Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers in Columbus
It’s not fair. On a clear, sunny afternoon, a driver is driving at the speed limit with both hands on the steering wheel, paying attention to the road. The car comes to an intersection with a stoplight, waits for the green, and then proceeds. Out of nowhere, another car blows through the red light and hits the car. It turns out the other driver is drunk, with a blood-alcohol level over .08. This is not the first time this driver has been cited for OVI, or operating a vehicle intoxicated. The cautious driver is injured, the car is damaged, and the only way to be compensated for the accident is to sue the other driver’s insurance company to cover medical expenses and damage to the car.
It is really not fair, but it happens.
Why Do I Need a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer?
There are overlapping issues and needs when filing a claim against a drunk driver. The primary need is to find an advocate to file a personal injury claim and represent you when dealing with the insurance company and the civil litigation system. It is important to file your claim within the statute of limitations in Ohio, which is two years. Any claim not filed within two years will not go forward. An attorney will know how to handle filing your claim.
However, dealing with the other driver’s insurance company is the real reason you need an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer. It is very important that you not discuss the accident with the other insurance company—they have only one agenda, and that is to keep the damage award low. They will probably try to persuade you to cooperate with them so they can get your personal injury claim handled quickly and get you a check for damages. This is always a mistake. You need someone to represent you who can handle all the legal issues and get you the most money you can reasonably expect to cover medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering. That is what our lawyers at Rinehardt Injury Attorneys do: we make sure your interests are represented zealously and we fight to get you fair compensation for your car accident.
Why Choose Rinehardt Injury Attorneys
Rinehardt Injury Attorneys is focused on personal injury lawsuits. Attorneys John K. Rinehardt, Hillary Rinehardt, and Melanie S. Fahey have many years of experience practicing personal injury civil law in Ohio. We know the insurance regulations in Ohio, we are familiar with defense litigators working the other side of personal injury lawsuits, and we have represented our clients in front of many of the civil court judges in the north-central Ohio region.
The attorneys at Rinehardt Injury Attorneys are skilled civil litigators, and insurance companies in Ohio don’t want to have their personal injury cases end up in a trial with our lawyers sitting at the other table. We know how to win. This means the insurance companies negotiate in good faith, and this makes it possible for us to get you an optimal damage payout.
The way we treat our clients is an important part of our process. We listen. We understand how distressing and destabilizing it is to be involved in a drunk driving car accident. Compassion and open, frequent communications are important to us because our clients are important to us.
What is Drunk Driving?
In Ohio, we do not use the term “drunk driving. “ We call it “operating a vehicle intoxicated” or OVI. The reason is important: OVI means driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher and/or while under the influence of drugs. Unfortunately, this redefinition of drunk driving is important because of the widespread use of drugs other than alcohol that can also impair drivers’ ability to operate their vehicles.
How Do These Accidents Happen?
Most people cited for OVI do not know they are intoxicated, or how it impacts their driving performance. Blood alcohol content is greatly affected by weight, when the driver last ate a meal, fatigue, and other factors. It is not affected by alcohol tolerance. Even one extra drink at a party can put a driver over the limit. So many people do a “spot check” on their sobriety, decide they are fine to drive and get behind the wheel. The same is true for drug intake. More importantly, they are not aware of how hindered their driving performance becomes. They are not paying attention to how they may be swerving, or whether they can react to road conditions like stoplights, pedestrians, roundabouts, weather, and so on. They think they are doing fine, until they hit something or someone.
What Type of Injuries Could Victims Suffer?
OVI accident victims can suffer a number of injuries, including:
- Head and brain injuries, which can be severe and have consequences for months or even years, and are not always easy to treat
- Back and neck injuries, which are very common in vehicle collisions due to the trauma of a crash at speed, and can require extensive rehabilitation
- Facial injuries and lacerations, which can require expensive plastic surgery to fix
- Broken bones, including ribs, legs, arms, and hands
- And many other types of injuries
Negligence Statutes in the State of Ohio
Ohio is a comparative negligence state, which means that the relative degree of fault for each driver is quantified and applied to the damage award. As the Ohio Department of Insurance explains:
“Comparative negligence provides for you and the other driver to share the cost of damages from an accident in proportion to your share of negligence. You can recover your damages, minus the percent caused by your own negligence if it’s judged to be 50 percent or less. If you’re more than 50 percent negligent, you may not recover any losses from the other driver.
Going back to the example of your being only 20 percent negligent, you would recover 80 percent of your damage under comparative negligence. The other driver would receive no compensation because that person’s negligence exceeded 50 percent.”
How to Prove Negligence
Dealing with the issue of comparative negligence is one of the most important reasons for you to get a good drunk driving accident lawyer. It is a big part of the negotiation between the driver’s insurance company and your lawyer and helps determine how much you will receive in damages. It is also where the issue of the driver’s OVI becomes part of the civil litigation process. A person who drives while impaired is, in the eyes of the law, committing an act of negligence. It “skews the equation” in favor of the plaintiff, effectively increasing the assessment of negligence on the part of the driver and decreasing the assessment of negligence on the part of the plaintiff. The legal is a breach of duty, which is the case if the defendant’s actions did, in fact, cause the plaintiff’s injuries. As you can see, these are pretty technical issues that require a skilled lawyer to sort out.
What Type of Compensation Could I Be Eligible For?
We will work with you to assess economic and noneconomic losses. Economic losses include losses such as medical expenses, damage to your vehicle, time off work, and future earnings capacity. Noneconomic losses include pain and suffering, stress, and emotional turmoil. We draft a demand letter and send it to the insurance company based on your case. The demand letter becomes the beginning point of a lawsuit designed to get you the rightful compensation for the drunk driving accident.
What if there is not enough insurance?
This happens. Sometimes drivers are not insured, so what is the next step? We look at your insurance coverage to see if you have uninsured (or underinsured) motorist coverage. This coverage can be used to pay medical expenses and other costs.
What do I do if the insurance adjuster wants to get a statement from me about the accident?
You immediately and forthrightly end the phone call. There is no benefit to you providing a statement to the insurance company. Then, you get a good lawyer, like the attorneys at Rinehardt Injury Attorneys.
I need my car to get to work. How do I get it fixed?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question. The repairs to your car are part of the lawsuit process, and getting it running again may not be done quickly. However, we will work with you to speed up the process any way we can.
While you are sitting in your vehicle immediately after a drunk driving accident, it might seem like your life will never be the same, and it is not your fault. Rinehardt Injury Attorneys can methodically and carefully work through every issue to get you a good damage award that helps provide compensation for medical costs, property damage, and the pain, suffering, and trauma of a car accident. Call Rinehardt Injury Attorneys at (419) 529-2020 now to schedule a consultation. It will get better.