The value of an accident caused by drinking and driving depends on: (1) whether there is bad behavior; (2) witnesses to the accident; (3) history of prior DUI’s; (4) crush damage; (5) whether the client is credible and believable; (6) transport from the scene; (7) legitimate medical treatment; and a host of other variable factors. This post will address bad behavior, which is typically seen in accidents caused by drinking and driving, particularly here in Midtown, Atlanta, Fulton County and Dekalb County.
Bad Behavior. The value of a settlement for an accident caused by drinking and driving is driven by what we might expect a jury to award if they reviewed the facts. Juries don’t like bad behavior and this is true for juries in Atlanta and Fulton County. Hence, the value of settlement where a personal injury lawyer finds bad behavior is higher. I once represented two clients injured in a head on accident caused by drinking and driving in Midtown Atlanta. The drinking driver hit my clients head-on and then attempted to leave the scene. This is typically referred to as a hit and run. In our case, the intoxicated driver was caught and arrested because his axle was damaged and he could travel no further. We settled the case for the insurance policy limits (which refers to the maximum amount of liability insurance available that the drinking driver had on his insurance policy). In our case, that happened to be $100,000.00 per client. My clients were not seriously injured and this was very fortunate given the nature of the head on DUI collision. The settlement value in this case was driven by the undisputed fact that the driver was drinking and driving and he attempted to flee the scene with knowledge that he was drunk. As a society we frown on this conduct and so do juries. Hence, the value of that case was much greater. This is referred to as “punitive damages” (or damages designed to punish and deter future bad conduct).
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Bad behavior can also be found in other cases that do not involve an accident caused by drinking and driving. For example, in another case I handled, I represented a nice cuban lady who was rear ended by a woman driving a Mercedes. This was not an accident caused by drinking and driving. However, the at fault driver’s conduct after the accident demonstrated bad behavior. In that case, the at fault driver casually watched from the side of the road while my client bled profusely. She did not attempt to render aid. She did not attempt to call 911. She simply watched from the roadside as my client bled from her head and nose. When I asked her in deposition why she didn’t attempt to see about my client, the at fault driver was combative and said only that she did not know her. Hence, she felt no need to check on her condition. The insurance defense attorney quickly settled the case for the insurance policy limits realizing that a jury would not like this woman or her behavior. Fortunately, my client was not seriously injured but I still settled her case for $50,000 because of the at fault driver’s bad behavior.
A legitimate personal injury lawyer with experience in handling accidents caused by drinking and driving here in Atlanta and Midtown will instinctively know where to find bad behavior. Here in Atlanta and Fulton County, this experience translates into higher settlements and greater value to the client. Be wary of “cheeseball” lawyers (those who advertise heavily on TV) with bare proclamations that a client got (say) $250,000.00. That lawyer (or more accurately his para-professional) may have “settled the case short” for $250,000 when the case could have been worth $500,000.00. The value of an accident caused by drinking and driving in Atlanta, Midtown and Fulton County is a function of those variables mentioned above, particularly bad behavior.