Person lying on the ground after car accident


Paul Benson Law Firm March 24, 2022

If you are injured by a negligent driver in a Wisconsin car accident, you can hold that driver financially responsible for the damages you face as a result. If that driver was drunk at the time, however, you have even more options for recovering damages.

Of course, operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law in Wisconsin. As such, the drunk driver should be charged with a crime. When they injure or kill someone else in a crash, the criminal penalties are even more severe. You cannot bring criminal charges against the person, but you can take civil action against them.

If you have been injured by a drunk driver in a car crash in Janesville, Beloit, or anywhere in Rock County, Wisconsin, or if a loved one was incapacitated or killed by one, you need to know what your options are in pursuing compensation for your loss. The Paul Benson Law Firm can help.

What Steps Should I Take if I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver?

Drunk drivers often attempt to flee a crash scene in their vehicles or on foot, but you should never, under any circumstances, attempt to follow or apprehend them or even confront them about your suspicions. You can, however, look for evidence that the driver may be under the influence.

  • Watch the driver to see if they use breath mints, mouthwash, or chewing gum, or drink or eat something before law enforcement arrives.

  • Also, watch to see if the driver uses eye drops that may be intended to reduce the drug- or alcohol-related redness of their eyes.

  • If they attempt to dispose of items in the trash or in a ditch or median, note where they put them so you can advise law enforcement when they arrive.

  • If the driver changes seats with a passenger in the vehicle, that may be another sign that they are under the influence. Report the switch to law enforcement.

  • If you are close enough to the driver (for example, if the driver walks over to check on you), note any obvious signs of alcohol or drug use, such as breath odor, bloodshot eyes, or a staggering walk, but don’t confront them or ask them questions about it. Just report to law enforcement what you observed.

Who Is Liable in a Car Crash Involving a Drunk Driver?

Of course, the drunk driver is criminally and civilly liable for the car wreck. To file a bodily injury or wrongful death claim against the drunk driver’s auto insurance coverage, or to sue them in civil court, you will need to prove negligence. A criminal operating while intoxicated charge or conviction inherently proves negligence and will likely negate any accusation made against you for a share of fault for the crash.

Wisconsin, unlike some other states, has not enacted dram shop laws that can hold others liable for the actions of a drunk driver. A dram shop law would allow you, for example, to name the owner of a bar that overserved the driver as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. The lack of a dram shop law does not preclude you from suing an individual or business in some cases.

If the server of alcohol knew or should have known the drinker was under 21 years of age, you may be able to sue. If someone bullied or forced the person into drinking too much, such as during a fraternity hazing or forcing them to drink, that person may be held liable. Someone other than the driver could be held liable if that person tricked the driver into drinking, for example, by telling them what they were drinking contained no or a low percentage of alcohol.

Does Wisconsin Law Allow Punitive Damages?

If you provide evidence that the drunk driver acted with malice toward you or intentionally disregarded your rights, you may pursue punitive damages in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits under Wisconsin law. Punitive damages are designed to punish the perpetrator and discourage such behavior.

Plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits pursuant to car accidents involving drunk drivers may be awarded two or three times the amount of the compensatory sum awarded to them for their economic and non-economic damages or an even higher exemplary punitive award.

You should know that malice and intent are hard to prove under any circumstances, no matter how tragic the results of a drunk driver-involved car wreck are. You need to be represented by a highly skilled and experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney to pursue them.

Working With a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney

The special circumstances surrounding a drunk driver-involved auto accident may provide more avenues for compensation. Exploring those options requires a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney who has a successful record of representing clients and their families affected by drunk drivers.

If you have been injured by a drunk driver in Janesville, Beloit, or Rock County, Wisconsin, call The Paul Benson Law Firm. If your loved one has been incapacitated by injuries sustained in a car crash involving a drunk driver and cannot pursue a personal injury claim on their own, or if your loved one was killed and you wish to pursue a wrongful death claim, call The Paul Benson Law Firm.

I am ready to help you pursue fair compensation. All you need to do is call my office now to schedule a free consultation.