It’s a bad time anytime you’re involved in a vehicle accident. But when the other driver is clearly drunk or impaired, it becomes a total nightmare.
In addition to the common and prudent practices anyone should do when they’re in an accident, as covered below, you want to pay close and special attention to much more when dealing with a drunk or impaired driver.
When Dealing with a Drunk or Impaired Driver Prepare for the Unexpected
In a nutshell, drunk or impaired drivers do NOT behave rationally. Be alert! They might walk out in front of traffic and harm’s way, become belligerent and angry at you, give false information, and so on. You just never know, do you?
So be smart and bone up on what to do when involved in an accident with a drunk.
The First Rule in Dealing with a Drunk Driver
Once you, your passengers, and other drivers and passengers are safe from further harm and medical assistance if needed, is on its way, call the police. The last thing an impaired driver wants is for the police to show up, but it’s the top thing you better be sure happens. Drunks typically press us to just handle it between ourselves and the insurance companies. They eagerly point out a lack of injuries, and the vehicles only received slight damage. “What say we just exchange information?”
Don’t Negotiate with Drunks about Whether to Call 911 and the Authorities. Just do it.
Upon their arrival, inform authorities about your suspicion of drunkenness and impairment and why you think it in this situation. Have the authorities handle things. They have specific procedures and detection methods. Do NOT ask the other driver if they are drunk or not. It’s like asking a sober driver, “What are you? Stupid?” You’ll start an argument you don’t need.
When the other party seems drunk and you ask, you have another problem. You don’t want to deal with a hostile drunk in denial, scheming to squirm out of their messy situation when the police arrive. You thought they were drunk or impaired, and you called the cops. Now let the police do the asking.
Handle Things Differently with a Drunk Driver
In a typical traffic accident, as we sit in the wreckage, we gather our wits, check our passengers and selves to see if we’re okay or not. When injuries exist, we call for help right away. If we’re okay, we exit our vehicles and check on other drivers and passengers. Authorities are called and while waiting for them we begin to assess the damages and exchange our information. When someone is drunk, the process should slow down. Don’t be overly eager to exchange information or engage with the suspected drunk beyond necessities prior to the police arriving.
While waiting for police, your time might be better spent securing witnesses who saw or who were involved in the accident, safely going about photographing the vehicles and scene. Photographing and video recording people at an accident scene can be a dicey proposition. However, when on a public roadway or in a public area and you truly believe photos or captured video to be helpful, then do so. Be cognizant that these things are NOT to be posted to social media. Nor would it make sense to needlessly forward them to people uninvolved in the incident, no matter if they are good friends.
Drunks Prefer Leaving the Scene over Dealing with the Police
Drunk drivers who get into accidents tend to repeat the error, so it’s quite likely you’ve got that situation going on. Be alert. They can attempt to leave at any moment, including immediately after impact. When you see it, capture — by phone or memory — a description of the car and driver, the license plate, and the direction and roadway the vehicle departed in. If you were caught too off guard to use your cell phone camera, pull open the voice recorder and dictate the information into it right away while it’s still fresh in your mind.
Check with other witnesses to see if they have good information that might be helpful to officers. You might vocally attempt to dissuade someone from leaving the scene, but do not threaten them, and most certainly, unless you are a licensed peace officer, do not attempt to physically detain them. Your personal safety is key, and it is almost always better to avoid participating in the escalation of a situation. We can replace vehicles; we cannot replace you.
Recommended Actions when You Are Involved in an Accident
When you’re in any kind of auto accident, there are certain things you should do to keep yourself safe and help get justice later. They become more important when dealing with an impaired or drunk driver.
During an accident, we seem to be riveted in the disbelief that someone just ran into our vehicle. As mental and emotional balance returns, our first concern should be safety. Firstly, check your physical conditions. Is your vehicle still moving? Is traffic swirling around you at high speed? Are you or your passengers injured? Are others at the scene injured? If there are injuries, summon help immediately. Should your accident be located in a high traffic or congested area and there are no apparent injuries, it may make sense to move a drivable vehicle out of the way.
Upon notifying others involved, move your vehicle over to the shoulder of the road. You don’t want people thinking you are fleeing the scene, and you certainly don’t want to collide again. In more severe situations where there are injuries, it is unwise to move vehicles, and you are better advised to leave them where they are. Choosing whether to move your vehicle or not is a critical decision so pause, think, and reason clearly. Indeed, when in doubt, do not move. Keep your vehicle where it came to rest.
Once people are safe, call 911 and request paramedics, if needed, and police. 911 will ask you about injuries and your location. Location is critical because different police authorities are dispatched based on the jurisdiction the roadway is under, municipal or state. You’d be shocked to know how many main streets in Las Vegas are really state highways, and Nevada Highway Patrol will typically respond instead of Metro.
When you have good reason to suspect a driver is drunk or impaired, tell the 911 operator.
If you are physically able, trade contact and auto insurance information with other drivers involved in the accident and of course with responding police. Be sure to get full names, the vehicle make, model, year, color, VIN, and auto insurance company names, policy numbers and agents’ names and phone numbers. Collect contact information from witnesses. This includes passengers and bystanders.
Talking Less Is Best
In general, slow down your innate need to talk more when excited or in an adrenalin rush, like we experience during an accident. You might say things you wish you hadn’t. We are often prone to say, we’re “sorry” when we collide with others. A seemingly harmless statement of how we actually feel may be twisted into an admission of fault by an unscrupulous insurance company seeking any way possible to deny a claim. Always let the police handle the situation and give answers to their questions without over embellishing. When one of the other drivers appears drunk or otherwise impaired, do not confront them or discuss the accident directly with them. Leave discussions about that between them and the police.
Cooperate with Authorities
Whether they’re an EMT, fireman, or police officers on the scene, cooperate and answer questions honestly. Provide only facts, not opinions. Authorities are very much interested in what you SAW and HEARD. Most people overlook the critical aspect of sound. Relay what you heard as well as witnessed. One study found audio evidence is often more consistent than visual evidence. For example, the order in which things occur tends to be more accurate when recounted by sound rather than sight.
Look for evidence to verify alcohol or drugs played a part in the crash. Take pictures of the damage to the vehicles and property, injuries suffered, roadways and intersections, and skid marks or debris. Look for things inside vehicles like open cups, cans, bottles, or paraphernalia. Pictures and video can be impactful for your case, should one develop.
Injured? Don’t Wait
There are 3 impacts in an auto collision:
- The vehicle meets vehicle or possibly an immovable object
- Occupants hit the interior of the vehicle, or worse eject from the vehicle and hit other objects
- Our organs strike bones and other internal organs.
When you have been in an accident, no matter how minor you think it may be, it is worth seeking immediate medical attention. In the event your incident becomes contested with an insurance company or in a court proceeding, waiting to seek treatment can be construed as a lack of seriousness or concern. Minimize your exposure to doubt and false facts.
As we know, cataclysmic injuries attract immediate attention, but soft tissue injuries and accompanying pain can develop days after an accident. Delay in seeking medical attention can lead to medical complications and cast suspicion upon your motivation.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Accidents are unpredictable when they occur, and the aftermath is no less so. You never know what the insurance companies are prone to do or not do. You’ll quickly discover a series of issues and a flood of information and misinformation that seems unbearable, often when you’re physically at your lowest point. The best advice is don’t go it alone. Contact a qualified, well-experienced accident attorney. Enough said. Call Ed.