Drunk Driver Hit You?

Mississippi Car Accident Lawyer Explains Legal Options

Video Transcript:

Merrida Coxwell:

Waiting to get a lawyer, it just allows your evidence to spread out and wash away like water; it's not a good idea.

Rob Rosenthal:

Do you know what to do if you're injured in a collision by a drunk driver? Well, that's what we're going to find out, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer on this episode.

Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Mississippi attorney Merrida Coxwell. Remember, if you want to be able to ask questions about your specific situation, be sure to go to askthelawyers.com, click on the button at the top of the screen that says “Ask a Lawyer” and ask away right there.

Merrida, it’s good to see you. Thank you for making some time to help us.

Merrida Coxwell:

You're welcome Rob. It's good to talk to you again.

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's just start at the beginning. Someone is hit by a drunk driver and there are injuries. What's your suggestion? What should they do?

Merrida Coxwell:

Well, it's not going to be a lot different from any other accident. Number one, you take care of your health. That's always the most important thing. Obviously, get a copy of the police report, and if you have injuries of any type—many times you don't know that they're serious right away—it's best to contact a lawyer because there are some complications in DUI cases. Sometimes as bad as it is that it happened, there can be some advantages to that bad situation, so take care of your health, cooperate with the police officer, and contact a lawyer—hopefully Coxwell and Associates.

Rob Rosenthal:

It seems like some people probably think, Merrida, well, there's going to be a prosecuting attorney, district attorney, somebody like that, that's going to handle the case against the drunk driver, so I don't need a civil attorney. Explain what's going on there.

Merrida Coxell:

The prosecuting attorney is not going to be concerned with your civil action; he is solely going to be prosecuting that person, the alleged drunk driver for either driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of illegal drugs, or any other substance that might have affected their ability to drive. That is all that he's going to be concerned with. Now, if you have injuries arising from that, the prosecutor might require restitution, but that restitution generally is going to be limited to the amount of what we lawyers call your “special”. Your medical bills, your pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and all those kinds of damages that are so valuable to a living person, that contribute to all the joy in life, those are not going to be taken care of by the prosecutor; he's generally going to prosecute the crime.

Rob Rosenthal:

Does the outcome of that civil case, whether the person is ultimately found guilty of drunk driving or whatever, does that have any bearing on my civil case and whether I could recover damages?

Merrida Coxwell:

No, not really. A good example of that, if you all remember the OJ Simpson case, where he was found not guilty in the criminal case, but the family sued him and got a very large civil judgment. The burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt, and in a civil case, its preponderance of the evidence. You could also have a DUI that might get dismissed on a constitutional basis; for example, lack of probable cause, i.e. the police pulled someone over with only a suspicion and no probable cause and that DUI might get thrown out, but it wouldn't stop the individual who was harmed or injured from suing that individual, so a not-guilty verdict is not going to affect the civil case.

Rob Rosenthal:

What if someone is thinking, “Well, I'll wait until the end of the criminal case, and then I'll contact somebody like yourself, Merrida, to help me.” Is that a smart thing to do?

Merrida Coxwell:

No, no, it isn't. Evidence disappears. Evidence on the roadside disappears; law enforcement memories, even though they put a lot in their offense reports, there are things you may want in your civil case that if you talk to the officer earlier enough, he may recall. He may recall how you were suffering and how you were injured inside the car, how he helped you get out, how you expressed your problems at those times. So when you have a civil case, once you engage a lawyer, there may be some waiting for you to reach what we call in the legal medical field “maximum medical improvement”. But waiting to get a lawyer, it just allows your evidence to kind of spread out and wash away like water; it's not a good idea.

Rob Rosenthal:

What if something in the police report from the criminal case is inaccurate or maybe it doesn't help my case? Is that something that is going to be used as evidence in my civil case?

Merrida Coxwell:

Well, it depends on how it's phrased. Now you're getting into very complex fact-specific questions on whether that report is admissible, whether that report contains any hearsay. The new accident reports here in Mississippi are extremely thorough, but they leave little room for officers to put factual details; they're listed in a report, but in a lot of the old reports, the officers would sort of write chronologies, sentences down in the reports. I don't see that anymore. So getting to an officer, getting the accident report, especially in a DUI, and getting the officer right away or any witnesses. The biggest problem at Coxwell and Associates that we find is we don't get involved until months and months, maybe even a year later, and we can't find any witnesses other than the officer and other witnesses are extremely valuable in these types of cases.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of great information as always, Merrida. Thank you very much for taking some time and answering our questions today.

Merrida Coxwell:

You're welcome. Have a good day.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Mississippi Attorney Merrida Coxwell. Remember, if you want to ask questions about your specific situation, you can always go to askthelawyers.com, click on the button at the top of the screen that says, “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do it right there. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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