In a two-car wreck, make sure everyone is okay, call first responders (if necessary), and exchange information. But, what happens when the other is intoxicated? What do you do then? Below are a few tips for dealing with an intoxicated driver at the scene of a wreck.
Health and safety come first
After a wreck, the first priority is ensuring everyone’s health and safety. Call 911. They will direct you, and handle your initial concerns. While waiting for the first responders to arrive, administer first aid if needed, and you are capable to do so. Take care to keep the scene safe. You can do this by moving damaged cars to the shoulder, turning on hazard lights, and setting out flares or cones to warn other motorists.
If it becomes clear that one of the motorists involved in the wreck is impaired, the task of ensuring everyone’s health and safety can be more complicated. The impaired driver’s need for first aid may be more difficult to assess. That person’s actions may be unpredictable. It may be difficult to convince the impaired person to take safety measures. Be sure to let 911 and/or the first responders know of your suspicions.
Be cautious around intoxicated persons after a wreck
Your own health and safety take priority. Administer first aid to the intoxicated driver if you can, but if you don’t feel safe, back away and wait for first responders to handle the situation. If the intoxicated motorist attempts to flee the scene, don't get in the way. Don’t try to be a hero and put yourself in further danger by giving chase or attempting to subdue that person. Take whatever measures you can to keep the scene safe, and then lock yourself in your car or otherwise put distance between yourself and the other driver. If you’re afraid for your safety, keep first responders on the phone with you.
If it’s safe to do, gather evidence from the scene
If you can safely gather evidence from the scene, do it. Helpful evidence may be scene photos, videos, and getting witness contact information.
Focus first on the intoxicated driver and his/her vehicle. Photograph and take video supporting your observations that the other drivers is intoxicated (I.e. slurred or incoherent speech, acting strange, etc.). Photograph the other driver’s license plate, property damage, and the direction the other driver came from and was going prior to the wreck.
Next, document your own injuries and the condition of your vehicle. If there are witnesses to the accident, ask them to tell you what they saw and heard, and get their contact information for follow-up.
Inform first responders and avoid admitting fault
When first responders arrive (or while you have them on the phone), tell them about your observations, leading you to believe the other driver is intoxicated. This serves two functions. First, it keeps first responders safe by letting them know what they are getting into at the scene. Second, it prepares them to take immediate steps to detain the intoxicated driver, perform any necessary field sobriety testing, and make decisions about whether an arrest is warranted.
Next, give first responders other information about the wreck, and tell them what evidence you’ve gathered, if any. In speaking with first responders, try not to blame yourself for the wreck. You may be shaken up, emotional, or possibly in shock. This is not the time to assess fault. Instead, let the first responders know about the facts and not interpretations of facts. The time for determining fault will come later.
Call an attorney who is experienced in auto wrecks
After leaving the scene and dealing with your own medical needs, contact an attorney experienced in representing clients in car wrecks. An attorney can help you in a number of important ways after a wreck with an intoxicated driver.
First, an experienced attorney will know how and where to follow up with first responders to learn more about whether the other driver was intoxicated, and can help you follow-up with witnesses and gather other important evidence.
Second, an experienced attorney can help you deal with your own automobile insurance company by opening a claim for whatever benefits your purchased, and with any other insurer who may be responsible for paying your medical bills, vehicle repair, and other expenses resulting from the wreck.
Third, an experienced attorney can help you evaluate whether you have a legal claim against the other driver or a third-party who may share responsibility for the intoxicated driver being on the road. For example, a bar owner or the host of a party who over-served the other driver, or a medical provider who prescribed medication with dangerous side effects without warning the other driver, may share legal responsibility for any injuries or property damage the intoxicated driver caused.
Get an attorney experienced in handling automobile wrecks on your side. Call Dwyer Williams Cherkoss for a free consultation today.