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.
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.