You probably already know that driving under the influence is one of the predominant causes of traffic accidents and traffic fatalities in California and across the United States. Every year, about thirty percent of all traffic deaths are linked to driving under the influence. Additionally, drunk drivers injure thousands of other innocent drivers, passengers, and pedestrians every year, and many of those injuries can be quite serious. The law in California and every other state allows traffic accident victims to claim compensation for all of their medical expenses present and future, pain and suffering, all lost wages present and future, and all other damages and costs tied to any injury caused by a drunk driver.

Additionally, in California and a number of other states, in some cases the law allows for the recovery of punitive damages from a drunk driver who knowingly endangered others by driving under the influence. If you are injured by a drunk driver, it is imperative to retain a good personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible so that a proper investigation may be conducted and your personal injury claim may be filed promptly. In the San Francisco Bay Area, contact an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights and options – which may include a personal injury lawsuit – immediately after any traffic accident with injuries.

Thirty percent of us in the United States will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic collision in our lifetimes. Crashes that involve alcohol cost the United States approximately $51 billion in damages every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although drunk drivers are subject to serious legal penalties in every state, and drunk drivers can also be sued in civil court for damages, in many cases, it is still the injury victim who suffers the most, and no amount of punishment or compensation can alter that reality.

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IN WHAT WAYS DO INJURY VICTIMS SUFFER?

Rebekah Bowers Sanders knows what it is to suffer. Last year, she and her husband were on their way to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Ms. Sanders was supposed to be a part of her sister’s wedding. They didn’t make it. A drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level was measured at 0.138 percent – the legal limit is 0.08 percent – crashed into their vehicle’s rear end near Paris, Texas. Emily Sharrock, then 20, was charged with two counts of intoxicated assault with a vehicle causing serious bodily injury. Since the crash last June, Ms. Sanders and her husband have been recovering from a variety of serious injuries. Combined, the couple sustained several broken ribs, four broken leg bones, a dislocated hip and shoulder, three broken arm bones, a broken eye socket with vision loss, a shattered wrist, a sprained ankle and wrist, torn ligaments, and severe bruising. Rebekah Bowers Sanders recently wrote these two paragraphs about her accident for the KLFY News website:

“A little over seven months ago, a drunk driver changed the lives of my husband and me forever. I have yet to regain the vision in my right eye, and it is extremely unlikely that I will ever see out of it again. I will never get to look over my shoulder at my children playing in the backseat of the car. I will never be able to put on eyeliner the same way. I cannot enjoy 3-D movies anymore, and driving is a constant stress. So many other tasks that used to be easy take extra time and attention. You don’t realize how much you need the vision in both eyes until you lose one of them. I just started walking unassisted two months ago after two leg and knee surgeries. Relying on others for rides, baths and meals was one of the most restrictive feelings. Luckily, I have a wonderful support system of friends and family who did all they could to make me feel ‘normal,’ but let’s be honest: There’s nothing normal about being 25 and having to be helped to the bathroom and shower.

I had to move back in with my parents for two months because my sweet husband was also severely injured and unable to help with my care. We spent our fourth wedding anniversary in separate hospital rooms hundreds of miles from home. While other families were celebrating Father’s Day, my daddy was hearing that his daughter was being rushed to an emergency scan because my oxygen level had crashed and they were afraid I had a blood clot in my lung. The 20-year-old who hit Zach and me had a blood alcohol content almost twice the legal limit, was on her phone and was also speeding at more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. It’s a dangerous combination that has cost us months of hardship and caused our loved ones to have horrifying memories they will never be able to forget.”

The catastrophic injuries sustained by the victims of drunk drivers can have a lifelong impact. A traumatic brain injury, for example, can occur whenever there is a blow to the head, and the potential for spinal cord injuries – and possible permanent paralysis – is also high in serious accidents. When an impact happens at the rear of a vehicle, the occupants may suffer a serious whiplash injury or soft tissue injuries. These are musculoskeletal injuries that can impact your ability to return to work or simply to meet your everyday obligations.

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WHAT ABOUT THE EMOTIONAL CONSEQUENCES?

Although many physical injuries may heal with time, as Rebekah Bowers Sanders’ words indicate, the emotional consequences of a serious injury caused by a drunk driver could be permanent. Seriously injured accident victims are often at risk for a number of potentially severe mental and psychological difficulties after an accident. Many accident victims have to deal with nightmares, flashbacks, isolation, alienation, and depression. Trauma and fear can plague an accident victim for a long time after the accident, and some losses can never be replaced.

Even without more serious psychological difficulties, a typical accident victim commonly suffers some level of depression for some amount of time after any serious traffic accident injury. That depression causes some people to have difficulty managing and maintaining their jobs, their finances, and even their marriages after a serious accident and injury. Drunk drivers may face the legal consequences of their actions, but it’s usually the victims of drunk drivers who ultimately pay the higher price.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AFTER A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT?

If you have been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, you must try to accomplish a number of important tasks at once, and you’ll need to try and remain calm so that you can think clearly. Obviously, the first priority after any traffic collision is to obtain medical treatment immediately for yourself and for anyone else who’s been injured. San Bernardino personal injury lawyers suggest calling the police immediately after you summon medical help. You’ll need to obtain a copy of the police accident report, and you may also need the testimony of police officers as witnesses if you eventually choose to pursue a personal injury claim. Ask any witnesses to the accident for their names and a way to contact them. You must obtain the other driver’s name, contact information, and insurance information. Most drivers will be helpful, but if the other driver is too injured, intoxicated, or hostile to cooperate with you, ask the police to help you gather the information you need.

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Whenever you drive in the 21st century, it’s now also a smart idea to have the camera ready on your cell phone. After an accident, take abundant photographs – or if you’re injured and can’t take pictures, have someone take them – of the accident scene, the damage to the vehicles, the license plates, and your own visible injuries. Photographs can be convincing evidence in personal injury cases. Be sure that you can prove the date when the photos were taken. Also make and keep copies of each document generated by the collision: medical tests and medical bills, the police accident report, and any other paperwork. Additionally, you must also keep all of your medical treatment appointments and you must receive appropriate, timely care for all of your injuries. Your doctor appointments also create the medical documents that your personal attorney will need to fight for justice on your behalf.

When you are injured by a drunk driver who fails a breathalyzer examination – that is, a driver whose blood alcohol content level is measured at 0.08 percent or higher – your chances of prevailing with a personal injury claim are good. A breathalyzer test is persuasive evidence, and a DUI conviction is even more persuasive. However, you still must prove that you were injured by that particular driver in that particular accident, and you also must prove the extent of your injuries. A good personal injury lawyer will examine all of the evidence, interrogate the witnesses, and fight aggressively for the compensation and justice that you need and deserve after a serious injury caused by a drunk driver. If you’re injured in the San Francisco Bay Area by an impaired driver, don’t wait. Take your case at once to an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.