Drunk driving accidents can be devastating, causing physical and emotional harm to victims and their families. If you or a loved one have been hit by a drunk driver, you may have many questions about what steps to take next.

In this FAQ blog post, our experienced lawyers will provide answers to some of the most common questions that victims of drunk driving accidents have. Read on to learn what you need to know.

1. What should I do if I spot a drunk driver?

If you suspect someone is driving drunk, stay far behind the suspected vehicle. Get out of their way and expect the unexpected. Pull over to a safe place and call 911 to report the strange behavior. Even if you’re not sure, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You could save someone’s life!

2. What should I NOT do?

Don’t try to pass the drunk driver on the road, stop their vehicle, or follow them too closely. Confronting the other driver on the road can lead to serious problems. Instead, call the police immediately and let them handle the situation.

3. What should I do if the drunk driver hits me and drives away?

If you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident in Portland, follow these tips:

  • Call 911 for assistance if you need medical attention.
  • Try your best to get the driver’s license plate number, vehicle make, model, and color. Any information will be helpful for the police to apprehend the drunk driver.
  • Even if the drunk driver isn’t apprehended immediately, your own car insurance will step in and pay for your losses according to your policy.
  • Keep in mind — Getting into a hit-and-run incident with a drunk driver is usually covered by Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) coverage which is a mandatory insurance provision for Oregon drivers. In order to get UM coverage, the victim must notify the police of the incident within 72 hours, file a DMV report, and notify the insurance company of the accident.
  • If you don’t have insurance, it’s best to contact a lawyer to find out about your rights. At Pickett Dummigan Weingart, our car accident attorneys in Portland can advise you on your options.

4. The drunk driver that hit me was arrested and convicted. Can I still file a lawsuit even though the driver is already in jail?

Yes. Drunk driving overlaps both criminal and civil law. While the criminal justice system determines if the drunk driver will pay a penalty or go to prison, victims are still entitled to pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver for their economic and non-economic losses.

Even if the drunk driver is in prison, you may still have a claim to recover from the drunk driver’s insurance policy. Sometimes, the drunk driver’s criminal case will provide helpful evidence to support a victim’s civil case. At our law firm, our lawyers can help you navigate through criminal and civil proceedings to protect your rights and pursue your interests.

5. Do I still have a case if the drunk driver is found not guilty during his criminal trial (or isn’t prosecuted at all)?

DUI drivers who’ve been found not guilty of a criminal offense may still be sued in civil court.

There are many reasons why charges may be dropped against a drunk driver in a criminal case. However, that doesn’t let them off the hook for the injuries they caused to the victims. Our lawyers can help you make a case against a drunk driver, whether they are convicted in criminal court or not.

6. If the drunk driver is deceased, how do I pursue a lawsuit?

Drunk drivers can die as a result of the accidents they cause. Although any passing is a tragedy, victims of drunk drivers are still entitled to collect from the deceased’s insurance policy.

Our lawyers can help victims navigate through the probate process and discover claims against the deceased. Our goal is to help victims obtain full and fair compensation for the harm that has been done to them.

7. If I die in a car crash, will my family be able to pursue a lawsuit on my behalf?

Victims often suffer fatal injuries and pass away or go into a coma from drunk driving accidents. In these tragic cases, a victim’s family member may be able to pursue a lawsuit on their loved one’s behalf and pursue claims of their own for loss of companionship.

However, there are certain legal procedures that must be followed in order to start a claim for a loved one. Family members may need to deal with the probate process before proceeding. Our lawyers in Portland can help family members navigate through this tragic time and pursue a lawsuit for the family’s loss.

8. Is the bar or tavern that sold the alcohol to the drunk driver responsible as well? How about social hosts?

The bar or tavern may be held liable for serving an intoxicated patron who then leaves and gets into a drunk driving accident. The same is true for organizers and hosts of parties who serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals.

These cases are often categorized as “dram shop” or “social host liability” cases. Although suing a bar, tavern, or social host may seem straightforward, Oregon law is very complex on this subject, and there are several exceptions that may prevent a victim from filing a lawsuit. Special deadlines also apply and victims need to act quickly. Despite the challenges, these cases are worth investigating and pursuing, and our lawyers are ready to assist victims.

More questions?

We hope this article has answered some of your questions about drunk driving accidents in Portland. However, remember that this is only meant to be a general guide and resource for those wondering if they have a legal claim, and it should NOT be taken as legal advice. Every case is unique and small details can make a big difference.

If you have more questions about drunk driving accidents, or if you or a loved one have been a victim of an accident caused by a drunk driver, our attorneys at Pickett Dummigan Weingart are here to help clarify the facts and provide legal advice.

Contact us online or request a free consultation with one of our car accident attorneys in Oregon at (503) 223-7770.