St. Louis Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers
Drunk driving accidents are entirely avoidable and lead to catastrophic damage. Drivers who choose to get behind the wheel after drinking excessively should be accountable for the resulting harm. People who drive drunk make an active decision to put themselves and others on the roadways in danger, ignoring the real and very serious consequences of their negligent and willful actions.
If you suffered injuries due to the wrong actions of a drunk driver in a drunk driving accident or your family member died after being struck by a driver under the influence of alcohol or other substances, you might be able to file a civil lawsuit for compensation to help yourself and your family recover. Contact our attorneys at NST Law to get the help you need to properly file your insurance claim and start the legal process to ensure that you receive adequate compensation for your injuries.
Realize that you have legal rights after a drunk driving accident, and we want to advocate for you and represent your legal interests during this difficult time. Our lawyers are ready to help you move forward after your harrowing ordeal. Call us today for a free consultation.
The Dangers of Drunk Driving Accidents
Despite the substantial consequences of drunk driving and subsequent accidents, people continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol. Driving after drinking can result in arrest, serious injury, or even death if the driver’s poor judgment results in an accident.
Drunk drivers experience impaired abilities, such as slow reaction times and a lack of problem-solving due to the effects of alcohol. As a result, injuries from a drunk driving accident can be more severe, including broken bones, brain injuries, psychological injuries, back or spine injuries, and organ damage.
Damages incurred in drunk driving accidents can include:
- Vehicle damage and repair costs
- Medical expenses due to hospitalization, treatment, surgeries, and rehabilitation
- Lost wages for the time spent seeking medical treatment and recovery
- Pain and suffering
How does drunk driving impair a person's ability to drive?
Any amount of alcohol can impact your driving ability, putting you and every other driver on the road at risk of injury. A blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% and over exceeds the legal alcohol limit, meaning if you choose to drive at that point, you’re guilty of drunk driving. However, even before your body reaches a BAC of 0.08, your judgment is already impaired.
With a BAC of 0.02, your judgment starts to lapse. You relax more, your visual functionality decreases, and your ability to multi-task weakens. By 0.05, you experience a lack of coordination, alertness, and inhibitions, and your response rate and small-muscle control decrease.
When you drink and then get behind the wheel, your typical reaction time slows; you lose your hand, eye, and foot coordination; your concentration and attention span reduces, your vision begins to blur, and your decision-making skills are lacking. Combined or singularly, these factors can significantly increase the chances of a drunk driver crashing into someone or something, putting themselves and everyone around them in danger.
How common are drunk driving accidents in St. Louis?
Per the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, in 2018, there were a total of 11,874 arrests in Missouri of drivers operating their vehicles under the influence. As a result of drunk driving, there were 240 total deaths.
In Missouri, 26.1% of all car accident fatalities have an association with drunk driving. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that, between 2003 and 2012, 3,314 people died in car accidents involving a drunk driver in Missouri. In 2019, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported 111 alcohol-related crashes in the St. Louis area specifically.
In July 2021, prosecutors involved in a criminal case against a drunk driver charged the driver with a DWI after he killed 51-year-old Alean Williams on September 24, 2020, while driving under the influence in suburban St. Louis.
In January 2021, a 25-year-old, Justin Eberle, was allegedly drunk driving southbound on Interstate 270 south of Manchester road when he crashed into a minivan, killing a couple from Collinsville, Ill., leaving behind their five children. The minivan left the road, hitting a tree, and both victims died at the scene.
If you’re a drunk driving car accident victim, you should contact our legal team at NST to understand your legal rights. We have years of experience securing compensation for injured victims following car accidents with drunk drivers. You must be able to restore financial security after an unexpected accident. Our St. Louis car accident attorneys can protect your legal interests so that you can focus on healing during this difficult time.
Missouri Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties
A blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% is over the legal limit in Missouri. If you drive with a BAC more than the allowable limit, you’re guilty of driving with an excessive blood alcohol content, a crime under Missouri Revised Statutes § 577.012.
Driving with an excessive BAC is usually a Class B misdemeanor. Still, depending on the circumstances, prosecutors can charge drunk drivers with the following:
- Class A misdemeanor if the defendant is a prior offender
- Class E felony if the defendant is a persistent offender
- Class D felony if the defendant is an aggravated offender
- Class C felony if the defendant is a chronic offender
- Class B felony if the defendant is a habitual offender
Under Missouri Revised Statutes § 577.010, a person is also guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI) if operating a vehicle while drunk. This offense carries the same categories of offenses as driving with excessive blood alcohol content. Under the Missouri Criminal System’s Classification of Offenses, misdemeanors are punishable in the following ways:
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000
- Class E felony: Up to four years in prison
- Class D felony: Up to seven years in prison
- Class C felony: A prison term of more than three years and less than ten years
- Class B felony: A prison term of more than five years and less than fifteen years
What does an accident investigation look like after a drunk driving accident?
After a car accident, the police show up and ask questions of everyone involved to determine who’s at fault for the accident. If it’s clear that one driver has been drinking, that driver is usually at fault automatically. After the accident, police will further investigate the suspected drunk driver, either on the scene or in custody, often administering various sobriety tests.
If the driver’s BAC is 0.08 or higher per a breathalyzer or blood test, they’re taken into police custody and will face a trial for driving while intoxicated or driving with excessive blood alcohol content. In Missouri, the investigating police officers indicate in their police report if one or more drivers or pedestrians were drinking and if, in the officer’s opinion, the alcohol contributed to the cause of the crash.
Not only do officers use the police report and further investigatory evidence for criminal proceedings, but accident victims can use this information in a civil lawsuit brought against the drunk driver to compensate for injuries and other damages.
Additionally, injured persons can use the following forms of evidence to support their civil claims:
- Photos, videos, receipts, and information from places the driver visited before the accident
- Results from any sobriety tests performed on the defendant
- Eyewitness statements
- Other evidence or data showing the driver’s presumably negligent activities before, during, and after the accident
How do Missouri’s negligence and liability laws affect your drunk driving claim?
Missouri adopted the comparative fault approach to personal injury claims involving a negligent driver, meaning that any fault attributable to the plaintiff proportionately reduces the amount awarded as compensatory damages but does not bar the plaintiff from recovery altogether. In other words, if the plaintiff shares responsibility for causing the accident, regardless of whether the other driver was drunk, then the court would reduce the amount awarded as damages by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault.
You must speak with a car accident attorney before discussing or admitting fault of any kind. Our lawyers at NST Law have experience with drunk driving accidents and can assess your case properly to determine its validity and potential outcomes.
What type of compensation can I receive after a drunk driver causes a car accident in St. Louis?
Every car accident is different, meaning compensation can vary depending on the specific facts of your drunk driving accident. As a result, there’s no set amount or range that every person will receive after an accident. Instead, the amount of compensation you can receive depends on various factors related to the accident, such as the nature and extent of your injuries, your past and future medical treatment, whether you can return to work, and any other losses you suffered.
Our St. Louis car accident lawyers can help you gather all the evidence you need to support your claim and maximize the compensation you can receive. We will fight for a fair payout to assist in your recovery.
What if the drunk driver died in the car accident?
Under Missouri law, an action for damages to property and an action for personal injury or death both survive the death of either party. Therefore, if the drunk driver dies in the car accident, then your civil action would be brought against the personal representative of the wrongdoer’s estate or, if insured against liability for damages for wrongdoing, then against their insurance provider under Missouri Revised Statutes § 537.021.
What if the drunk driver is now in jail after the car accident?
Civil lawsuits are separate and distinct processes from criminal proceedings the drunk driver might face. For example, a drunk driver could be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment even if neither party suffered injuries in the accident. However, to succeed in a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver, you must show injuries or damages for which you deserve compensation.
If the driver’s in jail after criminal proceedings conclude, you can still proceed with a civil lawsuit against them. Their serving jail time might benefit you to show fault and liability to help you recover costs for your medical expenses, lost wages, damages to property, or any other injuries or damages you may have incurred from the accident.
How long do I have to file a civil lawsuit after a drunk driving accident?
Under Missouri Statutes § 516.120, you must initiate an action for injury to goods or damage to a person within five years of the accident. The time begins tolling from the date of the accident resulting in your injuries. This statute of limitations applies to any party injured in the accident, not just the driver of the vehicle.
If you miss the deadline, the court can bar you from ever receiving compensation for your losses, with few exceptions. Therefore, it’s important to speak with a car accident attorney as soon as possible after a drunk driving accident to ensure you don’t miss strict time limits to pursue your legal rights. An attorney can help protect your standing to sue.
How can a St. Louis drunk driving accident attorney help me?
When you hire a St. Louis drunk driving accident attorney, you are ensuring your legal rights and protecting your interests throughout settlement negotiations to receive fair compensation relative to your claim. In addition, your lawyer can help you navigate the claim process, file your civil lawsuit, and advocate for you in the courtroom.
Our team at NST Law will diligently investigate and assess your accident claim, evaluate the best possible recovery methods, and properly value your case to pursue adequate compensation for you. We will give your drunk driving accident claim the individual attention it needs for you to receive the most favorable outcome, and we will provide honesty and transparency throughout the process from the initial consultation to settlement or trial. You can fill out our online form or contact us by telephone, email, or visit us at our St. Louis office today for a free case evaluation.