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What happens when the driver who hit you goes to jail?

Most ordinary car accidents don't end with one of the drivers in handcuffs -- but that's exactly what can happen if you're hit by a drunk driver.

That may leave a lot of victims wondering what happens next? Will the fact that the driver is in jail affect your ability to file a claim? What if you're seriously injured and you need to file a lawsuit? Do you turn to the prosecutor to help?

This is what you need to know:

1. As long as the other driver has insurance that will cover your injuries and your car repairs, you can proceed with your claim even though he or she is in jail. It may slow your claim down a little, however, if the insurance company wants to get their client's statement before authorizing any payments.

2. If you find that your claim is being held up indefinitely or that the other insurance company won't be reasonable, your insurance company can take over and pay your medical and car repair bills. Your insurance will then subrogate the claim, or collect its money back by pursuing the other insurance company for the money.

3. The drunk driver will no doubt face charges over the incident, especially because there was an accident involved. However, any charges that he or she faces from the state are strictly criminal in nature. Any private lawsuit is considered a civil issue, even if it results from a criminal act.

4. This is probably the most important thing that you need to understand about your situation: Neither your insurance company nor the prosecutor can advocate for you if you were seriously injured in the way that a private attorney can advocate for you. A prosecutor advocates for society as a whole. While your injuries may certainly be important to the criminal case, the prosecutor can't help you recover financially. Your insurance company can pay your medical bills and cover your car repairs, but they won't cover any lost wages or compensate you for your pain and suffering.

5. If the defendant is convicted of drunk driving and sent to jail, that won't interfere with your ability to file a civil case. In most cases, an insurance company has to pay any damages that are awarded, not the defendant.

An attorney can provide more information about pursuing a claim against a drunk driver.

Source: FindLaw, "The Differences between a Criminal Case and a Civil Case," accessed June 01, 2017

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