Drunk Driving Accidents
Dangerous, reckless, and deadly: drivers who are drunk or high are a threat to everyone on Colorado’s roads and highways. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) statistics show that drunk drivers cause over 100 traffic deaths each year in Colorado. At Cook, Bradford & Levy we are experienced Longmont and Boulder drunk driving accident lawyers who can help you and your family begin to recover from a drunk driving tragedy. When you suspect that the driver who hurt or killed someone was drunk or high, you need an experienced Boulder drunk driving accident lawyer on your side, and we encourage you to reach out to us at 303-543-1000 for a free consultation.Does it matter that the driver who caused the accident was drunk or high?
It ABSOLUTELY matters. First and foremost, when an accident is caused by a driver who is drunk or high, Colorado law considers it an aggravating circumstance allowing the victim to recover exemplary, or punitive, damages. Punitive damages are damages above and beyond those things that are normally recoverable such as medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. An experienced Longmont and Boulder drunk driving accident attorney knows that punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer for a conscious choice that was against the acceptable norms of our community. In the legal world, we refer a driver’s decision to drink or use drugs and then drive a willful and wanton choice that disregards the community safety. At Cook, Bradford & Levy we have successfully prosecuted numerous cases where a person has made the willful and wanton decision drink or smoke and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle on Colorado’s highways.
An experienced Longmont and Boulder drunk driving accident lawyer also knows that, as opposed to a sober driver who negligently causes an accident, those consciously choose to drink and drive are liable for punitive damages up to the amount of the actual damages incurred by the victim. To illustrate, where a drunk driving victim incurred $50,000.00 in actual damages (such as past medical expenses and lost wages), the victim would be eligible to recover another $50,000.00 in punitive damages, which are designed to punish the drunk driver.Will the Drunk Driver’s insurance cover damages from a drunk driving accident?
At Cook, Bradford & Levy, we always look at the language of the insurance policy to help determine whether there is coverage for a collision. Nonetheless, the answer is generally yes, liability insurance policies provide coverage for drunk driving accidents. The drunk driver’s insurance policy is generally the first place we look for money to compensate a victim injured by a drunk driver. But even if there is no coverage on the drunk driver’s policy, or insufficient coverage on his or her liability policy, victims have options for coverage elsewhere. An experienced Longmont and Boulder drunk driving accident lawyer knows this, and although not an exhaustive list, the following areas are good places to look for the money needed to compensate an injured or wrongfully killed person:
- Assets of the drunk driver;
- Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage; and
- Dram Shop liability.
Assets of the Drunk Driver: An important area an experienced Louisville and Boulder drunk driving accident attorney will investigate are the assets of the drunk driver and any possible relationship connected to that drunk driver. For example, does the drunk driver own a home? If so, the equity of the house may be an asset that an experienced Louisville and Boulder drunk driving accident attorney may be able to recover from the drunk driver. This is why conducting an asset search on a drunk driver is critical to an investigation – it helps demonstrate whether, in the absence of insurance, there is money to compensate a victim for his or her damages.
UM/UIM coverage: Unfortunately, many times drunk drivers do not have any assets and do not have their own insurance. For this reason, it is critical that Colorado drivers carry UM/UIM insurance, because UM/UIM policies step into the shoes of the uninsured or underinsured drunk driver and provide coverage where there otherwise is none or insufficient coverage. Meaning, the UM/UIM carrier is generally obligated to pay whatever damages the drunk driver caused, up to the limits of the victim’s UM/UIM policy.
Dram Shop liability: An experienced Longmont and Boulder drunk driving accident attorney will also investigate where the drunk driver was drinking before the incident. Colorado’s Dram Shop law generally requires that an establishment with a liquor license, such as a bar or restaurant, is liable for any damage caused if it served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron. For example, this means that if an establishment serves alcohol to a person showing signs of visible intoxication such as slurred speech, unsteadiness on foot, bloodshot/watery eyes, etc., and that person then gets behind the wheel and injures or kills someone, the establishment is liable for the damages in addition to the drunk driver himself or herself. Colorado’s Dram Shop statute is codified at C.R.S. § 12-47-801. Unfortunately, Dram Shop claims are capped at approximately $290,000.00, even though a death or serious injury can far exceed this amount. Importantly, Dram Shop claims have a one-year statute of limitations, so action must be taken promptly if a liquor licensee is to be held responsible for the behavior of a drunk driver.
The bottom line is that when a drunk or high driver has caused an accident, the stakes are much higher for them and the injured person and/or their family. If you suspect you have been injured, or a family member killed, by a driver who was drunk or high, you need an experienced Boulder drunk driving accident attorney. At Cook, Bradford & Levy we can help. We encourage you to reach out to us at 303-543-1000 for a free consultation so that you can begin to get answers.