Oregon Drunk Driver Injury Attorney
Common Injuries Caused By Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Despite this well-known fact, countless lives continue to be taken every year by drunk drivers. While community groups,non-profit organizations, and government agencies have for years worked to raise awareness about the realities of drunk driving, people continue to drink and drive. The irresponsible choices of people who drive after drinking alcohol or using other substances that impair judgment and reactions cause injuries, death, and loss and misery to families across Oregon and across our country. Drunk and impaired drivers cause a disproportionate share of:
- Head-on collisions
- Read-end collisions
- Pedestrian injuries
- Wrong-way wrecks
Injuries inflicted by drunk and impaired drivers range from minor sprains to catastrophic brain injury. The list also includes:
- Spinal and spinal cord injuries
- Broken collarbones
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Herniated disks
- Leg injuries, including knee damage and femoral head fractures
- Shoulder injuries
- Arm and wrist fractures
- Pelvic bone fractures
- Airbag or seatbelt related injuries
- Wrongful death
If a drunk or drugged driver injured you in Oregon, contact the Corson & Johnson Law Firm. Our experienced injury attorneys in Oregon can assess your case and help you fight for a fair and just result. Our attorneys have been representing injured people for decades.
Have You Been Injured By A Drunk Driver?
Here Are Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT TYPE OF LOSSES CAN BE CLAIMED IN A DRUNK DRIVING INJURY CASE?
As with other personal injury claims, drunk driving injury claims include both economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages are for things like past and future medical expenses, past and future income losses, substitute domestic services, and basically any other losses that can be proven financially. Non-economic damages include the human harms and losses from an injury or death. Sometimes called intangible losses, or “pain and suffering,” non-economic damages also include such things as humiliation, disfigurement, emotional distress, and interference with a person’s ordinary non-work activities. In a wrongful death case, non-economic damages also include the loss of society and companionship of the person who was killed.
Cases against drunk and impaired drivers often involve a third kind of damages, usually called punitive or exemplary damages. While economic and non-economic damages are intended to compensate for losses, punitive damages are intended to punish the drunk driver and to deter that person and others from making these kinds of dangerous and irresponsible choices in the future.
During the investigation and legal process, it is sometimes important to determine where the drunk driver consumed alcohol. Oregon law recognizes that one of the safety lines of defense for the community is to prevent minors from drinking and to prevent people who are already visibly intoxicated from being sold or served more alcohol. This is important because while drinkers may temporarily lose their judgment, sellers and servers of alcohol are supposed to enforce the community safety rules about providing alcohol. Early investigation is best, because claims against irresponsible alcohol sellers and servers (often called “Dram Shop” cases, for historical reasons) generally require an early notice to the seller or server, are forensically challenging, and require a higher (more difficult) level of proof than ordinary injury cases. If you think an irresponsible alcohol seller or server contributed to causing a drunk driving injury or death, feel free to contact us for more information on this legal issue.
Who is liable when you are hit by a drunk driver?
There are multiple potential parties to consider after a drunk or impaired driver injures or kills.
The most obvious potential defendants are the drunk drivers themselves who caused the wrecks. One of the next questions is whether the drunk driver was illegally provided alcohol, such as when someone sells or serves alcohol to an underaged driver or to a visibly intoxicated person. Companies and people who break alcohol service laws may have some legal responsibility for the loss. Another question is who owned the vehicle driven by the drunk; an owner of a vehicle has the right to control the vehicle, and that right to control may sometimes result in legal responsibility to the survivor or victim of the drunk’s crash. Yet another question is whether the drunk was on the job; generally, irresponsible conduct on the job that hurts others may result in legal liability for the employer. Occasionally, a drunk driver is involved in some kind of cooperative effort that may result in liability for others involved in that same effort (think of “aiding and abetting” in criminal cases; similar principles apply in civil cases). Finally, the survivor or victim may have uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance coverage that may apply to the loss.
Drunk driving injury cases are sometimes complex, and it is important for the attorney for the survivor or victim to understand and find out who the potentially responsible parties are, and how to investigate and prepare those potential claims. It is frequently important to go the extra mile for the injured person or the family who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver, because in our experience drunk drivers tend to cause more catastrophic losses. Drunk drivers seem to be disproportionately involved in extremely high speed crashes, in wrong-way collisions, in loss of control wrecks, and in head-on collisions and rollover collisions that result in severe harms.
If a drunk driver injured you, or killed your loved one, we have the expertise and the experience to try to obtain a fair and just result.
What should you know if you were hurt by a drunk driver in Oregon?
If you were injured by the irresponsible conduct of a drunk driver, the investigation is usually started by a law enforcement agency, which is concerned with enforcing criminal laws against drunk driving. Survivors of drunk driving crashes generally want to cooperate with the investigating law enforcement officer, both to help in the criminal justice process and also to help a potential future civil claim.
As with almost any other vehicle crash, the survivor of a crash caused by a drunk or impaired driver should also promptly contact their own motor vehicle insurance company, but should not talk with the adverse insurer or sign any paperwork sent by the adverse insurer.
However, neither law enforcement nor your own motor vehicle insurance company is concerned about the other kinds of potentially responsible parties described above (“Who is liable when you are hit by a drunk driver?”). Investigation of those other potential claims is generally best done by a law firm with experience in drunk driving injury and death cases. Survivors improve their odds of obtaining the needed evidence if they retain an attorney early on, who can then do the needed civil investigative work.
Does Someone Besides the Drunk Driver Share Responsibility For Your Injuries?
It is our experience that drunk drivers in Oregon typically do not have enough insurance to fully compensate the survivors or to help the family of those they have killed. Even worse, a surprising number of drunk and impaired drivers have no vehicle insurance at all.
Because the harms inflicted by drunk drivers are often so great, and the resources available from drunk injuries are often so inadequate to compensate for the losses they cause, it is especially important for survivors to get the legal help they need and deserve to fully explore all of the potentially responsible parties.
The Drunk Driver who Caused My Crash May Have Been Served While Visibly Intoxicated — Are There Special Requirements That Apply To My Case?
Oregon law has special requirements for holding responsible irresponsible alcohol sellers and servers, when they can be identified.
First, the law requires that the irresponsible alcohol provider be given early notice of the potential claim. This notice is in addition to the normal statutes of limitations that apply to injury and wrongful death cases. Oregon’s general rule is that the bar, restaurant, store, or social host must be notified of a potential claim within 180 days of the injury, or within 180 days after the injured person discovers or reasonably should have discovered the potential claim against the alcohol provider. The notice period is one year for wrongful death cases, and for injury cases, the notice period does not include any time the claimant is less than 18 years old. (There are some other notice provisions that do not come up often, but can be important in any given case). To be on the safe side, it is best to give formal notice in the manner specified in the statutes.
Second, the law requires that the survivor or the family of the victim prove the case against an irresponsible alcohol provider by the “clear and convincing” evidence standard. Most civil cases use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which simply asks a jury to decide what is more probably true (people often call this a 51% standard, which is pretty close to the legal definition). Clear and convincing proof is a higher standard, requiring evidence that proves a fact is substantially more likely than not. In these cases, the fact to be proven is that the alcohol was provided to an underage person or to an adult who was already visibly intoxicated.
Proving that alcohol was served to someone who was already visibly intoxicated can be challenging. While there may be surveillance videos at a bar or restaurant, if law enforcement did not seize a copy of the video, the establishment may record over the data within a relatively short time. The person who overserved the customer or guest often does not want to admit that they did so, and the drunk often denies that they were visibly intoxicated at the time. Police videos of the drunk after the crash do not show what the drinker was like at the time they were served. The best available evidence of visible intoxication is often the testimony of people who were with the drinker at the time they were overserved. Finding those potential witnesses usually comes from prompt old-fashioned investigation work. Even after witnesses are located, securing their cooperation is sometimes difficult. Some people “just don’t want to be involved,” and others feel a sense of loyalty to the alcohol server (who may be a friend, or a regular watering hole, or a go-to friendly bartender).
Contact a Qualified Attorney ASAP
Most drunk driving injury cases eventually settle, but the terms of a settlement reflect in part the work, preparation, and knowledge that go into the case. If there has been a serious injury or a death, it is important to have an attorney help to make sure you identify and assert all of the legitimate claims. A good attorney can also help you avoid doing things that might damage your case. For example, adverse insurance companies generally try to obtain overly broad medical records from unrepresented injured people, and try to obtain statements that are slanted toward the other side. An attorney stands between the adverse insurance company and the injured person, standing up for the injured person’s rights.
An experienced injury attorney at The Corson & Johnson Law Firm will protect you from overbearing tactics by the impaired driver’s insurance company, and will try to make sure you get a fair and reasonable result for your case.
Drunk & Impaired Driver Caused Injury Cases
Please click on the Read More Cases link highlighted below to see additional Drunk and/or Impaired Driver Caused Injury case examples.
If you think you may have a case, please call, email, or text us; we would be happy to talk with you.
Drunk & Impaired Driver Caused Injury Resources
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the federal Department of Transportation, has a good website: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving
The Corson & Johnson Law Firm is experienced in bringing legitimate punitive damages claims to help survivors get a fair resolution of their cases.
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