Drunk Driving Accidents in Arizona | By Scott Stewart
Posted 09/01/2022 in Personal Injury by Scott Stewart

Drunk Driving Accidents in Arizona

If you have been impacted by a drunk driving auto accident, you’re already well aware of the sober truth. Drunk driving crashes are incredibly painful, and in every sense of the word. That’s true for those injured in the crash and their loved ones—and worst of all, if someone died because of the accident.

While a lawsuit cannot bring back a loved one or make an injury magically disappear, there are legal alternatives that can make a huge difference in your life and the life of a loved one. A successful case can help you receive the treatment and financial security you need now and in the future. 

Drunk Driving as a Civil Case

In Arizona, someone can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in criminal court, and if they are convicted, they can be ordered to pay you restitution for your losses. But it’s also possible that the driver may admit to a lesser charge to avoid steeper penalties that could result in a trial. 

And even if there is a criminal conviction, it can take a long time before you receive the money, and it may not fully compensate you for your losses.

A civil trial is where you are more likely to receive meaningful compensation—because you and your lawyer control your case and decide how to best prove the damages you’re entitled to. (In a criminal trial, the prosecutor would decide, not you.)  

Most DUI-related civil cases are personal injury cases (also known as “torts”), although you can also sue someone for property damage.

Specifics of the lawsuit will depend on your case, but most of these cases will include a negligence claim. In a negligence action, you’ll need to prove: 

  • The driver had a duty of care when they were operating their vehicle 
  • They breached that duty of care because they were intoxicated, and 
  • As a result, you (or a loved one) were injured 

Under Arizona law, a DUI driver can be held liable for your injuries, but they aren’t the only potential defendant in your case. 

For example, Arizona’s “dram shop” law provides that a bartender can be sued for the resulting damages if they knowingly served alcohol to an intoxicated driver. 

What Kind of Damages You May Receive

If you’re successful in your lawsuit, Arizona law allows you to be compensated for any injuries you sustained due to the crash. 

Compensatory damages can include: 

  • payment for the injury 
  • compensation for pain and suffering, loss of love, companionship, or enjoyment of life that are related to the injury
  • reasonable expenses for medical care and treatment (that you’ve already paid and those you may need in the future)
  • any lost earnings (to date and in the future)

If you’re filing suit due to the deathful of a loved one, the basis for compensation is similar, but it would also include paying the reasonable costs of the funeral and burial.

In certain rare cases, you may receive additional punitive damages.

What You Should Do Right Now 

Of course, first things first: If you need emergency medical care, get it! 

Once you’ve taken care of any acute medical needs, you can turn your attention to preparing for a lawsuit. 

In most drunk-driver-related cases, Arizona’s two-year statute of limitations will apply. That means you must file a lawsuit within two years from the crash date. (There are some extenuating circumstances when the court can grant an extension, but it’s better to proceed with the belief you’ll have to meet that deadline.) While that may come as a relief—particularly if you’re still recovering from injury—it’s best to start your case immediately. 

Talk to an attorney as soon as you’re able to. 

Even if you don’t file the case right then, being prepared will make it easier when you do begin litigation. 

Here are easy things to get started:

  1. As soon as possible after the accident, take pictures of any visible injuries. You may want to take pictures before and after any emergency medical care. If your car was damaged, photograph the damage. If it’s safe, photograph the crash scene. 
  2. Get the medical care you need. People often delay care because it seems unnecessary or expensive. But if your condition gets worse because you put off seeing a physician, then the court can hold you responsible for those additional injuries. And it can be difficult to prove how much of the injuries are the driver’s fault and the result of your inaction. (If you can’t afford the care, talk to an attorney about what you can expect from your case.)
  3. Make a record of what you remember about the accident. Collect names and contact information for all witnesses, including anyone else in the car, bystanders, police, medical staff, or other first responders. Include any details that you remember about the incident—from the weather conditions and time of day to what happened. But stick to the facts as you remember them. (Do not include theories about what happened or conclusions about who you think is legally to blame. Leave making those decisions up to your lawyers.) 
  4. Keep a file for receipts for any expenses relating to the accident. This should include everything from doctors’ bills, receipts for prescription drugs, bandages, rental cars, and more. 
  5. Start a complete medical file. Include a copy of every diagnosis, letter, bill, and opinion you receive. (Sometimes, it’s easier to have two sets of copies: Have one file you use—e.g., bring to doctors’ appointments—and maintain a second file that is a pristine, complete archive of documents.)
  6. Keep a journal, documenting all of your issues relating to the crash. Include all details about your medical treatment and recovery, as well as how you feel (psychologically and physically). 
  7. Note anything out-of-the-ordinary relating to the crash. If you’re in pain or losing sleep because of nightmares, can’t eat—anything, no matter how big or small—if you’re doing anything differently because of the accident, write it down. And remember to include information about any others who have been impacted by the crash, too. For example, you may think to write down if you miss work because of a medical appointment, but if a family member missed work to go to that appointment with you, include that, too.   

This is just the beginning. And you deserve more than an article to go on. Your financial and physical well-being are at stake. 

That’s why, for more specific suggestions on your case, don’t hesitate to contact our office (by phone at: 602-548-3400). We will happily schedule an initial confidential consultation with one of our attorneys. 

Don’t wait. You’re not alone, and we’re here to help. So don’t wait. Call today.

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Scott Stewart

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