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If a drunk driver hits you

Between the Christmas eggnog and New Years champagne, the holiday season can sometimes be a little too festive. The annual drunk driving totals during the season are frightening and too many are injured and killed by drunk drivers. The state patrol has cracked down in recent years, arresting 596 drivers on suspicion of DUI in early December 2015 alone. The "Heat Is On" campaign is publishing the tally online this year, and it's only growing as the season gets underway.

Staying safe

The numbers are a sober reminder of why it's important to be as safe as possible whenever behind the wheel. You can only control your own vehicle and your own self, so be aware and alert when driving and watch for intoxicated drivers. If you see another vehicle acting strangely, call the police and report it. If your friends or family reach for their keys after a party, offer alternative transportation.

In case of accident

You can control your own behavior and influence those around you, but sometimes the other guy is already on the road and you're an unfortunate victim of their bad decision. If a drunk driver hits your vehicle, it's important to follow the same procedures as with any other accident.

  • Make sure everyone is safe and call for emergency services if needed.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information from all vehicles involved.
  • Exchange contact information with any witnesses.
  • Get an official police report on the accident.
  • Document the accident with photos of the damage, including the other vehicle's driver and license plate if possible.

Drunk driver accidents vs. other accidents

Drunk driving is a serious crime. A first DUI in Colorado will net a minimum of 5 days in jail and up to one year, along with suspension of the driver's license and many fees and penalties. The driver's insurance premium will also go up.

Because of this, many drunk drivers will flee the scene of an accident -- which is also illegal and will add to their charges. Make sure you get a license plate number and description of the driver right away, just in case he's a runner. Take pictures with your phone if possible.

Legal recourse

In any car accident, the driver at fault is liable for damages. A drunk driver will face criminal charges for driving under the influence, but you are also entitled to civil action to cover your losses and suffering. If the driver is convicted of a DUI, it provides a clear burden of proof.

Be careful in negotiation with your insurance company. The industry is notorious for offering low settlements that don't cover what you deserve. Remember that an accident causes more damage than just your medical and auto repair bills. You've lost time, missed work or family holiday gatherings, and suffered emotionally. Victims are often apprehensive to drive again after being in a serious crash.

Personal injury attorneys are experienced negotiators who know how to prove causation at the scene of an accident. After a close encounter with a drunk driver, you need to unwind and recover. Let someone else handle the stress of insurance and compensation.

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