Hit by Drunk Driver Settlements

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Written By Rocky Horton

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In the last decade, hit by drunk driver settlements have been on the rise. Accidents involving cars hit by a drunk driver account for $44 billion in damages every year, according to the CDC. Statistically, 203 people die every single week from drunk driver accidents. This doesn’t include all the serious, life-altering injuries sustained by people who survive them.

If you were hit by a drunk driver, you’ll want to determine how to get compensation for your injuries. Continue reading for our guide on accidents involving a drunk or impaired driver. It includes how to prove your case after the accident, how insurance works in a case involving a drunk driver, and how you can get compensated for your injuries.

How Many People are Killed by Drunk Drivers?

According to the NHTSA, a person dies from a crash involving a car hit by a drunk driver every 45 minutes. This means that approximately 12,000 people per year die from these accidents, all of which are preventable. Additionally, 20% of all children who die in a car accident die in one involving a drunk driver. In around 64% of those deaths, the drunk driver was in the same car as the child.

Knowing this, it’s important to know why drunk driving is so dangerous. Alcohol levels in a person’s system impede their sensory and coordination abilities rapidly. At a BAC of .08 g/dL, the risk of crashing the car exponentially increases. This is why .08 is the legal limit.

However, this number is not the end-all for judging impairment in a hit by drunk driver settlement. Even a BAC of .01 g/dL can cause a loss of coordination, often varying with the individual’s tolerances. Over 2,000 of the people who die in drunk driver accidents do so below the legal limit for alcohol concentration.

What to Do if Hit by a Drunk Driver?

If you are hit by a drunk driver, there are a few important steps that you should take right away to improve your chances of winning your hit by drunk driver settlement. Your responsibilities begin as soon as the crash takes place.

The first thing you should do is call 911 so emergency personnel can arrive on the scene. If the other driver drives away, you should remain at the scene rather than pursue them.

After calling, you should start gathering evidence. This includes photos of the scene, including both cars, the other driver’s ID, contact and insurance information, pictures of both license plates, and photos of any relevant property damage. You should also get the contact information of any witnesses.

When medical personnel arrives, you should receive prompt treatment. Never refuse treatment, as this can impact your ability to claim an injury settlement later. Additionally, you should never verbally admit shared fault or apologize for the accident.

This is because of the comparative negligence rule, which states that the insurance compensation for an injury case such as a hit by drunk driver settlement can depend on which party is at fault for the accident and how much. To avoid losing compensation, refrain from making a statement at the scene of the accident.

How to Prove Drunk Driving?

You may need to be your own investigator at the scene of the accident to prove your case later. Look for open containers that could contain alcohol, evidence of the drivers of the other car switching seats, and gather witness accounts of people who see these actions. Take any relevant photos or videos of this evidence if you can.

The police accident report is another important document to have in your hit by drunk driver settlement. Make sure to request the report and look for evidence confirming the drunk status of the other driver such as their tested BAC level at the scene.

Hit by Drunk Driver Insurance Claims

Filing a claim with insurance after you were hit by a drunk driver requires a record of damages and proof of the other driver’s impairment at the time of the accident. Importantly, you need to figure out whether you are in an at-fault or no-fault state, as this can make a difference in your eventual claim.

In an at-fault state, the driver who was more responsible for the accident must pay out more to the injured party. For no-fault states, both insurance policies pay out regardless of fault, starting with your own PIP insurance and then the other driver’s policy.

Can You Sue a Drunk Driver for Additional Damages Not Covered by Insurance?

The short answer is yes – you can sue a drunk driver for additional damages not explicitly covered by your insurance policy. Most policies don’t cover every kind of damage. In addition, the other driver may not even have insurance, so it stands to reason that injured parties should still have legal recourse to get compensation even when no insurance policy is available to settle a claim.

This is why keeping an accurate account of your injuries is so important. Not only your physical injuries but your car damage, your mental pain and suffering, and your depression can all factor into your settlement if they are properly documented. Just remember that not every type of damage you hope to settle can always be proven or compensated for.

If you are in a drunk driver accident, you can receive compensation only according to the regulations in your state. Insurance policies can pay up to a certain amount depending on your state’s fault status, your fault in the accident, and whether the drunk driver had insurance.

Alternatively, you could opt to settle with the driver out of court and not file a lawsuit at all. This is most common in cases where the at-fault driver has no insurance since your only other recourse would be a lawsuit.

A personal injury lawsuit against the driver can be settled in court according to the evidence presented, regardless of the insurance maximums and the state’s fault status. This could be a viable option for you if you are unable to gain satisfactory compensation from the insurance companies. 

Hit by Drunk Driver Settlements

Settlements in cases involving a car hit by a drunk driver vary according to the injuries sustained, among the other factors already mentioned. Though every case is different, typical settlement amounts follow a pattern.

For mild to moderate injuries, the average settlement amount is around $10,000 or less. For severe injury compensation, the average settlement ranges from around $20,000 to $24,000. This doesn’t include the average property damage claim, which was around $4,700 in 2020.

An experienced personal injury lawyer may use various experts to support your injury claim, which could result in a settlement much higher than the average, sometimes in the millions.

Hit by Drunk Driver Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is a significant aspect of claim calculation in a hit by drunk driver settlement. Pain and suffering include any emotional damage you sustain due to the accident, including changes in your quality of life, anguish and depression, changes in your relationships, loss of work, and more.

It is calculated on a scale of 1 to 5 and used as a multiplier for the more quantifiable monetary damages to reach your final desired settlement amount. To validate a claim of pain and suffering, your attorney may require statements from family members, records from medical professionals such as therapists, or even your diary to provide evidence for the multiplier you choose.

Do You Get Compensated More if Hit by a Drunk Driver?

You can be compensated more for being hit by a drunk driver, especially if your state has a dram shop law. A dram shop law allows a lawyer to establish fault for an accident with the establishment, such as a bar, that sold the impaired driver the alcohol that caused the crash.

If the driver can be proven to have a known drinking problem or witnesses report that they left the bar unfit to drive, you can receive more compensation in your hit by drunk driver settlement.

An experienced personal injury attorney will know the laws that apply in your state that can help you win a larger settlement from your drunk driver accident case.

Can You Sue a Drunk Driver for Hitting a Parked Car or House?

Property damage laws can factor into a drunk driver accident settlement, even when a house is not involved. However, if a drunk driver crashes into your parked car or house, you can receive compensation from your insurance policy even if you don’t know the identity of the driver.

This is why it’s important to buy an insurance policy that covers multiple eventualities. In these cases, it’s even more important to carefully document the damage and any evidence you can find such as other damage on the road, skid marks, car parts, and so on. The insurance adjuster’s job will be to prove that the damage was not caused by a drunk driver, so your job is to validate your claim that it was.

When to Get a Hit by Drunk Driver Lawyer

Even if you are not injured in the drunk driver accident, an experienced lawyer can help. Personal injury attorneys can further prove fault in a drunk driving case by requesting evidence from the appropriate authorities, strengthening what’s called the discovery phase of your case.

Many victims make the mistake of assuming that they can retrieve documents like police reports, toxicology test results, driving records, and more on their own. However, a personal injury attorney likely has contacts in multiple industries and knows the information you need. So even in non-severe cases, they can help you get compensation with their expertise.


Accidents caused by drunk drivers account for billions of dollars in personal injury and property damage every year, in addition to hundreds of preventable deaths. If you were hit by a drunk driver, you must follow the proper procedures to receive compensation, including gathering evidence at the scene, refraining from making incriminating statements, and gathering the proper documentation to validate your requested settlement amount.

Depending on the laws of your state, the injuries you sustained, and the fault that can be proven in the accident, compensation amounts vary widely. However, a personal injury attorney has the expertise to gather the right evidence to form a case in your defense no matter the local laws you are up against.

On your own, it can be difficult to get the compensation you deserve in a drunk driving accident case since the insurance adjuster will try to shift fault and obscure your claims. With an attorney on your side, you can better navigate your legal options and get a settlement that matches the pain and suffering you sustained after your drunk driving accident.

Rocky Horton

Rocky Horton


Rocky Horton is a health and safety expert from Chapel Hill, NC. He is the founder of AccidentAdvisor and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, and other publications. Learn more.