What can I do if I had an accident caused by a drunk driver?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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What can I do if I had an accident caused by a drunk driver?

A drunk driver crashed into a pole going up a verysteep hill, causing me to hit the pole and wreck my vehicle. The police are charging her with a DUI and Reckless Driving, and she was also found at fault for my wreck. Her insurance company has been totally uncooperative and has notified me that I am liable for my medical expenses, my damages to my vehicle, and the property that was damaged, which amounts to several thousand dollars. Is it legal for them to do this when their client was held legally accountable for my wreck?

Asked on November 10, 2015 under Accident Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

No, their client has not been found legally accountable for the wreck, unless you have sued her for your damages, costs, and losses and won. Being charged is not a finding of accountability (she has not been convicted yet) and the police's determination that she was at fault is also not a legal determination--it's just the police's opinion; and even if/when she is convicted, that will be in a criminal case, which does not mean that she is civilly liable (or liable to pay) for your damage, since the criminal and civil legal systems are separate.
So at present, there is no legal obligation for her to pay, so her insurer can legally refuse to pay. Your recourse is to sue her in court (file a lawsuit against her); if you win you will get a court judgment ordering her to pay, and if her insurance was in effect, her insurer should then pay for her, at least up to the limits of the policy.

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