Victims of drunk driving accidents have multiple avenues to explore when seeking a lawsuit. Don Bumiller, formerly of Mazow McCullough law firm, discusses how to get fairly compensated for a drunk driving accident. Listen or read more to learn about your options when pursuing a drunk driving case.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Don Bumiller of the law firm of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, we’re talking about drunk driving cases. Welcome, Don.
Don Bumiller: Hi, glad to be with you.
John: So, Don, how often is drunk driving a factor or do you see that drunk driving is often a factor in fatal accidents in Massachusetts and New Hampshire?
Don: Certainly in fatal collisions, but they’re also much more prevalent in other cases as well. A lot of people simply get injured in a case caused by a drunk driver. They don’t necessarily die, but oftentimes they are seriously injured.
Legal Options for Families of Drunk Driving Victims
John: Okay, and what legal options does the family of a person who has died in a drunk driving accident, what kind of options do they have?
Don: The same basic statute covers all types of wrongful death cases. Drunk driving cases often bring in complicating factors of whether or not punitive damages should be assessed against the defendant. If the person’s barely drunk, punitive damages wouldn’t come in. If they’re very drunk, and for example, a case we’re handling now, if the drunk defendant is driving down a divided highway in the wrong direction, that’s a case that may qualify for punitive damages.
John: Okay, and how are all those factors determined?
Don: Just by aggravation of the conduct, the aggravating nature of the defendant’s conduct.
Investigating Drunk Driving Accidents
John: Okay. Who does an investigation when an accident like that occurs? Does the law firm do their own investigation, is it the police reports that you’re relying on?
Don: The primary investigation is always done by the police, especially in a drunk driving situation where the defendant’s often arrested. If there happens to be a fatal collision, the State Police Accident Reconstruction Team is sent to the scene. They analyze the scene, [and] prepare a report. Anytime there’s a drunk driver, [there’s] usually a police report. Then, we will use our own investigative team to go out and supplement that if we need it.
John: How often does a typical case involving drunk driving take?
Don: Well, I can’t say that in terms of months or years, but I can say that cases against drunk drivers take longer than the average case, primarily for two reasons. If the drunk driver is arrested, then we’re prevented from immediately getting information about that person because the person is charged with a crime and the person can take advantage of the Fifth Amendment protections that person has to refuse to answer questions. So, in a drunk driving case, we usually have to wait until a conviction has happened before we’re able to depose the defendant and that defendant’s insurance counsel will throw up a lot of road blocks to prevent us from obtaining medical records, insurance information, and location of where they’ve been.
Don: Drawing on a case I’m working on right now where we are not able to find out where the defendant got drunk because we can’t ask that question. We know the person was drunk, we know they killed our client, we know they have very limited insurance, but we’re not able to find out where it was they got intoxicated. Where they got intoxicated is important because that’s potentially an extra defendant if they negligently over-served that person and should have shut them off before they got drunk or before they got on the road.
Determining Liability in a Drunk Driving Case
John: So, is that a difference with drunk driving cases versus other cases, is you could potentially have two different people involved there? You have the person who caused the accident, who was driving the vehicle, and then you have the person who served them alcohol.
Don: That’s right. There’s an extra defendant, extra insurance company you have to deal with, extra insurance lawyers you have to deal with, and it often takes longer to find out where they got drunk.
John: Okay. Any other final thoughts on drunk driving accidents, whether it caused an injury or it was a wrongful death type of case, any other final thoughts?
Don: Oddly enough, we find that some of our clients aren’t aware that they can sue a drinking establishment for over-serving a defendant. Sometimes, we get cases that have come in from other attorneys who don’t have as much experience and they haven’t even pursued the aspect of that second defendant — and that’s important because here in Massachusetts, you can have as little as $20,000 in bodily injury protection on your insured motor vehicle. Whereas, a drunk driver can easily cause a lot more damage than that and you don’t get full compensation unless there is another defendant you can go after.
John: Okay. That’s all really great information, Don. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Don: My pleasure.
John: And for more information on personal injury cases and drunk driving cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call 855-693-9084.