Car Accident With A Drunk Driver In Alabama? Here’s What You Need To Know

alcoholic drink next to keys to represent drunk driving accident in alabama

Car Accident With A Drunk Driver In Alabama? Here’s What You Need To Know

In Alabama, the threat posed by drunk driving remains a critical concern, with the state witnessing significant numbers of accidents and fatalities each year due to impaired driving. In fact, the proportion of fatal crashes involving alcohol or drugs is over 6.6 times the fatality rate of all crashes. In 2022, the state suffered 299 alcohol-related fatalities on its roadways — with many more accidents involving a wide range of injuries as a consequence. Drunk driving crashes have resulted in numerous individuals being killed, highlighting the devastating impact on families and communities.

Understanding your rights and the steps to take if you find yourself the victim of such an accident is important. This guide aims to provide clear and concise information to help you navigate what comes after a car accident with a drunk driver, making sure that you are prepared to take the necessary actions to protect yourself and your interests with the help of a drunk driving accident lawyer.

What To Do After a Drunk Driving Accident

Emergency Steps

Your immediate priority in the aftermath of an accident should be safety and health. If you’re involved in a collision with a drunk driver:

  • Check for Injuries: Assess yourself and any passengers for injuries. Do not attempt to move if you’re severely injured.
  • Call 911: It’s crucial to report the accident to the police immediately. They will document the scene and can conduct sobriety tests on the suspected drunk driver, providing essential evidence for your claim. The driver may be arrested based on the results of these tests.
  • Seek Medical Attention: Even if you don’t think you’re badly hurt, some injuries may not be immediately apparent. A medical evaluation of provides a record of your injuries related to the accident.

The police will determine probable cause to arrest the driver based on their behavior, the circumstances surrounding the crash, and any failed sobriety tests.

Documenting the Scene

If it’s safe to do so, gathering evidence at the scene can be very valuable when you find a drunk driving accident lawyer to help with your case:

  • Take Photos: Capture images of the vehicles, any visible injuries, and the overall accident scene.
  • Gather Witness Information: If there are witnesses, collect their names and contact information.
  • Preserve Physical Evidence: Keep any damaged personal belongings as they may serve as evidence.
  • Police Report: Obtain a copy of the police report as it will contain the officer’s observations and any citations issued to the drunk driver.

Taking these steps immediately after an accident with a drunk driver lays the groundwork for any insurance claims or legal actions you may pursue. It also ensures that you have documented the extent of your injuries and the damages to your property, which are crucial for receiving appropriate compensation.

Understanding Your Legal Rights

After an accident with impaired drivers in Alabama, it’s crucial to know the legal rights and protections available to you. The state’s laws offer avenues for victims of drunk driving accidents to seek compensation and justice. Here’s a breakdown of key legal concepts and rights:

Alabama’s At-Fault Insurance System

Alabama operates under an “at-fault” insurance system. This means that the driver who is legally at fault for causing the accident is responsible for any resulting harm. This includes vehicle damage, medical expenses, and other losses. As a victim, you can directly file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Civil vs. Criminal Proceedings

It’s important to distinguish between civil and criminal proceedings in cases involving a drunk driving crash:

  • Criminal Charges: The state prosecutes drunk drivers under criminal law. A conviction may result in fines, license suspension, and possibly jail time. However, criminal convictions do not directly compensate victims for their injuries or losses.
  • Civil Lawsuits: Victims can file civil lawsuits against the drunk driver. These lawsuits aim to recover damages for injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses related to the accident.

Dram Shop Laws

Alabama’s Dram Shop Act allows victims of drunk driving accidents to pursue claims against establishments that served alcohol to the drunk driver before the accident, under certain conditions:

  • The establishment served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated, or
  • Alcohol was provided to a minor.

These claims are separate from the direct claim against the drunk driver and can provide an additional avenue for compensation, especially if the driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the damages.

Statute of Limitations

In Alabama, there is a specific time frame within which you must file a lawsuit for injuries sustained in a drunk driving accident. This period, known as the statute of limitations, is generally two years from the date of the accident. Failing to file within this period can result in losing the right to sue for damages.

Understanding these legal principles and your rights is the first step toward securing the compensation you deserve. Given the complexities of Alabama’s laws, consulting with an attorney experienced in drunk driving accidents is advisable to navigate the legal system effectively and advocate for your interests.

The Role of Insurance in Drunk Driving Accidents

In the aftermath of an accident with a drunk driver in Alabama, insurance plays a critical role in the compensation process. Understanding how insurance claims work and the challenges that may arise is essential for victims seeking to recover damages. Here’s an overview of the key aspects of dealing with insurance in such cases:

Filing an Insurance Claim

After an accident with a drunk driver, you have the option to file a claim with:

  • The at-fault driver’s insurance company: As Alabama is an at-fault state, the insurance of the driver who caused the accident is primarily responsible for covering damages.
  • Your own insurance company: Depending on your coverage, you may also file a claim under your collision, uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM), or medical payments coverage. This is especially relevant if the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient.

Challenges with Insurance Companies

Dealing with insurance companies can be challenging and, at times, contentious. Insurance adjusters may attempt to minimize payouts, and they may:

  • Offer a settlement quickly, before the full extent of your injuries and damages is known.
  • Dispute the severity of your injuries or the necessity of certain medical treatments.
  • Use statements you make to challenge the liability of their policyholder or the value of your claim.

Alabama’s Minimum Insurance Requirements

Alabama law requires drivers to carry minimum amounts of liability insurance: 

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person.
  • $50,000 total for bodily injury or death per accident.
  • $25,000 for property damage.

However, these minimums may not fully cover the damages in a serious accident, making it important to explore all available insurance options and potentially pursue additional claims, such as those under dram shop laws.

Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

UM/UIM coverage is particularly valuable in drunk driving accidents if the at-fault driver’s insurance is inadequate. This coverage on your own policy can provide compensation for your injuries and damages up to your policy limits if the other driver’s insurance falls short.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Navigating insurance claims and negotiations can be daunting, especially when recovering from an accident. An experienced Alabama drunk driving accident lawyer can:

  • Evaluate the fairness of settlement offers.
  • Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf.
  • Pursue the maximum compensation available under all applicable insurance policies and legal claims.

By understanding the role of insurance in the aftermath of a drunk driving accident and seeking appropriate legal guidance, victims can enhance their chances of receiving the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses.

Alabama’s Dram Shop Laws Explained

Alabama’s Dram Shop Act provides a legal pathway for victims of drunk driving accidents to seek compensation from businesses or individuals who unlawfully provided alcohol to the driver prior to the accident. Understanding how these laws apply can be pivotal in securing comprehensive compensation for your losses. Evidence such as the video element of surveillance footage can be crucial in cases related to a drunk driving crash.

Understanding Dram Shop Liability

  • Vendors: This category includes bars, restaurants, and any other establishments that sell alcohol. Under Alabama law, if these vendors serve alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated to the point where they pose a danger to themselves or others, the vendor can be held liable for damages caused by that person’s intoxication.
  • Social Hosts: Unlike vendors, social hosts refer to private individuals who provide alcohol at non-commercial gatherings. Alabama’s laws also extend dram shop liability to social hosts, but typically under more specific circumstances, such as providing alcohol to minors.

Criteria for Liability

  • Visible Intoxication: There must be evidence that the establishment or host continued to serve alcohol to someone who was clearly intoxicated.
  • Knowledge of Risk: It must be demonstrated that the server was aware, or should have been aware, that the person was too intoxicated to safely consume more alcohol.
  • Causation: A direct link between the over-serving of alcohol and the subsequent accident or injury must be established.

Challenges in Pursuing Dram Shop Claims

Dram Shop claims can be complex due to the need for concrete evidence of intoxication and causation. Gathering this evidence often requires thorough investigation, including eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage, and expert testimony.

Why Dram Shop Claims Matter

Pursuing a dram shop claim can significantly impact the compensation available to drunk driving accident victims, especially in cases where the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover the damages. These claims also serve a broader public safety purpose by holding those who profit from the sale of alcohol accountable for responsible service.

Understanding Alabama’s Dram Shop Laws is essential for victims of drunk driving accidents considering all avenues for compensation. By holding accountable those who contribute to drunk driving incidents through irresponsible alcohol service, these laws play a vital role in promoting community safety and justice for victims.

Why Experienced Legal Representation Matters

Navigating the aftermath of a drunk driving car accident in Alabama can be complex and challenging. Legal representation is not just a beneficial resource; it’s a crucial ally in ensuring your rights are protected and your compensation is maximized. Here’s why enlisting the help of an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer is essential:

Clear Guidance Through Legal Complexities

  • Navigating Laws: Alabama’s legal system, especially around personal injury and drunk driving accidents, is intricate. An experienced attorney can guide you through these complexities, ensuring all legal requirements are met.
  • Understanding of Dram Shop Laws: Given the specific conditions under which dram shop laws apply, a lawyer with experience in this area can determine if you have a viable claim against an establishment and how to pursue it effectively.

Maximizing Your Compensation

  • Accurate Valuation of Your Claim: Attorneys are skilled in accurately assessing the full extent of your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more, to ensure you’re seeking appropriate compensation.
  • Negotiating with Insurance Companies: Insurance adjusters may try to minimize payouts. Legal representation can negotiate on your behalf to counter lowball offers and strive for a fair settlement.

What Are the Next Steps?

If you’ve been the victim of a drunk driving accident in Alabama, don’t navigate this challenging time alone. The right legal representation can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Contact an experienced drunk driving accident attorney today to explore your legal options, ensure your rights are protected, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

At Jay Pickering Law Firm, we provide clear and comprehensive legal guidance to individuals impacted by drunk driving accidents. We are available anytime to provide a 100% free case consultation to help you understand your legal rights and options.

Jay Pickering, an experienced Alabama car accident lawyer.

Attorney Jay Pickering brings over 27 years of unwavering dedication to personal injury law, with a sharp focus on representing those injured in car, truck, and motorcycle accidents across Alabama. A proud alum of the University of Alabama School of Law, Jay is a member of the Alabama State Bar and the American Bar Association.