Any place with roads can be home to auto accidents and collisions. The nature of controlling speeding metal tanks as an imperfect human being comes with unavoidable risks. Mistakes happen; the unexpected happens. Of course, that is why we, as a society, try to mitigate as many risks and avoid as many mistakes as possible — not just with maintaining roadways and vehicles, but also with enacting laws and regulations that encourage people to drive as safely as possible. For example, every driver is legally required to be attentive, cautious, and — perhaps most importantly — sober.
Impaired drivers cannot be safe drivers. Even the most confident, “experienced” impaired driver is a seriously enhanced risk behind the wheel, but sadly, many only learn this lesson the hard way. Alcohol is a crutch for a large number of people (especially since the pandemic). Those dependent on the substance may find it unusually difficult or even impossible to part with it long enough to drive, which then leads to deadly consequences. We know this is only one of the ways alcoholism can ruin lives — and we may know it better than other states.
In 2021, Oklahoma made the Top 10 list for alcohol-related deaths (including liver failure and other non-traffic catalysts). This clearly points to a deeper issue amongst our citizens, an issue of quality of life that encourages addictions and escapism, and that is precisely why just outlawing impaired driving isn’t enough.
In an effort to address and help the true problem, Oklahoma launched 988, a mental health hotline that connects callers to therapists and non-police intervention if needed. Since its beginning in July, it has received thousands and thousands of calls after a widely successful campaign, and has diligently tried to help every person on the other end.
While this can, hopefully, only positively affect fatalities caused by impairment overall, nothing so extensive and complex is ever completely eradicated. Drunk and impaired drivers are still a risk to themselves and others every day in Oklahoma City. When they do cause serious accidents, they need to be held accountable so their victims can afford recovery. Alcohol-related collisions rarely end with minor injuries.
Why drunk driving accidents are especially dangerous
Living in an urban area like Oklahoma City is a wonderful experience with a plethora of upsides and benefits, but a major downside can be having to actually drive through it. Buildings, traffic lights, a heavier population, and tight turns mean our roads are more of an obstacle course than a path to commute. To traverse it safely, keeping a close eye on your surroundings and using an abundance of caution are essentials, and — of course — those who are impaired in any way are largely incapable of doing either of those things.
Statistics back this up. In 2020, 58% of alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurred in urban areas just like Oklahoma City, and it is easy to see why. In that same year in our state, drunk drivers caused over 800 injuries. Given that these collisions often happen at high speeds and without any control or defensive maneuvering, those injuries are usually incredibly serious — if the victims live through the experience at all.
Any sort of impairment — be it from alcohol or any sort of mind-altering drug — can lead to catastrophic injuries, and it is happening more and more in our state. People do not always realize that even certain legal, prescription medication can impair your ability to drive, and if you neglect to read the appropriate warnings, you can be just as dangerous as a willfully drunk or drugged driver.
These accidents can result in disabling traumas like spinal cord injuries, brain damage, paralysis, and loss of limb, all of which need extensive, expensive medical treatments and lifelong accommodations. The cost of these injuries can absolutely bankrupt a family alongside devastating the victim’s way of life, and it is just another reason why the law takes impaired driving so seriously.
Protecting yourself after being hit by an impaired driver in Oklahoma City
As previously explored, every driver on the road is responsible for acting as safely as possible — which includes being sober. When they fail to do so and cause a serious accident, they can be held financially and legally liable for their victim’s injuries and damages. Oklahoma is a comparative negligence state, meaning a person’s possible damages are contingent upon their share of blame for the accident. So, in order to win a personal injury case, the victim must be able to prove the other party is more to blame than they are — something proven immediately once impairment is evidenced.
This may seem straightforward on the surface, but can actually be incredibly complicated litigation. Not only will the defendant be working as hard as possible to shirk any blame, but so will the insurance companies involved — even the one supposedly representing the victim. There may also be multiple liable entities (if the impaired driver drove a commercial vehicle, for example) with their own complications and red tape to navigate, designed to be as difficult as possible for victims.
While recovery and rest should be the main priority, it is incredibly important to take certain proactive steps to strengthen your case and prevent as many conflicts as possible. These steps include documenting everything you can, taking pictures when possible, keeping away from settlements, staying off social media, and — perhaps most importantly — consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney before even talking to your insurance company.
Not only does proper legal representation as early as possible help avoid bad faith practices from your insurance or improperly handled casework, it also provides you with the opportunity for individualized tactics. Depending on the details of your case, a good personal injury attorney launches their own investigation and searches for evidence on your behalf before using it to advocate for your justice — all the while you are able to rest and focus on yourself.
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a drunk or drugged driver here in Oklahoma City, you deserve the comprehensive, compassionate personal injury attorneys with Cunningham & Mears. We take pride in fighting tirelessly for victims just like you until you get the compensation you deserve. With our years of experience, no case is too complicated or without hope. As long as you contact us, via phone or our contact form, you will have options — so do it today. The other side won’t wait to build their case, and neither should you.
Marcus P. Mears is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Mears is committed to helping Oklahoma’s injured victims in the areas of injury law and insurance litigation. Mr. Mears was selected to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for his work as lead counsel in multiple seven figure injury cases. Learn More