Although most people know about the dangers of driving while impaired, drunk driving accidents continue to be a danger for Coloradoans.
In 2021, about 37 percent of traffic fatalities in the state involved an impaired driver, a significant increase since 2019. “Impaired,” meaning drivers who were under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs.
To address the issue, Colorado has launched the “It’s Not Complicated” campaign imploring drivers to stay off the roads if they’ve been drinking, regardless of the number of drinks.
But if you’re driving and another motorist hasn’t heeded this advice, you could find yourself injured and dealing with medical bills, lost income, a totaled vehicle, physical pain, emotional distress, and more damages.
Worse, you can’t count on the drunk driver’s insurance company to do the right thing – an insurance adjuster’s top priority is always saving the insurance company money.
What Can a Breckenridge Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Do to Help?
Your Breckenridge drunk driving accident attorney will help you identify all your damages, determine a fair amount of compensation, and ensure your insurance claim is filed correctly to reduce the risk of a denial.
We can also help you avoid several difficulties that may come up in seeking compensation from the insurance carrier, such as:
Whose Fault Is It Anyway?
Many people assume the drunk driver is always at fault in an accident, and quite often, they are. However, it’s still possible for the other driver to have made a mistake, even if they were sober.
To add a layer of complexity, Colorado personal injury law uses modified comparative negligence statutes, which indicate that both drivers can be partially at fault for an accident.
This means that the driver with more than 50 percent responsibility is deemed to be liable, and others injured in the accident can collect damages from that driver. But the less-responsible driver will lose whatever portion of fault they had in the accident from their final award.
If you were 20 percent at fault, for example, you would have 20 percent deducted from your total damages.
What does this mean for your case? If the driver who hit you was charged with a DUI or DWAI (driving while ability impaired, which is used in cases where the BAL is between .05 and .08 percent), that will go a long way to show that they probably had a significant percentage of fault.
But if you are also found to have contributed to the accident, you could lose some of your recovery.
It’s not unusual for drivers to disagree about what happened in an accident. If there are no witnesses to clear things up, the responding officer will have to decide what happened based on the evidence (which is often inconclusive).
The good news is that the police are unlikely to put much stock in the drunk driver’s version of events – they are, after all, impaired. Unless you admit to your own traffic violation – such as speeding or running a red light – the officers will probably conclude they were at fault.
The bad news is that the insurance company might believe the drunk driver’s version of events if they claim that you cut in front of them, ran a red light, etc. That’s not because the insurance adjuster thinks drunk drivers are credible but because it’s convenient.
Remember what we said earlier – the insurance adjuster’s goal is to save the company money, and arguing that you were at least partly at fault might accomplish that goal.
In these situations, having the help of a skilled Breckenridge drunk driving accident lawyer could mean the difference between losing thousands of dollars from your claim and receiving the total amount of compensation you deserve.
“But I Wasn’t Really Drunk!”
Almost everyone arrested for an impaired driving charge will eventually acquire the services of a defense attorney, which is a constitutional right.
Sometimes the attorney will arrange a plea deal where the defendant admits guilt but avoids jail time or receives a reduced sentence in exchange for paying a fine and performing community service. This is less of an option if the defendant caused an accident that injured someone.
There are a number of defenses for DUI and DWI charges, primarily focused on the evidence against the driver.
A defense attorney may suggest that the police didn’t follow proper procedure for BAL testing, that blood samples weren’t handled properly, or that the testing equipment wasn’t appropriately cleaned or maintained.
If one of these arguments is successful, the charges may be dropped, or the defendant might win at trial. The drunk driver and/or insurance adjuster might then argue that there is no proof they caused the accident, especially if there were no witnesses.
A situation like this can be very frustrating for the injured person who is in pain, deluged with medical bills, and struggling to get their car repaired. Fortunately, a personal injury lawyer may still be able to help you get compensation for your injuries.
The burden of proof in a civil trial is much lower than that in a criminal trial – we only need to show that the defendant more likely than not caused the accident. We don’t have to prove they were drunk.
Our investigative team will seek evidence to demonstrate that they were mostly or entirely responsible for the crash so you can recover your damages.
An Offer You Think You Can’t Refuse
Although the insurance company has many tricks to avoid paying a claim, sometimes they use a different tactic: They make you an offer. Most people are relieved that the insurance company hasn’t denied their claim or tried to blame them.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the offer is a good one.
The insurance company doesn’t have to say you were partly at fault in order to undervalue your claim. They can simply estimate you have lower costs than you really do.
Sometimes, they might refuse to pay for some of your treatments because they’re “unnecessary.” Additionally, if you made your own claim, you may have damages you didn’t think to ask for, such as future medical costs or pain and suffering.
The insurance adjuster is not going to bring this to your attention. They will simply make you an offer for less than your claim is worth and hope you sign it.
This is why we always caution people not to sign anything from the insurance company without speaking to a lawyer first.
If it’s actually a reasonable offer, you can still sign it. But if it fails to cover all your damages, we’ll explain why and go over your options for seeking a better deal.
If necessary, we can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
Here are some common damages in drunk driving accident cases and ways they may be undervalued:
- Medical expenses. It’s not only your current medical bills you need to worry about but future ones. If you’re still in treatment, we will usually wait until your treatment is complete to settle the case – this ensures no medical costs are missed. But if you were seriously injured and will require continued care, we can estimate these expenses to ensure you receive enough compensation.
- Lost income. Many people overlook this expense because they used their paid time off (PTO) when they were injured and couldn’t go to work. But the accident still cost you that PTO, and you deserve compensation. Additionally, if your injuries leave you permanently unable to work or to do the same type of job, you may have a claim for lost earning potential.
- Property damage. You’re entitled to repair or replacement costs on your car, but sometimes the insurance company will underestimate these. We’ll also check to see if your car had significant depreciation from the accident, in which case we can seek compensation for diminished value.
- Pain and suffering. The physical pain and emotional or mental impact of a car accident can’t be understated. You can seek damages for physical and mental pain and suffering from the accident.
- Wrongful death. If a loved one died in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you could pursue funeral or burial expenses, medical costs from before your loved one died, loss of financial support, loss of consortium or companionship, and more.
How Can You Find a Breckenridge Drunk Driving Accident Law Firm
Please contact the Olson Law Firm for a free consultation about your case. We’ll review the police report, answer your questions, and explain your options.
If we take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it in your favor.
Attorney Sean Olson founded the Olson Law Firm to help those who have been injured tell their stories and seek compensation for their injuries.
He’s always available to respond to calls or emails from clients and considers himself not just a lawyer but an advocate for those who are injured and navigating the legal system. Call Olson Law Firm today at (720) 730-4325.