Drunk Driving Accident Settlements and Claims: Real-Life Examples

Read these claim summaries to get a sense of how these cases play out.

Reviewed by , J.D.

If you're wondering what a car accident injury case might look like when a drunk driver caused the crash, you might find these real-world examples useful (they've been submitted by users of this website). For more articles like this one, check out Examples of Car Accident Cases and Payouts and Examples of Jury Verdicts in Car Accident Cases.

Washington Drunk Driver Injures 4

Linda reports that a drunk driver rammed into the side of her car, totaling the vehicle and injuring Linda and her three passengers. Linda received a whiplash injury and has had neck and back pain as well as anxiety and depression. She has been treated mainly by a chiropractor and a massage therapist. Linda has missed one week of work and her chiropractor is recommending that she take off more time because her back is not healing as fast as it should. Each of Linda's passengers also suffered a whiplash injury. The drunk driver's insurance company is Allstate, and Linda and her passengers are dealing directly with Allstate. They have not hired lawyers.

Analysis: This drunk driver caused 4 injuries and, therefore, there are 4 separate injury claims.

Neither Linda nor her passengers should attempt to resolve their claims until they completely recover from their injuries and return to their usual pre-accident health -- especially since neck injuries are involved, and these can be particularly tricky. (Learn more about car accident neck injuries.)

When you are injured in an accident, the person who caused the accident (or, usually, their insurance company) must compensate you for everything that you go through as a result of the accident. But, until you finish going through the process you won't know everything that the accident caused -- you won't know the full "story" of your accident until all of the consequences of the accident are over and the last chapter of the story is written.

Wisconsin Drunk Driver Injures Passenger-Girlfriend

Noelle was a front seat passenger in a car which skid on ice and hit a parked car. The driver, who happened to be Noelle's boyfriend, was charged with DUI. Noelle fractured her wrist and elbow, and she had glass "coming out of her arm." She expects permanent scarring on her right arm. In addition, she has suffered with upper back pain and headaches since the accident, which was three months ago.

Noelle estimates that her medical bills will total $25,000 by the time that she is done treating. In addition, she missed two weeks of work, which cost her $3,000. Noelle, who is representing herself in her dealings with A.I.G. Insurance Company, is concerned about how to "put a price tag" on her pain and suffering.

Comments: Noelle has a significant case that could possibly entitle her to six-figure compensation, depending on all the facts, so it may be a good idea to talk with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Scarring can add significantly to the compensation that Noelle can recover. If it is clearly noticeable, and especially if it bothers her or if it interferes in any way with what she does for a living, it could entitle her to a great deal of compensation. To use an obvious example, a disfiguring scar on a professional model's face would be a big deal. (The same scar on a person with a regular job would add less value to the claim.)

Noelle should make periodic photos of her scars to use as evidence.

Noelle should be aware that A.I.G. may try to blame her for her injury. She was just riding as a passenger, but if they have any evidence of this, they may argue that she got into the car knowing that her boyfriend was drunk and that decision contributed to causing her injuries. Their argument may be that she "assumed the risk" of being injured.

In car accident cases, Wisconsin recognizes a principle called comparative negligence. Basically, it means that the fault (negligence) of those involved in the accident is "compared," and the injured person's recovery is reduced by his or her percentage of fault. So, if Noelle were determined to be 25% responsible for causing her injuries, her recovery would be reduced by 25%. And, if she is determined to be 51% or more at fault, her claim is completely defeated.

These issues are too tricky, and the stakes are too great, for Noelle to represent herself.

Arizona Drunk Driver Rams Car Turning Left

Dorrie reports that she was making a left turn in Arizona when a speeding drunk driver rammed into the driver's side of her car.

Dorrie and one of her three children who were in the car were injured. Her daughter had facial bruising and Dorrie had multiple bumps and bruises as well as a knee injury. Medical bills have totaled about $2,000, $1,200 of which have been paid by Dorrie's health insurance company.

Dorrie is representing herself in negotiations with the drunk driver's insurance company, Gainsco Insurance. The drunk driver had the minimum coverage that he could have in Arizona, $15,000.

Comments: Arizona is a fault state, but there is certainly no question who caused this accident. The only question to be resolved is how much Dorrie and her injured daughter are entitled to recover as compensation for what they have gone through.

Dorrie has at least two claims for injuries, hers and her daughter's. They are separate claims and they can be resolved separately. There are also two separate insurance policy limits that are (potentially) available to pay these claims.

To begin with the obvious, Dorrie should not be attempting to settle these claims unless she is sure that she and her daughter are fully recovered from their injuries. If there is any doubt about this, she should wait until she is sure. This is because she will only be able to settle each claim once. After it is settled, the claim is over. She can't be compensated for any injuries that are discovered after the settlement.

As a practical matter, the fact that the driver who hit Dorrie's car was drunk adds value to these claims. That is because a judge or jury hearing the case if it went to court would be offended by the drunk's actions and would probably come down harder on him (or her). Dorrie should remember this when she negotiates with the insurance company.

One other thing that Dorrie should know is that her health insurance company will probably make a "subrogation claim" against her settlement. This means that they will ask to be repaid for the medical bills they have paid for Dorrie and her daughter. And, guess what? They probably have a right to this recovery. Dorrie should consider this fact in the settlement negotiations.

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