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Steps to Take After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver

Doing things correctly at the scene of the accident and later on can make it easier on you later.

Written by Lindsay VanSomeren / August 15, 2022

Quick Bites

  • First: Make sure everyone's safe, move everything to the side of the road and call 911.
  • Next: Go to the hospital if you need immediate help, otherwise you can wait to see your own doctor if you need help later.
  • Lastly: Notify your insurance company, seek out a lawyer and reconsider your insurance coverage.

Being hit by a drunk driver can be a terrifying experience. It can be a lot different than a regular car accident.

"I would say a large percentage of our catastrophic cases are alcohol-involved cases," says Brian Glass, a personal injury attorney with Ben Glass Law. In fact, alcohol is involved in about 30% of all fatal car crashes nationwide.[1] The damage caused by drunk drivers is staggeringly high at an estimated $44 billion per year.[2]

If you've just been hit and you think the driver might have been drunk, here's what to do.

Inside this article

  1. 1. Make sure everyone's safe
  2. 2. Call 911
  3. 3. Get medical help if needed
  4. 4. Contact your insurer
  5. 5. Contact a lawyer
  6. Uninsured motorist coverage

1. Make sure everyone's safe

Check with your passengers, if you have any, and make sure they're safe. Do a quick scope while you're still inside your vehicle to see if anyone outside needs immediate assistance in getting out of the way of traffic, and if it's safe to do so, you can help them.

If no one's in your way and you're able to move your car, pull over to the side of the road. You've been hit once, you don't want to be hit again.

2. Call 911

Even if no one's in immediate danger, there are several reasons for this.

First, it's not always clear whether the other driver is actually drunk. "It would be kind of hard to tell in a bad crash whether somebody's stumbling because they just got hit in the face with the airbag and they have a concussion or it's alcohol,” says Glass. “Police officers are trained to investigate those crashes.”

Secondly, whether the driver is drunk or not, getting into an accident can sometimes put people in a confrontational and violent mood that could pose an additional danger to you. "I would almost always tell somebody to make sure you get the police there to facilitate the exchange of information," says Glass. "Especially at nighttime, it just gets a little bit riskier, a little bit dicey there."

As for evidence collection, you can certainly snap some photos or video of the scene while you're out there if you want, but Glass says that collecting witness statements and other documentation is best left to the police. "Your adrenaline is really high,” he adds. “You might not take the name down correctly, or you might not capture the address or insurance information." Many officers also have body cams that your future lawyer can get access to and use recordings as evidence in court.

3. Get medical help if needed

If you're obviously injured, you may be in for an ambulance ride to the hospital.

But contrary to popular belief and flashy advertisements, you don't necessarily need an automatic trip to the doctor just because you've been in an accident.

"There are law firms that will say, 'OK, first thing is you need to go see a doctor. And not only a doctor, but Dr. Smith, because he's going to put you on a treatment protocol,'” says Glass. “The lawyer kind of knows in the back of his mind whether or not you're actually hurt. This doctor is going to do a 12-week workup, and now we have a claim. There are some lawyers that will kind of manufacture a case in that way."

That said, it's still very important to keep tabs on how you're feeling over the next few days. If you feel anything at all out of the ordinary, go ahead and give your own doctor a call.

4. Contact your auto insurance provider

Next, call your insurance and notify them of the accident. If you have collision coverage on your car insurance policy, they'll likely be able to green-light you for a faster car repair than if you tried to wrangle with the other person's insurer.

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"I've always found that it's easier for my clients to get their cars fixed through their own insurance company," says Glass. "That company likes you and they want you to renew your policy at the end of the year, so they want to give you good customer service."

5. Contact a personal injury lawyer

This accident likely wasn't your fault, so you shouldn't have to suffer for it. To help make things right, consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer.

Rules vary a lot by state, so it's best to seek out an experienced personal injury attorney in the state where you live or where the accident happened.

Glass recommends asking for a report of a potential attorney’s past cases and looking for clues. "You can ask, 'When was the last time you tried a case? What percentage of your cases go to trial?'” he says. “If all of the results that you see are settlements, that's a sign that the lawyer isn't actually trying cases and may be just taking whatever the insurance company says is the best offer and settling the case for that."

In addition, don't place too much emphasis on a lawyer's "win percentage." This can be easily gamed if lawyers only take on sure-fire cases, for example.

"At the end of that phone call, say, 'If I don't hire you, who are the two other guys in your area that I should talk to?'" Glass says. "If you talk to three or four lawyers, you're gonna hear the same name a couple of times."

Buy enough uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

This won't help you much after you've already been hit, but for the future it's a good idea to consider paying extra for underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage from your insurance provider. If you're hit by someone carrying a state-minimum policy—or worse, no insurance—then there's not much help you're going to be able to get.

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There are lots of factors that affect how much your premium will be, but also many ways to save. Here are the details.

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In particular, Glass recalled a case of his where a woman who'd already been in a car crash was hit a second time as she was walking through the first crash scene, causing her to lose her leg.

"That's a multimillion-dollar case, but there was only $100,000 in coverage,” he says. “But if there's not enough coverage, then there's not enough coverage. And the only way that you can adequately protect yourself is to buy enough coverage for yourself."

Article Sources
  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Drunk Driving," https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Impaired Driving," https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/impaired_driving/index.html.

About the Author

Lindsay Vansomeren

Lindsay VanSomeren

Lindsay was inspired to start writing about personal finance after seeing how much good financial management impacted her life in getting out of six-figure debt. Now she hopes to help others improve their finances too, so they can get rid of financial stress, live the lives they want, and strengthen their communities. Her work has appeared in Credit Karma, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, The Balance, and more.

Full bio

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