Everyone makes mistakes. Sleeping through your alarm or forgetting to pick up milk at the grocery store, however, pale in comparison to the millions of drivers who choose to get behind the wheel after drinking each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 29 people are killed each day in accidents caused by drunk drivers. Not surprisingly, inebriated motorists are one of the leading causes of fatal accidents in the United States, making them one of the riskiest groups of people to insure.
Perhaps you’ve made a mistake and decided to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Perhaps you’ve gotten into an accident, either minor or serious. You likely have a million questions, a million concerns and a million fears about what lies ahead. One concern at the forefront of your mind might be your insurance coverage. While auto insurers are there to help mitigate the damage done in an accident, coverage can be denied for a variety of reasons. A policyholder’s choice to drink and drive could be reason enough to deny a claim, but that’s no reason not to file.
Filing a Claim After DUI-Related Crash
If you hope to have your accident covered by your insurance company, it’s best to follow these steps:
- Stay on the scene. Many drunk drivers’ first instinct is to flee the scene of the crash. After all, impaired motorists are likely to face breathalyzer tests, handcuffs and lengthy legal consequences. Regardless, hit and runs are far more serious than DUIs, and given how prevalent security cameras are in this day and age, it’s only a matter of time before the driver is caught.
- Seek medical attention. Whether at the scene of the wreck or by your doctor later on, always be sure to get examined by a medical professional. Even if you think you’re not hurt, it’s best to get checked out, just in case.
- Call the police. Regardless of how serious your accident is, it’s important to report it to police. Documenting your collision is the first step to getting it covered by your insurance company.
- Exchange information. Never leave the scene of an accident without first exchanging insurance information, driver’s license details and phone numbers with the other motorists involved.
- Take photos. Use your cell phone camera to snap a few images of the damage done in the collision. The evidence could help your insurance company better understand what led to the accident and build your claim.
Once you’ve completed these steps, report the incident to your insurance company. They will investigate the incident and determine which driver was at fault. If you were drinking and driving and your inebriation contributed to the collision, your insurer may deny the claim.
If you were not the impaired driver during the wreck, the drunk driver’s insurance policy will likely cover any medical bills or car repairs necessary. Should their company refuse payment, filing a lawsuit to recover damages from the drunk driver is also an option. Your ability to sue depends largely on where the accident occurred. In no-fault states, a certain financial threshold must be met before an accident victim can pursue legal action. In negligence states, though, victims may sue impaired drivers regardless of how much damage was done.
If you were the drunk, at-fault driver, your insurance company may take the stance that you intentionally imbibed and opted to get behind the wheel. Because most insurance policies only cover accidents caused by negligent or reckless behavior, a wreck caused by someone intentionally under the influence may not be covered. While you can make the argument that your decision to drink and drive was reckless, your insurance company could put up a serious legal fight.
There are a number of legal, social and financial consequences of getting into a DUI-related car accident. If you were indeed drunk at the time of the accident, you could be arrested and have your car impounded. You may have your driver’s license revoked, be ordered to pay expensive fines and even see jail time. Of course, the social fall out from such an incident could also be significant.
You’ll also likely face higher insurance premiums, or even be dropped from your insurance policy altogether. If a company deems you too high of a risk to cover, they can drop your coverage. Finding replacement auto insurance may be difficult, too. Once you’ve been declared a high-risk driver, your rates may double or even triple, even if you move on to a different insurance company.
Every insurance company has different policies regarding DUI-related accidents. If you’ve been involved in one, it’s best to be honest about your role in the incident and alert your insurance company as soon as possible. Regardless of whether your insurer decides to cover the damage done, it’s worth speaking with an attorney about your legal options. No matter the circumstances surrounding the collision, having a trusted, experienced lawyer on hand can help ensure your rights are protected and that your best interests are being looked out for.
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