter to my personal injury case if a driver wasn’t convicted of a DUI?
Criminal convictions, even tickets, might help injured claimants establish liability in civil cases. However, they are not necessary to hold drunk drivers liable for personal injuries in Seattle. DUI convictions require evidence of inebriation beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys sometimes convince courts to throw out delayed blood test results or otherwise suppress Breathalyzer evidence. These decisions have little to no bearing on personal injury liability in civil court, and some evidence suppressed in criminal proceedings might be admitted during a civil trial. Civil evidentiary rules and burdens differ from criminal standards.
Is there a difference between alcohol-impaired driving and drunk driving?
As noted above, you can receive a DUI for driving “under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug.” A BAC of 0.08 creates an objective measure of intoxication, but smaller amounts of alcohol can intoxicate some people. In addition, mixing a drink with a driver’s prescription or over-the-counter medications could magnify the effects of alcohol.
If you smelled alcohol or otherwise witnessed signs of inebriation before police arrived at the scene of the accident, speak with a Seattle drunk driving accident lawyer about your personal injury claims. A Seattle civil court may find a driver violated the drunk driving statute even without a BAC above 0.08.
How do you prove a driver was drunk?
Proof that a driver was intoxicated at the time of an accident does not automatically demonstrate negligence in personal injury cases. However, it often results in an admission of general liability if the drunk driver caused or contributed to the car accident.
Injured claimants may establish drunk driving with the following evidence:
- A related DUI plea or conviction
- A blood alcohol test over 0.08 or indicating the presence of alcohol
- A breathalyzer test over 0.08 or indicating the presence of alcohol
- Witness testimony
- Victim testimony
- Traffic camera footage
- Restaurant security videos
- Physical evidence from the vehicle, such as open liquor bottles
Prosecutors may share evidence with injured victims after a DUI conviction, including offender testimony and test results. Seattle drivers waive medical privacy rules related to alcohol and drug testing after car accidents, but personal injury attorneys must follow specific protocols for obtaining this evidence.
Are bartenders or owners liable for serving alcohol to a drunk driver?
Some states recognize dram shop liability, which permits injured victims to hold bar owners, servers, and social hosts liable for car accidents caused by intoxicated patrons. Washington State is one of them.
Victims of drunk driving accidents may hold sellers and servers of alcohol liable for an intoxicated driver’s actions.
The experienced drunk driving accident attorneys at Boohoff Law might also scrutinize a defendant’s driving and criminal record for a history of chronic intoxication. These records may form the basis of a liability claim against a social host or establishment owner.
Seek Prompt Legal Help After a Drunk Driving Accident Injury
The team at Boohoff Law understands the extreme challenges drunk driving accident victims face on a daily basis. From the moment the accident happens, they face a whirlwind of physical, emotional, and financial pain from which it feels immensely difficult to escape. These strains can tax even the strongest relationships, putting families at risk and making every day a monumental challenge.
In that situation, we understand why accident victims and their families might not think hiring a lawyer is a top priority. But, we urge our potential clients to let us show them how having a skilled drunk driving accident injury attorney by their side as soon as possible can help make life feel manageable again.
Our mission at Boohoff Law is to take as much of the burden of dealing with the aftermath of a drunk driving accident off of our clients’ shoulders. When we begin representing a client, we typically take over communications with insurance companies and their investigators, we help sort out administrative issues that stand in the way of our clients getting the care they need, and we begin investigating how the accident happened and who may have legal liability for it.
The sooner we get started on your case the better. Evidence about the causes of a car accident can be lost, and witness memories fade. When alcohol plays a role in a crash, it’s essential to stay informed about any criminal sanction the drunk driver receives, and to coordinate a civil action to take maximum advantage of the state’s prosecution.
Likewise, the sooner we get started with dealing with insurance investigators, the less chance there is of our clients falling prey to tactics designed to deprive our clients of maximum compensation. Insurance companies are good at figuring out when their policyholders have legal liability, and they act quickly to minimize their financial exposure by trying to develop reasons to “blame the victim” or by dangling inadequate settlement offers in hopes someone will make a rash decision in a time of financial need. Do not agree to settle your case, or sign any agreement with an insurance company or other party, without speaking with an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer first.
Boohoff Law Seattle Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
Tatiana Boohoff and her team take pride in holding drunk drivers and those legally responsible for their actions accountable in and out of court. If a drunk driver has injured you or tragically taken the life of your loved one, we want to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Call us at 877-999-9999 or visit us at Boohoff Law online to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation to learn more about your legal rights in the wake of an injury caused by a drunk driver.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.