Accidents involving drunk drivers in Colorado are far too frequent, with impaired driving deaths reaching their highest numbers in two decades. If you or a loved one has been involved in a drunk driving accident, you must act immediately. We provide you with some essential guidance on the steps to take, emphasizing safety, legal obligations, and proactive measures to protect yourself. By staying calm and following the right course of action, you can make a significant difference in the outcome of your stressful situation.
Hit by a drunk driver: What to do next
You may be wondering what to do immediately following an accident with a drunk driver in Colorado. There are some important steps to take right away:
- Call 911: The first thing to do is always to get help. The 911 operator will ask you questions and decide what help to send. Try to remain calm and answer the questions to the best of your ability.
- Check for injuries: The 911 operator will probably ask you about injuries you or others involved have received. Check yourself first. Then, if it’s possible to safely do so, check on anyone else at the scene.
- Get medical attention: The 911 operator will probably dispatch EMS (emergency medical services). It’s important to let them check you thoroughly even if you don’t feel injured.
- Take photos: If it’s safe to do so, take photographs of everything in and around the scene of the accident. You’ll want to take photos of road conditions or obstacles that may have contributed to the accident. You’ll also need to get pictures of vehicles, property damage, and license plates.
- Take notes: You may be disoriented or distressed, so taking notes will help you remember everything that happened. Details can be essential for insurance companies and lawyers.
- Get witness information: While you’re taking notes, be sure to get contact information for any witnesses present. This should include names and phone numbers.
Colorado driving under the influence law
Like all states, Colorado prohibits impaired driving. If someone is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may have to undergo breath, saliva, urine, or blood tests to determine their blood alcohol content (BAC).
In Colorado, a person is considered impaired if their BAC exceeds 0.05 but is less than 0.08. If their BAC reaches 0.08 or higher, the person is considered to be under the influence of alcohol.
Extreme BAC, which is 0.15 or higher, carries much higher penalties.
Can I sue a drunk driver if I am hit?
If you have been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, you may be wondering about your legal options and whether you can sue the responsible party. In most cases, you can, but it’s important to know all the facts.
How to file a lawsuit
If you have been hit by a drunk driver and wish to pursue legal action, the first step is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. They will guide you through the process and help you build a strong case.
Once your attorney has collected the necessary evidence, they’ll file a suit on your behalf. The lawsuit will outline the details of the accident, the damages you have suffered, and the legal basis for holding the drunk driver responsible. The lawsuit will then typically be filed through the civil court system.
When can I sue?
In general, you can sue a drunk driver if their negligence caused you injuries or property damage. However, there are some important factors to consider, including the statute of limitations and the concept of negligence per se.
Statute of limitations
Each jurisdiction has its own statute of limitations. This is how the courts set a deadline for filing lawsuits after an accident. Filing too late could result in your case being dismissed. While there could be exceptions, Colorado’s statute of limitations is three years.
Negligence per se
Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that courts may use in cases involving drunk driving accidents. In some jurisdictions, the fact that a driver was operating a vehicle under the influence can automatically create a presumption of negligence. This means that the drunk driver is assumed to have breached their duty of care and should be held responsible for their actions. However, even if you are able to prove negligence, you still need to prove that the drunk driver’s actions directly caused your injuries or damages.
Can I sue an establishment that over-served?
When a drunk driver causes an accident, it’s not just the driver who may be held liable. In some cases, you may also have the option to sue an establishment that over-served alcohol to the driver. This legal concept is known as Dram shop liability.
Under this statute, establishments, such as bars, restaurants, or clubs can be held responsible for continuing to serve people who are clearly intoxicated. If they do this and that person goes on to cause an accident, the establishment may share liability for any resulting injuries or damages.
The specifics of Dram shop liability laws can vary from state to state. If you think this may be relevant to your case, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the process.
What if someone dies due to a drunk driver?
When a drunk driving accident results in the death of someone, the legal consequences become even more severe. In these cases, you may be able to pursue wrongful death claims and survival actions.
Wrongful death claims in Colorado
Colorado law defines wrongful death as a death that is “caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default” of someone else. In a situation where the deceased person could have filed a claim if they had survived, certain family members may be able to seek damages.
In Colorado, certain family members or representatives of the deceased can file a lawsuit to seek damages caused by the accident. Wrongful death claims aim to provide compensation for economic and non-economic losses, including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and the emotional pain and suffering endured by the surviving family members.
Who can file wrongful death claims?
In Colorado, only the spouse has the right to file a wrongful death suit in the first year following the accident. If there is no surviving spouse, the children can file in the first year. In the second year, the children or personal representative can also file.
In addition to a wrongful death claim, family members may be able to pursue survival action. This allows the deceased person’s estate to seek compensation for the damages the deceased would have been entitled to if they had survived the accident. This may include damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and wages lost before death.
Does the driver have to be convicted of DUI?
In a civil case against a drunk driver, it’s not necessary for the driver to be convicted of DUI. The standards of proof in civil cases are lower than in criminal cases. While a DUI conviction or guilty plea can be used as evidence, it is not the only way to establish the driver’s intoxication. Other forms of evidence, such as police reports and witness statements, can also be used. It is important to consult with an attorney who can help gather the necessary evidence and navigate the legal process effectively.
Hit by a drunk driver, what are you entitled to?
In most cases, someone hit by a drunk driver could be entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages seek to reimburse the victim for their losses, and punitive damages are meant to punish the person responsible.
There are two categories in which you can receive damages. Economic damages cover medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering and mental anguish.
Call Colorado’s best drunk driving lawyers
For the best legal representation in Colorado for drunk driving cases, turn to Bachus & Schanker, Personal Injury Lawyers. Our skilled team of attorneys will diligently build a strong case, protect your rights, and fight for the compensation you deserve.
As Impaired Driving Deaths Hit 20-Year High In Colorado, New Bill Hopes To Reduce Number Of DUIs. (2022).
Colorado Drunk Driving Laws 1. (2022).
Negligence Per Se in Personal Injury Lawsuits. (2022).
The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure for Courts of Record in Colorado. (2019).