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Drunk Driving Accidents in Southfield: Liability and Legal Actions

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What Do You Need to Know About Pursuing Legal Action After a Drunk Driving Accident in Southfield?

When an individual chooses to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, the chances of a severe or fatal accident occurring skyrocket. Alcohol significantly impairs vision and decision-making skills and dramatically reduces reaction times for drivers. Unfortunately, intoxicated drivers are not only putting their own well-being at risk; they are endangering the lives of everyone they encounter on the road.

If you’ve been involved in an accident with a drunk driver in Southfield or the surrounding areas, it is vital to understand your options for recovering compensation from the liable party or parties. The physical, emotional, and financial damage resulting from a drunk driving crash can often be severe and cause long-lasting challenges in your life. Pursuing fair compensation for your losses from the responsible entities can be essential to your overall recovery process and can help you and your loved ones regain financial stability. A skilled Michigan car accident attorney can explain your legal rights and guide you through the process of taking legal action against a liable drunk driver.

What is Comparative Liability and What Role Could it Play in Your Claim?

Michigan is one of many U.S. states that operate under a comparative fault system. Unlike a pure contributory negligence system, where victims cannot seek compensation if they are even one percent at fault for the accident, a comparative fault system allows a plaintiff to collect damages in cases where they may have shared some liability for the crash. However, under Michigan law, a plaintiff’s recovery may be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to them. At 51% fault, the plaintiff’s economic damages are reduced, and non-economic damages are barred.

This system makes accurately determining fault a key component of collecting maximum compensation for your injuries. While a drunk driver clearly operated their vehicle in violation of the law and with reckless disregard for others on the road, their insurer or lawyer may argue that your own actions contributed to the crash, thereby reducing your compensation. Strong evidence and thorough legal knowledge may be required to overcome these allegations.

How Does Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance System Affect Your Ability to Seek Compensation?

Michigan’s insurance laws directly impact how victims file their claims after automobile accidents and how much they can recover. Michigan is known as a “no-fault” insurance state. For most car accidents, including those involving drunk driving, injured drivers will first turn to their own insurance policy for compensation under Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIP coverage can pay for a portion of the driver’s medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket costs, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.

While no-fault insurance may simplify some aspects of an insurance claim, it can also cause substantial difficulties for victims. Michigan allows drivers to opt out of PIP insurance under certain circumstances, meaning they would not be able to seek payment from their insurer. Even those with PIP coverage may rapidly surpass their coverage limits as medical bills and other expenses pile up after a devastating crash. A skilled car accident attorney can help you explore your different options for recovery, such as filing a claim with your health insurance or bringing a lawsuit if your PIP insurance is insufficient to cover your losses.

Are You Ever Able to Sue a Drunk Driver For Damages?

While Michigan’s no-fault law limits your ability to sue the other driver, key exceptions exist. If your injuries are severe enough to qualify under Michigan’s tort liability law (MCL Section 500.3135), you may be eligible to file a claim directly against the drunk driver. This statute allows for suing for non-economic damages like pain and suffering if the injuries meet certain thresholds.

To bring a lawsuit against the drunk driver, you must have suffered serious impairment of bodily function or severe permanent disfigurement as a result of the crash. The family of an individual killed by a drunk driving accident also has the right to seek damages under this law. Establishing the severity of your injuries and their effect on your daily life is vital to your claim, and you may require the supporting testimony of a medical expert.

As with insurance claims, the state’s comparative fault system applies when you sue. Any lawsuit settlement you are awarded will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned to you. You can also be barred from collecting non-economic damages if you were more than 50% responsible for the crash. Failing to carry the minimum car insurance coverage required by law could endanger your ability to file a suit, as well. Because so many factors can impact your ability to sue, discussing your case with an attorney is crucial to determine whether you may have a valid lawsuit.

What is a Dram Shop Claim in Michigan?

Another type of legal action a drunk driving accident victim may be able to take in addition to an insurance claim is a dram shop claim. If the drunk driver was served or furnished alcohol by a commercial establishment while visibly intoxicated or as a minor, you may be able to recover compensation from the establishment under Michigan’s dram shop laws. These cases require proving the establishment’s role in contributing to the driver’s intoxication and the subsequent accident. Dram shop claims allow victims to seek damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional harm.

The time limit for filing these claims is two years from the date of injury instead of the typical three years for a personal injury claim. You must also provide written notification to the defendant(s) of your intent to file within 120 days of engaging an attorney. Keep in mind that plaintiffs who were also intoxicated at the time of the accident are disallowed from filing a dram shop claim under state law.

How Can Our Firm Assist You?

A drunk driving crash can have devastating consequences for you and your loved ones. It’s essential to take swift legal action to preserve evidence and protect your rights to recovery. Our experienced attorneys at Sigal Law Firm can guide you through the often complex claims process and provide the skilled, compassionate legal representation you deserve. Contact our Southfield office today at 248-671-6794 to schedule your free consultation.

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