Many families who have lost a loved one in drunk driving accidents may wonder why it was their family member who perished when the drunk driver survived the crash. Anecdotally, you may hear stories about drunk drivers who either walked away from a severe crash with no injuries or only suffered minor harm. These stories are backed up with numbers and potential explanations why drunk drivers are more likely to survive a crash.
At Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm, we support families who have had a loved one die from an accident with a drunk driver. Contact our law office in South Carolina to seek filing a wrongful death lawsuit against a drunk driver.
Accident Statistics Show That Drunk Drivers Have a Higher Chance of Survival
First, let’s look at some of the statistical evidence that supports this theory. One study analyzed patients who were brought into a California hospital between 2004 and 2008, 7 percent of accident victims who were brought into the hospital died, while 1 percent of the drunk drivers suffered fatal injuries.
After crunching the numbers, that same study found that drunk drivers had a 65 percent higher rate of survival than the drivers and passengers who they hurt. Another study also found a statistically significant difference in the fatality rate for drunk drivers and victims who suffered severe head injuries.
There are numerous other studies on the same topic that have reached similar conclusions.
Scientific Theories State That Alcohol Relaxes the Body
The commonly held perception is that being drunk makes the body more relaxed and so more likely to survive the heavy impact. Some of this correlation has to do with how the body reacts to sudden and severe stress.
The usual reaction of the body when under stress is to release certain chemicals that restrict certain receptors in the brain. The effect of this reaction is that it causes the body to stiffen, leading to more traumatic injuries when the body “snaps.” A tense body is much more likely to suffer both fractures and internal injuries.
When one has alcohol in their system, the release of these chemicals is inhibited, making the body more physically relaxed. Accordingly, people who are drunk not only have a higher chance of surviving car crashes, but they may also stay alive after other traumatic injuries. The difference between a drunk person and a sober person can boil down to “stiff” versus “floppy.” A floppy body can better absorb a blow. Sober drivers’ bodies send out signals that prepare them for an impact that does not necessarily increase their survival chances.
With alcohol in the system, the reaction time is either slowed down or suppressed entirely. The blow of the car accident does not “take the body by surprise” because it remains in relatively the same state as it was before the accident.
Scientists have not yet accepted this reason as the conclusive explanation for the higher survival rate of drunk drivers, but the numbers seem persuasive. However, the survey findings related to the one-time use of alcohol. Those who are chronic alcoholics will have a higher accident fatality rate because their damaged liver impacts the body’s ability to clot.
Surviving Drunk Drivers Have Many Legal Problems
Drunk drivers who survive an accident have quite a few legal problems awaiting them. First, they will be charged criminally in connection with the accident. The penalties can be even higher when there is serious bodily injury or death caused by the accident. Then, a drunk driving charge becomes a felony, with a potential large jail term attached.
In addition, the drunk driver can be civilly liable for the car accident, independent of what happens in the criminal case. In the end, your main concern is obtaining adequate compensation for your loved one. There is a lower standard of proof in a civil case, meaning a drunk driver can be liable, even if they are not convicted in the criminal case. You may even get punitive damages from the drunk driver if the case goes to trial.
If your loved one died in a car accident, you could file a wrongful death claim against the surviving drunk driver. If they are found liable for the accident, they will be obligated to pay your family’s damages, including:
- The wages that your loved one will have earned
- The loss of your close and loving relationship with your family members
- Your family’s grief and trauma from losing a loved one
You Can and Should Fight for Top-Dollar Compensation
Insurance companies have every reason to be afraid of a drunk driving civil trial, but they may not act like it. They may make you a very low settlement offer, even when liability for the accident is plainly apparent. They may not think that you know what your case is worth or that you have what it takes to fight.
Everything changes when you hire a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney knows how much your case is worth, and they are not afraid to advise you to reject a settlement offer that does not fairly compensate you. The facts and the law are on your side, and you do not have to accept less than you deserve.
Contact a Greenville Personal Injury Lawyer
The Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm can provide you and your family with tough and hard-hitting legal representation when you need it. We help accident victims get the money that they deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at (864) 280-7660 or send us a message online.
Drunk Driving Accident Case FAQs
What happens if the drunk driver also dies in the accident?
You can still file a claim against both their car insurance and their estate for the damages that they caused.
What if the drunk driver was acquitted in the criminal case?
You can still win the civil case because there is a different standard of proof,
Can I also receive money for what my loved one went through before they died?
Yes. The estate can file a survival action that can also receive these damages.