It is not surprising that alcohol and drugs are factors in more and more car accidents. These substances impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle in a manner that upholds their duty of care. As a result, impaired drivers run the serious risk of causing a motor vehicle collision that may result in death or serious bodily injuries to other motorists and pedestrians.
Not every negligent driver who causes a car accident faces criminal as well as civil repercussions. However, those proven to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit and those whose consumption of alcohol or drugs impairs their ability to safely operate a vehicle face both an administrative revocation of their driver’s license and a criminal charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
If you want to understand what you should do if you or someone you love was hit by a drunk driver, Hawaii’s personal injury attorney, Daniel T Pagliarini AAL can help. Our firm represents injured clients and their families in Honolulu, Hawaii, and throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai.
What Steps Should I Take if I’m Hit by a Drunk Driver?
Most of the steps you should take if you are hit by a drunk driver are the same in any car accident. You should get to safety, call 911, seek medical attention, get the names and contact information of any witnesses, and get the name, contact, and insurance information from the drunk driver if you can. Otherwise, law enforcement will obtain that information upon arriving at the scene of the crash. You should also notify your insurance provider of the crash. If possible, take photos of the vehicles before you move your vehicle, and take the names and phone numbers of any potential witnesses.
Because there are options for financial recovery in a drunk-driving accident that are different from a typical crash, you should contact a personal injury attorney right away. Your experienced personal injury attorney will know how to pursue compensation for you or your loved one.
Who Is Liable in a Drunk Driving Accident in Hawaii?
Hawaii is a no-fault state for auto insurance, which simply means that regardless of fault, each party’s no-fault insurance covers their respective accident-related medical treatment. Your auto no-fault coverage provides for personal injury protection (PIP) benefits which can be accessed immediately, regardless of who was at fault for the crash. If your total medical expenses exceed your PIP limits, (usually $10,000.00) you should then notify all medical providers to bill your primary health insurer for the remaining outstanding treatment.
Don’t wait to retain an experienced personal injury attorney. You will need if you intend to assert a bodily injury claim (“a third-party liability claim) against the drunk/impaired driver who caused the crash. Third-party claims can also be filed if your loved one was incapacitated or killed or if your injuries are permanent or disfiguring.
Can the person who served the alcohol to the drunk driver, or the establishment that sold it to them be held liable?
Although Hawaii does not have a law that can hold the purveyor liable, commonly referred to as a “dram shop law,” case law has established the right of a victim in a personal injury claim or their family in a wrongful death claim to pursue recovery. This does not apply to an individual, such as someone who held a party in their home, but does apply to businesses that sell and serve alcohol.
In either case, you must prove that the party owed you a duty of care, that they were negligent in their duty, and that as a result, you or your loved one(s) suffered injuries and damages.
“DUI” (operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant) “drugged” or “drunk” driving) is a criminal offense. Any conviction of the driver will help establish liability and damages. Proving negligence of the alcohol provider can be more complicated.
Finally, Hawaii does provide restitution to victims of crime. If your damages exceed the value of the insurance coverage or judgment against the drunk driver, you may also be able to make a claim for restitution via the criminal procedure. However, this is a separate procedure from the civil lawsuit.
Does Hawaii Award Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are intended to penalize a defendant for grossly negligent acts or when their actions were extremely reckless. Punitive damages are rarely awarded by juries in Hawaii but may be awarded if the defendant’s behavior is judged to be deplorable. An experienced car accident attorney will know whether the drunk driver’s behavior reached a level that could make your lawsuit eligible for a punitive damage award.
What If My Loved One Died as a Result of the Crash?
If your loved one was killed in or as a result of the crash, the surviving spouse and certain family members, as well as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, are eligible to file a wrongful death action against the negligent parties.
The wrongful death claim essentially replaces the personal injury claim the decedent would have been able to pursue had they survived, so the burden of proof of negligence is the same. In this case, however, you are recovering financial compensation for the estate and for your economic and non-economic losses due to your loved one’s death.
Protect Your Health and Your Rights
At Daniel T Pagliarini AAL, we treat every personal injury and wrongful death case with the utmost respect. Every client receives the full benefit of our experience, knowledge, and personal attention. When a drunk driver causes harm and losses, there are reasons why these cases are unique. We pay attention to those differences.
If you have been injured by a drugged or drunk driver in Hawaii, or if someone you loved was incapacitated or killed, let us help you get the compensation you deserve. Call Hawaii’s personal injury attorney, Dan Pagliarini, now to schedule a free case consultation.