Nebraska Drunk Driving Lawyer
Accidents that involve drunk driving result in the loss of thousands of lives every year. In 2017, around 11,000 fatalities occurred in automobile accidents that involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit. In other words, that accounts for one death every 48 minutes. Tens of thousands of others survive injuries, oftentimes severe injuries, at the hands of drunk drivers.
If you were in an accident involving a drunk driver, your injuries may have long-term impacts. Physical, psychological, and financial impacts may completely devastate your quality of life. Beyond physical pain, the costs of medical care and treatment can be significant. Injured individuals may quickly exhaust health or auto insurance policy limits, and their injuries may require extensive rehabilitation.
Fortunately, Nebraska law allows injured individuals to hold drunk drivers accountable through the recovery of damages in a personal injury lawsuit. However, an injured party’s ability to bring a claim is limited by the statute of limitations, which requires injured parties to file a claim within four (4) years from the date of the accident. To avoid being barred from bringing your claim, you must recognize that the clock starts running the day of your accident.
Four years may seem like a long time, but time can pass quickly when you are focusing on your recovery. You should contact a competent Nebraska drunk driving attorney as soon as possible. Personal injury suits can be complicated, requiring substantial time for preparation. Giving your attorney ample time to prepare will allow him or her to build a stronger case. And of course, the sooner you file your lawsuit, the sooner you will be able to recover compensation.
Although driving while intoxicated is a crime, your lawsuit is a civil matter completely separate from any criminal charges. In a civil suit, the remedy is purely financial; incarceration and other punitive sanctions are not civil punishments. Because a civil case awards monetary damages, the burden of proof is lower than that required for a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, you must show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a civil case, you only have to prove that someone else caused your injuries by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence requires that you show it is more likely than not that another caused your injuries. The outcome of any criminal proceedings against the defendant in your case does not affect your ability to sue civilly. Even if the criminal trial results in an acquittal, the party may still be held civilly liable. A successful civil suit will usually result in the offender compensating you for your damages.
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Types of Damages
The types of monetary damages to which you may be entitled will depend on the specific facts of your case. However, there are three broad categories of damages you may be awarded: (1) economic, (2) non-economic, and (3) punitive.
Think of economic damages as costs that can be invoiced in a bill. Economic damages are certain and can be easily calculated. Some examples include the cost of your initial hospital stay and emergency transportation, surgeries, doctors’ fees, medications, and medical devices. The costs of rehabilitation, including any physical or occupational therapy, may also be recovered.
Additionally, economic damages include lost wages. Lost wages include any lost time from work due to injuries from the accident, as well as wages you may lose in the future. Severe injuries that prevent individuals from working at the same level of pay or in the same field are lost wages.
It may be difficult to determine how much money you could potentially lose five years from now, but attorneys have the resources to estimate calculations of future earning potential. A calculation of future earnings will consider present wages, possibilities for advancement, education level, and the rate of inflation. Beyond costs related to your person, you may also receive compensation for the damage your vehicle suffered in the accident.
Economic damages are based upon actual monetary costs you’ve incurred as a result of your accident, so collect all documentation of any costs. Hang onto every receipt and review every bill that you receive. You should track any time you miss away from work. You should also document any tips, commissions, or retirement contributions you miss out on by not working.
Should you decide to pursue a personal injury claim, you will need to show the actual amount of damages that you suffered. Documenting all costs will allow you to receive the full amount of compensation that you deserve.
Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are harder to calculate. These damages are not costs for which you receive a bill. By nature, these damages are subjective and intangible, as they are suffered individually. Car accidents, especially those causing severe injuries, are often traumatic. Victims commonly experience psychological and emotional impacts. Your experience in an accident may induce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), extreme anxiety, or a fear of getting into a vehicle.
In Nebraska, you are entitled to recover monetary damages to compensate for any mental anguish caused by your accident. Similarly, you may be able to recover for pain and suffering, loss of society and companionship, and humiliation. Your spouse may also file a claim for loss of consortium. Spousal recovery may include compensation for the loss of a sexual relationship, companionship, or ability to contribute to one’s family.
While Nebraska courts rarely award punitive damages, they are available in extreme circumstances. Courts award punitive damages to punish behavior that is intentional and immoral or highly reckless. Intended as a form of punishment, punitive damages are intended to discourage others from engaging in similar behavior. Most punitive damages awards are capped at 10 times the amount of combined economic and non-economic damages.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a drunk driving accident, you are likely dealing with a stressful time in your life. You may need to manage injuries and doctor’s appointments while also trying to understand how to secure recovery from the responsible party.
Read on for answers to common questions from individuals who have been victims of a drunk driving accident.
Q: How common are drunk driving accidents?
A: Impaired driving is a serious problem in the United States. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, 29 people die every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. Crashes involving alcohol-impaired driving account for nearly 30 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the country. Additionally, more than one million drivers are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and narcotics in a single year. Alcohol-related crashes account for annual costs of more than $44 billion.
Q: Who is responsible for my injuries in a drunk driving accident?
A: Anytime you are in a car accident, you will need to assess whether any other party acted in a negligent or intentional fashion in a way that caused the accident and your injuries. If an individual is violating the Nebraska laws on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this is important evidence of negligence. In Nebraska, any individual operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.08 percent violates the law.
It is important to secure a police report after the accident to ensure you have appropriate documentation of the individual’s blood alcohol concentration, witness statements, and any citations that are issued.
Q: What kind of damages can I recover for my injuries?
A: When you assess your damages, you may initially only be contemplating recovery for your medical expenses. It is likely, however, that you have suffered more negative impacts on your life than hospital bills.
The following types of damages should be considered when contemplating a damage demand after an accident with a drunk driver:
- Medical expenses: Keep track of all your expenses, including doctor’s bills and medicine, and factor in any required long term rehabilitation costs.
- Loss of income and future earnings: Your injuries may have required you to miss work and may also affect your ability to work in the future. You should be able to recover for lost income and lost future earning potential.
- Emotional distress: The accident may have left you with emotional distress such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Your injuries may have left you feeling isolated and alone, or maybe you are scared to get back in a vehicle. No matter the emotional trauma, you should include damages to address it in your recovery demand.
- Property damage: Your car was likely damaged in the accident, and other belongings may have also been damaged. You should seek recovery for the repair or reimbursement for this damaged property.
- Loss of enjoyment: Your injuries may limit your ability to participate in activities you previously enjoyed, such as playing a sport or a musical instrument. An attorney can help you place a numerical value of the loss this represents in your life.
Q: What are punitive damages?
A: Punitive damages are awarded not to compensate the injured individual for their suffering but instead to punish the defendant. There are often news cases declaring large punitive damages awards for plaintiffs. You should not, however, depend on such an award in Nebraska. Nebraska is one of three states where punitive damages are generally not available.
Q: What is the statute of limitations for a drunk driving accident claim in Nebraska?
A: All states provided specified periods of time in which certain claims must be brought for the recovery of damages. This period of time is called the statute of limitations. In Nebraska, the statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury claim, including for a drunk driving accident, is four years.
Q: How long will it take to secure recovery after the accident?
A: The timeline for recovering damages after an accident will depend on your case strategy. You will first need to understand your damages and an amount that you feel would appropriately compensate you for your injuries. With that information, you can decide whether you want to take your case to trial or to settle before trial.
Taking your case to trial can lengthen the process. First you will need to file your lawsuit, then a period called discovery will take place, where both parties can seek additional evidence from the other to build their cases. After discovery, you will need to wait until your scheduled trial date. The trial itself can take time.
Going to trial may well increase the compensation you can recover, and make the extra time worthwhile.
You do not need to decide up front whether you intend to settle, but will likely find many opportunities to consider settlement throughout the process. An attorney can help you understand the strength of your case and when, or if, you should consider a settlement, or when going to trial is worth the extra time and risk.
Q: I was injured in an accident with a drunk driver. What should I do now?
A: First and foremost, make sure you secure proper medical treatment. In addition to tending to your medical wellbeing, you should also be sure to immediately report the accident and get a police report. Be sure you are cautious and mindful in your conversations with any party after the accident, including insurance companies. They may later try to twist your words against you. Similarly, be careful to read any paperwork you are requested to sign thoroughly. You want to make sure you don’t sign over any important rights, such as the right to seek certain damages or to bring a lawsuit.
The idea of pursuing a lawsuit is likely overwhelming. Consider contacting an experienced attorney who can assist you in compiling evidence, evaluating your case, working with insurance companies, and evaluating any settlement offers.
Contact a Nebraska Drunk Driving Attorney
Drunk driving accidents can leave lasting scars on the lives of injured individuals. They will likely feel overwhelmed by the physical and financial pain of their accidents. Attorneys can shoulder some of the stress by fighting on behalf of their clients for fair compensation.
At the Robert Pahlke Law Group, we have over 85 years of combined experience. We are dedicated to fighting to protect the rights of injured parties. Our commitment is apparent in our proven track record of recovery for our clients. No lawyer can guarantee a specific result in your case, because each case is unique; however, we promise to utilize our combined experience and extensive knowledge of the law to advocate for your best interests. We pride ourselves in bringing compassion to each case.
You don’t have to live with the financial burdens resulting from injuries you incurred in a drunk driving accident. Take action to take back what a drunk driver stole from you. You can trust the Robert Pahlke Law Group to handle your lawsuit and fight to maximize your compensation.
Contact us today or call (308) 633-4444 to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.