How to Collect Evidence after a Drunk Driving Car Accident

December 17, 2023 | By Francis Firm Injury Attorneys
How to Collect Evidence after a Drunk Driving Car Accident

If you or a loved one is one of the hundreds of thousands of people hurt each year in drunk driving accidents, you may deserve financial compensation under the law.

That the driver receives a DUI conviction and even spends time in jail does nothing to pay for the harm they caused you. The drunk driver also faces civil liability for your damages, but you must seek this compensation from their insurance company.

Before getting a settlement check or jury award, you must go through a legal process and face the same challenges as in any other car accident. One aspect of a claim is that insurance companies will not simply take your word that the other driver was drunk and responsible for your accident. Instead, you must provide evidence to support these liability claims.

How do you collect evidence after a drunk driving accident? Most people have little idea even where to begin in proving their claims. Further, you might need to deal with life-changing injuries and time-consuming medical treatment.

The good news is that you do not have to figure out how to collect evidence because a Dallas drunk driving accident lawyer can do it for you.

The best way to fully protect your legal rights is to hire an experienced car accident attorney to investigate what happened and fight to get every dollar coming to you. They know what it takes to succeed in a drunk driving accident claim, and they will build the strongest case possible for you through persuasive evidence.

There are two main steps to the legal process before you can receive financial compensation:

How to Collect Evidence after a Drunk Driving Car Accident

If you are unsatisfied with the results of the insurance claims process, you can always file a lawsuit. Insurance companies have every reason to fear being in court with you, but they will still try to prevent you from receiving your total settlement.

You need to separate reality from fiction and push your narrative at all times - hence, you need a solid car accident lawyer.

Refrain from trying to collect evidence independently because it may not be effective, and it can compromise your case. Always call a lawyer to do the legal work on your behalf.

You Must Always Prove that the Driver Was Responsible for Your Accident

No matter what type of car accident you are in, you have the same legal requirement and must prove that someone else was responsible to have them pay you compensation.

The core requirement is to demonstrate that someone did something unreasonable under the circumstances, and drunk driving certainly qualifies.

You might assume you have a slam-dunk, straightforward case if a drunk driver was responsible. Even in these cases, you still need to gather evidence to submit to insurance companies.

Focus on your physical recovery and allow your car accident attorney to probe the driver’s responsibility.

Evidence You May Need in a Drunk Driving Civil Case

Evidence will vary depending on the specifics of your accident.

You need evidence to prove:

  • The driver owed you a duty of care
  • The driver breached the duty of care (by driving drunk)
  • The driver’s breach caused the accident
  • You suffered injuries and damages as a result

Proving negligence and liability is more complex than simply stating, “The driver was drunk.” Your lawyer will know what evidence can prove each element.

The following forms of evidence may be helpful to prove your case:

  • Testimony from witnesses to the accident or what the driver did before the accident
  • Pictures from the scene of the accident
  • Traffic or dashcam footage that shows the crash
  • Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert who will give their opinion about the accident
  • Criminal records showing a DUI conviction of the driver

Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list.

A Criminal Conviction is Strong Evidence

When a driver receives a conviction of driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), it can be evidence in your civil case. If your lawyer proves the driver was found guilty of violating the law, this might be enough to settle the liability question on its own.

However, not every drunk driving criminal case ends in a conviction. Some people might plead no contest, which means they do not admit to violating the law. Your attorney can track the criminal DWI case to determine how to best use this evidence in your civil matter.

Your Burden of Proof Is Lower than in a Criminal Case

If the driver chooses to fight the DUI charges, the prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard is akin to the prosecutor persuading the jury to nearly 100 percent certainty that the defendant was guilty of the crime.

In a civil case, the standard of proof is much lower. As the plaintiff, you must prove your allegations by a preponderance of the evidence; numerically, this standard of proof equals 51 percent.

The court can acquit the driver in the criminal case but still hold them liable in the civil case, and the more solid evidence you have, the better. Thus, you should always pursue compensation, no matter the result of the criminal case.

Evidence of Intoxication Is Helpful But Not Mandatory

Nonetheless, it is best to try to obtain evidence that shows the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Even if this proof will not automatically win your case, it can still help.

Insurance companies will fight less when they know their driver was drunk at the time of the accident and know that you will be very sympathetic in front of the jury when their policyholder has caused you serious injuries.

The Insurance Company May Not Want to Fight You in Court

The Insurance Company May Not Want to Fight You in Court

Financially, things can be far worse for an insurance company in a drunk driving case. While your damages are still the same, the jury can even take the rare step of hitting the driver with punitive damages because of their level of culpability.

Then, the insurance company can face several consequences:

  • They have to pay you more money because of a higher verdict
  • The policyholder can sue their insurance company for bad faith because they can have and should have settled the claim before it went to trial

However, law enforcement may not make it easy to obtain evidence that you can use in your civil case. There is a chance that the criminal process is unfolding simultaneously with your civil case, and the prosecutor’s first goal is to win a conviction of the drunk driver.

The prosecutor cares about justice, but only insofar as it leads to punishment for the drunk driver and is not as interested in your financial compensation. Thus, they may hesitate to release information that can compromise their chances of winning a conviction.

Law Enforcement Evidence that the Driver Was Drunk

Here’s how police will know that the driver was intoxicated:

  • The officer may have performed a field sobriety test, observing the driver’s movement and speech patterns.
  • The officer may have performed a Breathalyzer test during the traffic stop that revealed the blood alcohol content.
  • Police may have had to draw blood pursuant to a warrant if they had to conduct a search.

Breathalyzer test results are the most common form of DUI evidence. When a motorist gets a driver’s license, they are making a promise that they will consent to a Breathalyzer test if law enforcement stops them on suspicion of DUI.

However, a driver may refuse to take a Breathalyzer test. They will automatically lose their driver’s license, but refusing to take the test may be the intelligent thing to do if the driver was very intoxicated and they were in an injury-causing accident.

Then, police will have to go to a magistrate and seek a search warrant that will allow them to draw blood from the driver, which will give them the blood alcohol content.

You Can Obtain the Driver’s Medical Information Through the Court Process

If the drunk driver goes to the hospital because of an injury and receives treatment, medical professionals can perform a blood test on the driver to determine blood alcohol content. Then, your attorney will have to subpoena the test results from the treatment providers.

Ordinarily,  HIPAA protects the test results. However, the medical facility must turn them over when a judge orders them.

Either way, you will need a subpoena to obtain any testing results, whether a blood test or a Breathalyzer. Your attorney must demonstrate to the court why they should place your interests above those of law enforcement or the driver’s privacy.

Do Not Try to Gather Evidence on Your Own

As critical as evidence is in your DUI car accident claim, you should not put yourself in the position where you need to collect and gather it on your own. Your hands are already full after you have suffered an injury in an accident.

Simply stated, you are not in the best possible condition to accomplish any task, and performing something legal will be difficult. Even under the best circumstances, putting yourself in an investigative capacity is challenging.

The good news is that you do not have to collect DUI accident evidence alone. This function is precisely what an experienced car accident lawyer will do for you, and your legal case is more solid when you have delegated crucial tasks to a lawyer. The less you have to do in the legal process, the stronger your possible case.

Act Quickly After the Car Accident to Lock Down Evidence

Not only will your lawyer deal with the insurance company, but they will thoroughly investigate your crash and get to work right after the accident to collect evidence to prove your case. Their efforts will put you in the best position to get the most compensation.

Any car accident evidence has a limited shelf life, and you can begin to lose it quickly if you do not act soon after the accident.

Witnesses and physical evidence can vanish. Law enforcement or a medical facility may only keep blood tests or Breathalyzer evidence for a certain period. 

Therefore, you must act quickly after a car accident to begin to investigate the accident. You may only have days or weeks before your case becomes more challenging to prove.

Further, blood test evidence becomes less reliable the longer it sits in the custody of the tester, so you will need to get immediate results from the test. Otherwise, you can have issues with the reliability of evidence or the chain of custody. The insurance company may challenge the integrity of the evidence, although that approach is a long shot for them.

Hire a Car Accident Attorney Right After the Crash Happens

Contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident.

The responsible driver’s insurance company understands their liability as soon as the accident happens and may trap and pressure you into a settlement that pays you less than you deserve. The longer you go without an attorney, the more you risk your legal rights.

You do not have to pay anything out of your pocket to get the legal help essential in a car accident case. A personal injury attorney will not request you pay them a retainer to cover hourly bills and will not send you invoices for charges during the pendency of your case.

There is one time that your lawyer may receive payment - if you win. Then, your lawyer’s fee comes from the proceeds of your case, meaning there is no risk to you in hiring an attorney.