What to Do After Getting in a DWI Accident
It’s no big secret that, as a driver, you don’t want to get into a DWI accident. Being charged and convicted with drinking while under the influence of a substance like alcohol or drugs cause your insurance premiums to skyrocket. Plus, you’ll have a criminal record, which can leave you unable to potentially keep your job, get another job in the same field, and maybe qualify for certain loans.
However, let’s say that you do get in a DWI accident. What happens then? That’s when you need to try to stay calm and then follow a few simple rules.
Dealing With Police Officers
First of all, if you get into a collision with another vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian, always call 9-1-1 immediately. Even if you’ve been drinking and suspect you may be “buzzed” or over the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level for your state, it’s the right thing to do. Just be aware that your phone call to 9-1-1 will send first responders your way. In other words, you’ll probably have to answer for what may look like a DWI accident.
Be very patient and polite when you’re interviewed by one or more officers at the scene. Don’t become belligerent or start accusing the other motorist. At the same time, you aren’t obligated to admit any guilt or accept fault for the crash. Even if you were drinking and driving, which is illegal, you may not have actually caused what appears to be a DWI accident. Therefore, it’s important to be truthful but not blurt out something that you’ll regret later.
To be sure, even if you’re the nicest person in the world, a police officer may put you under arrest for a suspected DWI accident. Again, your best bet is to cooperate and go quietly. Trying to resist arrest can make the situation much, much worse. Though you might be embarrassed and angered, hold your tongue and your temper.
Getting Out of Jail
What comes next? Well, if you’ve been arrested and charged, you’ll go through an arraignment process. Nevertheless, even if you’re technically sent to jail, you don’t have to sit in a jail cell awaiting a trial, which could take months. Instead, you can post bail and pay to get out, at least in most states, and under most circumstances. This is assuming, of course, that this is your first and not 10th DWI accident. If you’ve had a lot of prior DWI accident incidents or have been convicted on other charges, you may not be able to get out of jail even on bail.
In order to post bail, you’ll need to get your hands on some fast money. That’s where bail bonds can come into play. A bail bondsman can help you come up with the cash you need to post your bail. You’ll sign an agreement with a bail bondsman that puts up something of value in exchange for their money. For example, you may have to use the equity in your real estate as collateral.
No matter which bondman you use, or how much bond you have to post, make sure that you know the rules to follow. Otherwise, you could end up owing the bail bondsman quite a bit of money because you broke regulations.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney or Law Firm
After you get home, you shouldn’t sit around and wait until your court date. Instead, start checking the Internet for local criminal defense attorneys or law firms that specialize in representing clients who have been accused of DWI accident events.
Be prepared to scour through lots of reviews. As of 2019, 1.35 million attorneys were practicing throughout the nation. In other words, you’ll probably have quite a few to pick from, and it can be tough to decide which one to select. Take your time and see if there are any that seem to appeal to you for one reason or another. Look at their blog posts and social media pages, too. You never know what might make one stand out over another.
Want other ways to evaluate DWI lawyer candidates or differentiate them from, say, car accident attorney choices? See if they have any thought leadership articles written in local, regional, or national publications. A quick Google search can give you a lot of insight into where a lawyer went to law school, how long the lawyer’s been in practice, and information on cases that the lawyer’s won.
Contacting an Attorney
You’ve narrowed your choice down to a criminal attorney who appears to have everything you need. Great! Now, you’ll need to set up a consultation. Sometimes, a DUI defense attorney will offer free consultations for potential clients. Other times, the lawyer or firm will make you pay. Remember: This is all part of working with a legal representative. Criminal defense attorneys very rarely work on contingent fees. This means you’ll need to be able to pay for your legal services out of your bank account or with a credit card.
How much can you expect to pay your attorney if the attorney agrees to represent you in your DWI accident case? Every lawyer’s rate is going to vary, but most will be several hundred dollars per hour. Though this may seem high, it’s quite standard in the law. Remind yourself that you’re getting tremendous expertise when you work with a lawyer. Additionally, you’re taking tons of stress off your hands. Getting arrested for a DWI accident can be a very serious, life-changing event. And you’ll want to make sure you partner with a lawyer who can help you every step of the way.
Working With Your Lawyer
Over the coming weeks, you’ll be working with your DWI accident attorney to determine how best to defend your case. Be truthful about everything that happened before, during, and after the alleged DWI accident. The less you hold back, the better your lawyer can make your case.
Your lawyer may need you to provide documents and may want to get witness statements or perhaps site surveillance video. The attorney may even come up with some excellent rebuttals to your DWI accident accusation based on everything that happened. Many criminal defense attorneys are excellent problem-solvers. They’re also trained to look for needles in a haystack. Something as small as a missing signature in a police write-up could be grounds for your accusation to be dismissed. You never know, so let your lawyer do the work you’re paying for.
Seeking Mental Health Relief
Knowing that you may have to spend the rest of your life with a DWI accident conviction on your permanent record can be stressful and depressing. Therefore, take time after the DWI accident to seek mental health therapy sessions with a counselor. If you have healthcare insurance, your appointments may be partially or fully covered, depending upon the counselor you choose.
Use your therapy sessions as a chance to talk through all the feelings you’re experiencing. And if you were actually drinking or using drugs before your DWI accident, discuss ways that you could overcome a potential addiction. A therapist might be able to help you find a local Alcoholics Anonymous or another support group. Being around other people with similar problems can assist you in making sure your first DWI accident is your last one.
Fixing Your Car
So far, we haven’t talked about all the elephants in the room. We’re missing a biggie: your car.
Even if your DWI accident was in a parking lot at slow speed, you might require an appointment with a collision repair service. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to pay something because your deductible will have to be met before any personal injury protection insurance will kick in.
As long as your vehicle wasn’t permanently impounded after your DWI accident, you should have it on hand. Of course, you may have temporarily had your license suspended pending your court date. Still, don’t delay in fixing your car. Delaying can make a problem worse. For instance, little dents can rust up quickly, which will only lead to paying more cash down the road.
If you have the time, you might want to check with a couple of mechanics to see what they recommend and get competing bids. Before you go with the lowest offer, be sure you trust the mechanic or dealership. The last thing you want after the pain, confusion, and worry of a DWI accident is to be unhappy with the way your car’s been fixed up post-crash.
Knowing What to Do If You Are Sued by the Other Driver
Just because you got arrested for a DWI accident doesn’t mean your legal woes are over. Unfortunately, you may also be sued for damages by the other driver by their car accident lawyer.
Now, there’s being sued and there’s being sued. As long as the other driver or passengers weren’t seriously hurt, they’ll basically ask your insurance to pay for their damages. Your insurance carrier may push back, but if they have enough evidence, they can recover compensation up to the maximum payout on your insurance coverage. Yes, your premiums will go up, but you won’t actually be paying the other driver out of pocket.
On the other hand, if you’re uninsured, you may be sued, in which case you’ll need to hire a car accident injury attorney. The same may hold true if the most your insurance company will pay won’t cover the other driver’s or passenger’s medical and other bills. The good news is that you have already contacted a criminal defense attorney, so ask that attorney for the name of an auto injury attorney who can help out. Who knows? The lawyer may be able to do everything for you depending on the lawyer’s preferred areas of expertise.
Moving on With Your Life After a DWI Accident
After the insurance snags, the court dates, and maybe court-ordered visits to rehab facilities or support groups, you should be able to start putting your DWI accident behind you. At the same time, you will want to hold onto the lessons that you’ve learned along the way.
Lesson One: Avoiding Drinking and Driving
First, make sure that you don’t put yourself in the position of potentially being in a DWI accident again. This means always being willing to hand the keys to your vehicle over to someone sober. Alternatively, consider using third party driving services like taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts when you know you’re going to drink. The last thing you want is to ever get in another DWI accident. Courts are not particularly lenient when it comes to people who have multiple offenses under their belts.
Lesson Two: Getting Help for Addictions
Was your DWI accident somewhat of a wake-up call for you? If you realized after being accused of DWI that you have difficulty knowing when to stop drinking, or you’re unable to stop using a drug, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to seek assistance. There’s absolutely no shame in trying to improve yourself. Drugs and alcohol don’t have to rule your life. In fact, they aren’t necessary at all, so do your best to overcome problems.
Lesson Three: Understanding That You May Have to Report Your DWI Accident
You probably don’t want to tell many people about your DWI accident. You won’t have to if you’re acquitted. On the other hand, if you’re convicted of driving under the influence, you may need to reveal that fact to prospective employers, landlords, or financial institutions. Do yourself a favor and just be open and blunt. Most will do a background check and find out you’re lying, which will only look worse for you. It’s much better for them to hear that you’ve dealt with a DWI accident from you, rather than find out you were trying to deceive them.
Being in a DWI accident isn’t the end of the world. As long as you know how to handle the situation, you can come out on the other side of it much wiser. Just make sure you stay patient and focused throughout every moment of the ordeal. Yes, it’s going to be stressful, but many other drivers have found ways to overcome their DWI accident events on a personal and professional level. Have faith that you can, too.