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Top Five Reasons to Hire a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

woman holding her neck after being involved in a rear end car accident
Home Blog Auto Accident Top Five Reasons to Hire a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

Key Takeaways

  • DUI is a misdemeanor in Washington, but it can be a felony in some cases, especially where injury or death occur.
  • Drunk drivers are not automatically at fault for car accidents. An injured person must prove that they caused the accident.
  • Washington’s Dram Shop Act may hold a bar or other business liable for drunk driving injuries if they served an obviously drunk person who later caused an accident.
  • Hiring a Washington drunk driving accident lawyer offers many advantages, including experience with investigating claims, building a case, and dealing with insurance companies.

Drunk driving accidents can be devastating, leaving you or a loved one with serious injuries or worse. A driver who chooses to drink and drive is a danger to themselves and other drivers. These accidents are avoidable, and yet each year, negligent drunk drivers claim thousands of lives. From 2013 to 2022, drunk driving crashes resulted in an annual average of about 11,000 fatalities. Intoxicated drivers must be held accountable for their actions. This includes criminal charges for driving under the influence (DUI), also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI). It may also include liability for damages in a civil case. If you or a loved one is the victim of a drunk driving crash, the Washington car accident attorneys at McPartland Law Offices can help you seek compensation.

Washington State DUI Laws

intoxicated man at a bar reaching for his car keys while drinking

Washington law provides two ways for the state to prove DUI in a criminal case:

  • The driver was impaired by alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs; or
  • Within two hours of driving, the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher or a THC concentration of 5.00 nanograms per milliliter of blood or higher. For minors, the BAC threshold is even lower.

How do Officers Test For a DUI?

Police officers can measure a driver’s BAC with a blood or breath test. Determining THC concentration requires a blood test.

Washington State DUI Legal Limit

State law presumes impairment when BAC is above the “legal limit” of 0.08 percent. Prosecutors can still prove DUI when BAC is below that limit, or even without any BAC evidence, if they have evidence of a sufficiently impaired driver. For example, it might not be possible to test the BAC of a driver within two hours if they require medical attention after a car crash, but other evidence could point to intoxication.

DUI is usually a gross misdemeanor in Washington. It is a Class B felony, however, in the following situations:

  • The driver has three prior DUI convictions within the past ten years; or
  • They have a prior conviction at any time for vehicular homicide or assault involving drugs or alcohol.

A conviction can result in jail or prison time, fines, driver’s license suspension, and other penalties. Enhanced penalties are possible for:

  • A BAC of at least 0.15; or
  • Refusing a breath or blood test.

Drunk driving accident victims may be eligible for compensation from the Washington State Crime Victims Compensation Program. This program pays benefits to certain crime victims and surviving family members. A DUI accident lawyer who knows Washington law can help you understand your legal options.

Five Reasons to Hire an Attorney After a Drunk Driving Accident in Washington?

Hiring an attorney to help you with your drunk driving accident case can offer many benefits. The process can be complicated and confusing, particularly if you are dealing with serious injuries. Experienced legal representation allows you to focus on your recovery.

1. Deadlines

An attorney who is well-versed in DUI law will know the deadlines that can affect your case. You have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in Washington. This is known as the statute of limitations, and it is not the only critical deadline. A lawsuit is often the last resort after attempting to settle a personal injury or wrongful death claim with a drunk driver’s insurance company. Those claims may also have deadlines that you cannot miss.

2. Investigation Process

An experienced accident attorney understands the investigation process for personal injury claims, including:

  • Obtaining police reports;
  • Identifying witnesses who saw the crash;
  • Determining which person caused the accident; and
  • Gathering evidence to support your side of the story, such as medical records, photos, and eyewitness statements.

As the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you have the burden of proving who was at fault for the accident and how that led to your injuries. This often requires showing how a drunk driver’s impairment caused the accident. A dram shop law claim can be even more complicated. You must establish that a bar or other business knew the driver was intoxicated but served them anyway. It is important to start that investigation as soon as possible while witnesses and other evidence are still available.

3. Insurance Companies

You must speak with your insurance company after a DUI accident to figure out the next steps in your treatment and recovery. Speaking to an insurance adjuster without a personal injury attorney by your side can, unfortunately, lead to you being injured twice:

  • First, by the car accident itself.
  • Second, by the insurance company’s efforts to minimize the amount they must pay to cover your injuries and property damage.

Insurance companies excel at finding ways to settle personal injury claims for less. One common way they do this is by telling you that your treatment is excessive or unnecessary. You don’t want to be shortchanged by agreeing to less than you deserve. McPartland Law Offices is experienced in dealing with insurance companies. Our legal team is happy to help you negotiate a fair settlement.

4. Litigation

If the insurance company does not treat you fairly, we can file a lawsuit on your behalf. You and your attorney will have another opportunity to negotiate a settlement during the litigation process. Most lawsuits end with settlement agreements, and very few go all the way to trial. If your case does not settle, though, we will build a compelling case and advocate on your behalf in the courtroom.

5. Compensation and Damages

patient with an broken arm in a sling speaking to his doctor.

Washington state law identifies two primary categories of damages in personal injury cases: special damages and general damages.

Special Damages

Special damages are damages that you can tally up like a receipt, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pharmaceutical expenses
  • Lost earnings
  • Reduced earning capacity

You can prove these damages by producing medical bills, pharmacy receipts, and other records.

General Damages

General damages, also known as non-economic damages, compensate you for the impact the accident and your injuries have had on your life. They are more abstract than special damages, which can make them more difficult to prove. Examples of general damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional damages, such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression
  • Dismemberment or disfigurement
  • Loss of the use of your vehicle
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Unlike some jurisdictions, Washington does not impose caps on general damages. This means you may be able to obtain robust compensation for emotional distress and other non-economic damages.

Punitive Damages

Some states allow punitive damages in personal injury claims. These are damages that punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff. Washington law does not provide for punitive damages.

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What is Washington’s Dram Shop Law?

Dram shop laws state that if someone serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person, they may be liable for injuries caused by the drunk person. For example:

  • A bar serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron. Note that while the bar is likely to deny responsibility, this can often be extrapolated from the nature and quantity of drinks served and/or gleaned from testimony of witnesses.
  • That patron gets behind the wheel and causes an auto accident.
  • The accident victims may recover damages for their injuries from the bar.

In addition to liability in a civil case for personal injuries, Washington also imposes administrative penalties against bars and other businesses that “sell any liquor to any person apparently under the influence of liquor.”

Is a Drunk Driver Always at Fault for a Car Accident?

Washington uses the “comparative fault” system in personal injury cases. This means that more than one person can be at fault in an accident. You will need to prove that the drunk driver’s impairment wholly or partly caused the accident that led to your injuries. A criminal conviction for DWI could help your case.

A drunk driver is not at fault in an accident simply because they are intoxicated. For example:

  • A drunk driver drives through an intersection with a green light.
  • A sober driver traveling on the cross street runs the red light and passes directly in front of the drunk driver.
  • Even if the drunk driver were not impaired, they would not have enough time to avoid an accident.
  • The drunk driver’s car hits the other car, causing injuries to both drivers.

In this situation, the act of running the red light most likely caused the accident. The drunk driver could face criminal charges for DWI, but the sober driver would be at fault in a civil case for personal injury damages.

Why Clients Choose McPartland Law Offices

McPartland Law Offices has helped drunk driving accident victims in eastern Washington State recover damages for their injuries for over a decade. Our lawyers have received recognition from the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and other professional organizations. Some of our successes include:

  • A $2.025 million settlement in a Grant County truck accident/wrongful death case
  • A $525,000 settlement in a Grant County T-bone collision case
  • A $300,000 settlement in a Chelan County rear-end collision case

Client Testimonials

“My family and I had the opportunity to work with Bryce and his team during a very difficult time in our lives. The service and representation that McPartland Law Offices provided was absolutely exceptional. I was thoroughly impressed by their professionalism, knowledge, and ability to help us understand everything throughout the entire process. To say they left no stone unturned would be an understatement. I will be forever grateful for the compassion and dedication consistently demonstrated by Bryce and his team. I highly recommend McPartland Law Offices.” — Claudia V.

“I was in need of Bryce’s expert representation on a difficult case. He was outstanding and negotiated a very reasonable settlement for my permanent injuries. I don’t believe I would have been treated fairly without his representation and expertise. Thanks Bryce and team” — Lucy P.

“Bryce was very professional, concise and informative. He provided succinct answers and demonstrated very well rounded knowledge to our questions. If you need an attorney with this expertise, don’t walk to his office, run.” — Chuck Y.

“McPartland Law will take care of business! They listen, care and will keep you updated through out the process. Bryce has been great and away from work he is a big part of the Grant County community. Big supporter of all sports programs for local schools.” — Greg G.

Additional Resources

Representing You When the Unthinkable Happens

The drunk driving accident lawyers at McPartland Law Offices represent accident victims in eastern Washington State in personal injury claims. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today at 509-495-1247 or through the online contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Types of Injuries Are Caused by Drunk Driving Accidents?

Drunk driving accidents can cause devastating injuries. Factors like high blood alcohol content may lead to higher speeds and less control of a vehicle. Head-on collisions are some of the worst car crashes, and they are common among DUI accidents. Injuries may include:

What Should I Do After Being Involved in a Drunk Driving Accident?

This type of accident involves many of the same steps that you would take after a normal car accident:

  • Call 911.
  • Take photographs of the scene and your injuries, if possible.
  • Get insurance information.
  • Gather any other information that you think might be useful to your case.
  • Seek medical attention.
  • Contact an attorney.
  • File a claim with your insurance.