El Centro Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers
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El Centro Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we have substantial experience with many types of personal injury claims, including drunk driving accident claims in the El Centro area. While we cannot guarantee the results of any claim, many of our past clients have found that having an attorney on their side substantially increases the compensation they ultimately receive for their injuries. We have helped clients identify additional parties who share liability for their accidents, worked to collect evidence, and taken over negotiations with insurance companies following many types of accidents. We want to hear from you and see what we can do to help.
The Aftermath of Drunk Driving Accidents: Common Injuries
Every year, more than a thousand people in California lose their lives in drunk driving accidents. Thousands more suffer injuries that cause them limitations for the rest of their lives. Despite that, around 1.8 percent of California citizens admit to getting behind the wheel after drinking too much.
California has instituted stringent measures over the past several years to decrease drunk driving and drunk driving accidents, including sobriety checkpoints, stringent laws regarding alcohol use and driving, and alcohol screening and interventions.
Unfortunately, those measures do not eliminate drunk drivers on the roads. Just one drink can substantially impact a driver’s ability to safely control their vehicle, including making it difficult for a driver to see clearly or impairing their decision-making.
The drunk driver’s decision to get behind the wheel, unfortunately, carries serious consequences. Drunk driving accidents often leave the victims with serious injuries, some of which cause lifelong limitations.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Living with traumatic brain injury rarely looks like it does in the movies. Victims usually don’t just have a short-term loss of memories of the past, which typically gets resolved within the span of the movie. While traumatic brain injuries do cause significant memory issues in many victims, it can also cause permanent short-term and long-term memory challenges.
Victims may also struggle with focus or concentration, making it difficult for them to complete familiar tasks. Traumatic brain injuries can also cause sleep disturbances or lead to changes in sensory perception, including tunnel vision or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Victims may also suffer from challenges regulating their emotions, including having unexpected mood swings or extreme reactions to normal stimuli.
All of these challenges can make it incredibly difficult for victims of traumatic brain injury to return to their normal jobs. Many, especially those who struggle with impulse control, may need lifelong care from a caregiver or aide. Others may simply have lost a cognitive skill that makes it impossible to return to their former professions: they may lose creativity, problem-solving ability, or the ability to manage the emotional turmoil of dealing with customers or office politics as a result of their injuries.
Some victims recover some of their normal capacity with time. Traumatic brain injury recovery, however, does not come quickly; many victims report that even with a mild traumatic brain injury, they still experience symptoms more than a year after the initial injury.
Spinal Cord Injury
Any auto accident involves a significant amount of force, which can cause serious damage to the spinal cord. Damage becomes more likely if the victim strikes the spinal cord directly in the accident. Drunk drivers, in particular, may fail to reduce their speed even when an accident is imminent. Slowed reflexes may mean that drunk drivers have trouble hitting the brakes or steering away from a potential accident, leading to a more substantial amount of force than necessary on the victim of the accident.
Victims with an incomplete spinal cord injury—an injury that does not go all the way through the spinal cord—may lose some mobility, function, and feeling below the site of the injury, not only in the limbs, but also in organs below the injury. Victims with a complete spinal cord injury, on the other hand, may permanently lose all mobility and a great deal of (or all) sensation below the site of the injury.
A spinal cord injury can transform a victim’s entire life. Many victims cannot return to their previous jobs, especially if they worked in physically-intensive positions. Not only that, victims with spinal cord injuries often accumulate significant, lifelong medical expenses. These expenses include not just the cost of a wheelchair, but the ongoing cost of therapy and treatment for their injuries and the complications and conditions associated with them.
In a car accident, the force of the accident can rupture a gas tank or expose other flammable liquids in the vehicle to enough heat to cause the vehicle to burst into flames. Burn victims often suffer severe pain, but may also face other significant challenges. Scarring can be a significant blow to many individuals’ self-esteem, especially when they permanently change the victim’s appearance. Scarring near joints can also cause decreased mobility in the injured limbs.
Burn victims also suffer a high rate of complications due to their injuries: normally, the skin provides a protective layer that prevents the introduction of dangerous bacteria into the body. A burn strips that protection away, leaving many victims prone to infection.
Amputations can occur at the time of the accident, as a sharp object or blunt force severs a limb completely. Sometimes, however, the victim may require an amputation days or even weeks after the accidents itself. Doctors may determine that a limb sustained too much damage to repair. Tissue may die as a result of decreased blood flow, ultimately leading to the need for amputation.
Amputation involves the removal of a limb, often due to substantial injury to that limb in an accident. Victims may lose arms or legs to a car accident. After the amputation, victims may need follow-up surgeries to revise the stump and increase comfort in their prosthesis. Prosthetic devices can help restore some normal function, including making it possible for a leg amputee to walk again; however, those devices cannot provide the same function as a biological limb.
Amputees may need substantial physical and occupational therapy to learn how to function with their prosthetics or with the limitations that come with a missing limb. Prosthetic devices also require regular replacement: an amputee can expect to need to replace the original prosthetic within a year, as the shape of the stump changes, while future prosthetics may require replacement approximately every three to five years.
El Centro Drunk Driving Accidents: Seeking Compensation
If you or a loved one has been an El Centro drunk driving accident, get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can offer vital guidance concerning the compensation you deserve and how to seek it after an accident.
Who Bears Liability for Your Injuries?
Most often in a drunk driving accident, the drunk driver bears liability for the accident. The drunk driver bears liability for their poor decisions, including the decision to get behind the wheel after consuming substantial quantities of alcohol.
That driver may, however, share liability with other parties, including:
- Their employer. As many as 9.4 percent of truck drivers drink daily. Many of those drivers drink while operating their trucks. An employer who knows about an employee’s drinking behavior but continues to employ that individual as a driver may share liability for any injuries caused by that employee’s drinking and driving habits. The employer may also share liability if the company does not properly maintain the vehicle, if the company requires the driver to get behind the wheel while drunk, or if the company requires the driver to exceed the federally restricted number of hours they can spend behind the wheel each day.
- The vehicle manufacturer. Drunk drivers’ slowed reflexes can make it difficult for them to respond to mechanical failures or problems with the vehicle. A drunk driver may have extra trouble, for example, responding appropriately to a tire blowout or managing an engine malfunction. While a drunk driver may have more trouble maintaining control of the vehicle following a malfunction, the manufacturer still may bear liability for selling a substandard product.
- A mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle. Like vehicle manufacturers, mechanics must ensure that a driver whose vehicle the mechanic repaired or maintained can operate the vehicle safely. If a mechanic certifies a vehicle as roadworthy but the vehicle has problems that lead to an accident, the mechanic may share liability for the accident. The mechanic may also share liability in the case of faulty repairs or failure to notice a problem while working on the vehicle.
Identifying all the parties that contributed to your accident can make a big difference in the compensation you ultimately receive. You can file a personal injury claim against each party that contributes to an accident. Consult an attorney to learn more about who may have contributed to your accident and how it may impact the compensation you can seek.
How Much Compensation Can You Expect After an El Centro Drunk Driving Accident?
No attorney can fully predict the amount of compensation you will receive after a drunk driving accident. Several factors, including what exactly caused your accident and the extent of the insurance policies that cover any liable parties, can affect your compensation. California drivers who carry minimum liability insurance, for example, may have policies that will pay out just $15,000 in protection for injuries sustained in a drunk driving accident. Other policies, including policies that cover commercial drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, and auto manufacturers, may provide higher levels of compensation.
Following an auto accident in El Centro, most victims claim:
- Medical expenses. Serious injuries from a drunk driving accident can leave you with serious medical bills to go along with them. Ambulance transport from the scene of an accident alone can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Victims with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or other serious injuries can require long-term hospitalization and substantial physical therapy while recovering from their injuries. All of these costs can add up, especially if you require long-term care or if you need in-home assistance after your return home. If you suffer spinal cord damage or amputation, you may also include the cost of modifications to your home, such as widened doorways and wheelchair ramps, to the medical expenses you claim.
- Lost income. Not only do you have substantial bills to worry about, but your income may disappear just when you need it most. Some employers will make modifications to help their employees get back to work as soon as possible after a serious accident. Others will not. Many employers cannot make modifications to help you return to work, especially if your injuries prevent you from performing your normal job duties. You may have to miss work not only for the initial recovery period, but also during ongoing treatment or procedures. Talk to a lawyer about how to incorporate those lost wages into your claim.
- Pain and suffering. Your injuries may cause substantial emotional anguish alongside considerable physical pain. Many victims feel a sense of social isolation due to their injuries. Others struggle with the loss of independence that often comes with severe injuries. Talk to an attorney to learn more about how to factor pain and suffering, including the loss of enjoyment in normal activities, into your accident claim.
An attorney can help you calculate what damages you should seek after an El Centro drunk driving accident. Keep in mind that if the insurance company offers you a settlement immediately after the accident, while it may look attractive, it may not provide the compensation you really deserve for your injuries and your expenses. Consult Gomez Trial Attorneys before accepting a settlement offer.
El Centro Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Despite years of public health campaigns and stiff criminal laws, drunk driving continues to cause devastation in El Centro and throughout the nation. Victims of drunk driving accidents suffer severe injuries that inflict massive physical, emotional, and financial pain. Families of victims tragically killed by drunk drivers endure immeasurable suffering and loss. They deserve justice and compensation.
Below we answer questions we often receive about the legal aspects of holding drunk drivers and others accountable for the harm they cause. For answers to specific questions about an El Centro drunk driving accident that has devastated your life, contact an experienced drunk driving accident injury lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys today.
Who is at fault if I’m in an accident with a drunk driver in El Centro?
Every case is different, but in most El Centro drunk driving accidents, the drunk driver receives a significant amount of the blame. At the very least, the drunk driver’s reckless, dangerous decision to get behind the wheel constitutes a form of negligence, which, under California law, makes the drunk driver legally liable for any harm those actions cause.
However, this does not mean, that the drunk driver is the only party at-fault for the accident that injured you or a loved one.
Others may also have legal responsibility for the damage the accident inflicted, including (for example):
- The drunk driver’s employer, if the drunk driver crashed a work vehicle while on-the-job;
- Anyone who served alcohol to the drunk driver, if the drunk driver was a minor;
- Any other party whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions contributed to the cause of the crash, even if those actions had direct no connection to the actions of the drunk driver.
The job of an experienced El Centro drunk driving accident injury lawyer often involves exploring the facts and circumstances of an accident to identify all parties who may have legal liability to the accident victims. By doing this, lawyers ensure that any legal action on behalf of victims seeks compensation from as many sources as the law allows, which gives clients the best chance of recovering as much money as possible for their injuries and losses.
How can I receive compensation for my El Centro drunk driving accident injuries?
If you or a loved one is injured or otherwise harmed in an accident, you can only recover damages if the accident caused your injuries or harm. You cannot receive compensation if they stem from some other cause or are pre-existing.
California is a fault state for car and other vehicle accidents. That means the party that causes the accident is responsible for damage compensation to people injured by the accident. Injured parties can approach the at-fault driver’s insurance company or bring an El Centro drunk driving accident lawsuit in civil court.
Insurance (financial responsibility) is required of all vehicles operated or parked on California roads. The owner must obtain liability insurance of $15,000 for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person, and $5,000 for any property damage.
Injured people can seek damage compensation in the following categories:
- Medical expenses, both already incurred and future—for emergency treatment and transportation, diagnostic tests, hospitalization, surgery, doctor’s visits, prescription medication, assistive devices, physical therapy, retrofitting a home to accommodate injury, and more;
- Wages lost from work, both already incurred and future—for time off from work due to the accident, treatment, and recovery;
- Lifetime value of earnings—if the accident disabled the victim too much to return to a former occupation;
- Personal property loss or damage—for lost or damaged personal property, such as a car or belongings in the car;
- Pain and suffering—for physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering.
What is an average drunk driving claim worth in El Centro?
Victims of a drunk driving accident often ask what their claim is worth. It’s a natural and understandable question. But, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all claim.
Payments for injury claims are based on the amount, extent, and nature of a victim’s injuries. So the amount any specific person receives depends on the nature of their injuries and the impact those injuries have on their lives.
For all economic damage categories, such as medical expenses, time off work, and personal property damage, the amount of the claim is determined based on what those damages are expected to cost you. You are compensated for the costs to you.
So, for example, you (or your attorney) can add up all the medical expenses, wages from work you’ve lost, and personal property damage to determine your economic damages.
If you are expected to need medical treatment in the future for the injuries you sustained as a result of the accident, attorneys can obtain expert opinions both on the standard treatment for the injuries and on the expected cost. These forecasts are used to derive a figure for damage compensation.
Wages lost from work claims are determined by multiplying your wages by the amount of time you needed to take off. Here, too, if time off work is required in the future, expert testimony is used to forecast the likely wages that will be lost as a result of the future time off.
If an injured worker can’t return to a former occupation, our lawyers may seek expert testimony to establish that fact and to estimate the lifetime value of their earnings.
Pain and suffering damages are determined quite differently. For one thing, pain and suffering—unlike a medical bill—doesn’t come with a price tag. It isn’t always easy to make a pain and suffering determination for that reason—the amount of pain and suffering a victim undergoes is somewhat subjective.
A catastrophic injury that will never fully heal and causes a significant impact on the victim’s life, for example, is likely to receive a larger figure.
Examples of catastrophic injuries are spinal cord injuries (SCIs) or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Both can render victims unable to perform the activities of daily life, such as walking or dressing. They may experience paralysis, either partly or completely. As a result, they may need constant care for the rest of their lives.
In addition to receiving a higher multiplier, of course, victims of catastrophic accidents will also require higher levels of medical care and may not work again, so they will need the lifetime value of earnings. All of these make their overall damage compensation much higher than that of someone with a more minor injury, such as a broken arm.
In other words, damage compensation for a catastrophic injury may total in the millions, but in the low thousands for a more minor injury.
An El Centro drunk driver killed my loved one. What should I do?
Losing a loved one in a drunk driving accident is one of the most painful and traumatic experiences one can go through. You may feel loss, grief, and anger at the drunk driver.
While damage compensation cannot assuage grief, it can offer help in staying financially afloat after an accident. In fact, California law provides a way for family members to receive damage compensation for a loved one’s death, if the loved one could have pursued an El Centro drunk driving accident claim if they’d lived. It is called a wrongful death suit.
Only certain relatives can pursue a wrongful death claim. They are:
- The spouse of the deceased
- The children of the deceased, if there is no spouse
- The parents of the deceased, if there are no children
- Close relatives dependent on the deceased for physical or financial support
- The estate itself
The compensation can include:
- Medical expenses – For any medical expenses related to the accident incurred before the death
- Funeral expenses
- Personal property damage related to the accident
- Loss of income – Families are often dependent on a breadwinner’s income. This category includes the deceased would have earned had they lived a full life.
- Loss of companionship – For loss of love, companionship, care, comfort, protection, affection, assistance, society, moral support, training, and guidance.
What should I do after an El Centro drunk driving accident?
After an accident involving a drunk driver, you need to secure your own safety as the first priority.
Move as quickly as possible to a safe location, out of traffic. Call 911 as soon as possible. Remain in your car until law enforcement arrives.
If you sustained serious injuries, the emergency medical technicians will transport you to a hospital. If they don’t see a need for emergency transport, stay on the scene until law enforcement arrives. They will talk to all parties concerned and indicate when you can leave.
If a driver is noticeably drunk, stay at a safe distance from them until law enforcement arrives. Drunk drivers can exhibit erratic behavior, including trying to get in the car and drive again or attempting to evade law enforcement.
Do not accuse them or attempt to intervene in what they do.
Law enforcement will talk to all drivers, survey the scene, and issue a crash report. It’s highly important to get a copy of the crash report, and it’s valuable evidence of how the accident occurred and what the officer saw.
When the officer talks to you, give a complete accounting of what you experienced. If you noticed the other driver seemed drunk or under the influence of substances, mention it. Law enforcement can administer a chemical test or field sobriety tests to determine inebriation.
During this time, it’s very important to get as much evidence as possible. If you have a smartphone, take pictures of the vehicles, the accident scene, and anything else that could shed light on how the accident occurred, such as skid marks, missing signs, and so forth.
If you don’t have a smartphone, take notes on what happened as you remember it. Memories can fade. Take notes while your memory is still fresh.
Get the contact information from the other drivers, including name, e-mail, and insurance information.
If there are eyewitnesses, talk to them. Get their contact information as well (except for insurance information).
As soon as law enforcement indicates you can leave, do so, driving safely (or calling family members, friends, or other transport to pick you up).
See a doctor as soon as possible. Car accidents can cause injuries that you might not see or feel for a while. A doctor needs to check you out thoroughly.
Follow all doctor’s recommendations to the letter. If they suggest physical therapy or prescription medication, for example, make appointments and fill and take the medication. This is primarily for your health. But insurance companies can also use evidence of your not following doctor’s recommendations to argue you were not injured as severely as your claim indicates.
Keep all records of medical treatment and diagnosis related to the accident. It’s important evidence in getting compensation for your injuries.
If you have any other questions or need assistance, contact an experienced El Centro drunk driving accident lawyer.
Call Our Experienced El Centro Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
If you suffered serious injuries in an El Centro drunk driving accident, an attorney can help. Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys today at (619) 237-3490 for your free consultation and learn more about your legal rights following a drunk driving accident.
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