Drunk driving is extremely dangerous. It is also illegal. And in Oregon and Washington, drunk drivers can face severe penalties including fines and jail time. But, is it also covered by insurance? If you have been severely injured or a loved one has been killed by a drunk driver, can you count on the drunk driver’s insurance company to cover your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses?
Insurance Coverage for Drunk Driving Accidents in Oregon and Washington
Fortunately, yes. In both Oregon and Washington, standard auto insurance policies cover drunk driving. Despite its obvious risks and potential for severe consequences for everyone on the road, for insurance purposes, drunk driving is treated similarly to all other forms of driver negligence. This means that:
- Drunk driving accidents are covered by auto insurance;
- In order to obtain an insurance settlement (or win a verdict at trial), you will need to be able to prove that the driver was drunk and that his or her drunkenness caused the accident;
- As the victim of a drunk driving accident or someone whose family member was killed by a drunk driver, you are entitled to seek full compensation for all of your accident-related losses; and,
- If the drunk driver is uninsured or underinsured (meaning that his or her coverage is insufficient to cover your losses), you can file a claim under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance policy – if you have one.
In some cases, it will be obvious that a driver is drunk. The driver will stumble out of the vehicle, his or her breath will reek of alcohol, and he or she may even admit to being drunk when asked by the responding police officer. However, in other cases, it can be far more difficult to prove that a driver was drunk at the time he or she caused the auto accident. Moreover, even if it is clear that the other driver was drunk, the insurance companies may still try to blame you or your loved one for playing a role in the accident. As a result, while drunk driving accidents are covered by insurance, this does not mean that obtaining an insurance settlement is going to be easy. In fact, unless you aggressively assert your legal rights, you could find yourself living with the consequences of the drunk driver’s negligence for decades to come.
Seeking Compensation after a Serious or Fatal Accident Caused by a Drunk Driver
With these considerations in mind, if you have been injured or lost a family member at the hands of a drunk driver, you must be prepared to fight for what you are rightfully owed. While your attorney can deal with the insurance companies for you, you will still play an important role in your case. Your attorney will need you to supply important information about the accident, your financial and non-financial losses, and the recovery process. And, when the time comes, you will need to make a decision about whether to accept a settlement or continue on the path toward trial.
At the beginning of your case, you and your attorney will meet to discuss as many details as you can remember about the accident. Your attorney will also begin gathering information about your (or your loved one’s) injuries, your family’s medical expenses and other out-of-pocket costs, and the non-financial impacts of your injuries or your loved one’s death. After your initial consultation, your attorney will investigate to gather any additional information needed in order to determine: (i) whether you have a claim; and (ii) if so, how much you may be entitled to recover for your losses. Questions that will need to be answered include:
- Did the police respond to the scene of the accident? If so, did the responding officer prepare an accident report?
- What other evidence is available from the scene of the accident?
- Did anyone witness the accident? Was the accident recorded on video (e.g., by a traffic camera or business security camera)?
- Is the drunk driver insured? If so, what company wrote his or her policy and how much coverage does the policy provide for bodily injury liability (BIL)?
- Do you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage? If so, do you have it on more than one vehicle (such that you may be able to “stack” your coverage)? What is your overall policy limit for UIM claims?
- Will the insurance companies have any grounds to argue that you (or your loved one) caused or contributed to the accident? Or, can it be clearly established that the drunk driver was 100% at fault in the accident?
- How much have you already lost (in terms of financial costs) as a result of the accident? How much will the accident cost you and your family in the future?
- What is the appropriate amount of financial compensation for your pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of companionship and support, and other non-financial losses?
These are not all of the issues involved in pursuing an auto accident claim, but they are among the most important ones. For more information, you can watch: What Should I Do after a Car or Bike Accident?
If You Have Been Injured or a Loved One Has Been Killed by a Drunk Driver, You Deserve Just Compensation
Dealing with the aftermath of a drunk driving accident can be excruciating, especially if you have lost a family member. However, asserting your right to just compensation is important, and acting quickly can give you the best chance to secure a financial recovery. Not only will waiting to assert your rights delay your recovery, but in some cases, it can also give the insurance companies grounds to reduce or deny your claim for compensation.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation at D’Amore Law Group
If you are facing the consequences of a drunk driving accident in Oregon or Washington, we want to help you. Our attorneys have decades of experience, and we have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for victims of vehicle collisions and other accidents. To discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation, please call 503-222-6333 or get in touch online today.