Hit by a Drunk Driver? Know Your Legal Rights

A set of car keys in the foreground and a glass of whiskey behind.

Louisiana laws protect motorists, passengers and pedestrians who are injured by drunk drivers. State laws make it illegal to operate a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of more than 0.08% for drivers age 21 and over, and 0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers. If you are hit or injured by a motorist who is intoxicated or impaired by alcohol, you have a legal right to be made whole again, and make a claim for monetary damages.

Despite millions of dollars spent on drunk driving awareness and prevention campaigns, alcohol-related crashes still account for more than one-third of all road deaths in the United States.  According to 2014 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 35 percent of all 737 traffic deaths in Louisiana were linked to alcohol use. Louisiana has ranked among the worst states in terms of DUI fatalities, with the majority of deaths in people between the ages of 20 and 34.

Compounding matters is the fact that victims and their families could have been spared their pain, physical harm, emotional suffering and financial losses in these preventable accidents. Unfortunately, many of these result in severe injuries, massive medical bills, months of lost income, and psychological trauma – and in some cases, loss of life.

In the event you or a loved one is struck by a drunk driver in Louisiana, it’s important to enlist the services of an experienced auto accident lawyer who can effectively represent your claim and protect your rights.

Your right to sue for compensation

In Louisiana, those who are injured by drunk drivers have the option of bringing a personal injury claim or wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. Civil litigation is often the most effective means of securing compensation to cover your doctor and hospital bills, medical treatments, lost wages, pain and suffering and other accident-related expenses. If the impaired driver is also facing criminal charges, your attorney may recommend that you wait until the case has resolved, as a criminal DUI conviction can bolster your chances of getting a higher settlement or jury award.

Victims have the right to sue for a variety of damages in a civil action, including:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost income
  • Future loss of earnings
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

In some DUI cases, victims may pursue a civil claim against the intoxicated driver who caused the accident, or against the individual or establishment that served alcohol to the driver. Louisiana imposes a one-year time limit on personal injury actions, which may be tolled in situations where criminal proceedings are still pending.

DUI convictions = stronger cases

Insurance companies will generally try to avoid a juried trial if the at-fault party, who they insure, has been convicted of DUI/DWI in a serious car accident. They realize that juries will be more sympathetic to injured plaintiffs and more likely to award a higher punitive damage award (which can reach into the millions of dollars).  As such, your lawyer will be in a better position to negotiate a favorable settlement that accounts for all economic and non-economic damages, including future pain and suffering.

Legal advocacy in Louisiana

For experienced legal representation in the wake of a drunk driving tragedy, contact Louisiana car accident lawyer Bart Bernard, who can advise you on your rights and what to expect in your case. Call our Lafayette and Baton Rouge offices today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.

Additional “hit by a drunk driver” resources:

  1. CDC, Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Louisiana https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pdf/impaired_driving/drunk_driving_in_la.pdf
  2. The Acadania Advocate, Drunk driving arrests down in Louisiana, fatalities up —despite millions spent on enforcement http://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/news/article_4db274c8-02c2-5a55-a81a-5674881bab1c.html
  3. DMV, DUI & DWI in Louisiana http://www.dmv.org/la-louisiana/automotive-law/dui.php



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