Skip to Main Content



Can You Receive Compensation for a Drunk Driving Accident?

According to the Department of Transportation, Iowa revoked 14,228 licenses in 2022 for Operating While Intoxicated. These numbers show that drunk driving is a serious problem, which can unfortunately result in collisions and serious bodily injuries.

Intoxicated motorists also tend to engage in risky behavior, such as speeding through a red light, often because their movements are impaired or they aren’t thinking carefully. Innocent people like pedestrians and other motorists end up in the hospital when they find themselves in the way of a dangerous driver.

Drunk driving is a crime, but it’s also a “tort.” In Iowa, anyone who suffers bodily injuries can file a tort claim for compensation against the person who injured them. Call Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C. today to speak with a Des Moines car accident lawyer about your car wreck. Our consultations are free, and we can meet anyone from our offices in Waterloo and Iowa City. Our clients come first, 24/7.

Why Drunk Driving is So Dangerous

Iowa rightly criminalizes drunk driving. When someone has too much liquor, they can suffer many impairments:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased fatigue, including a risk of nodding off
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Impaired judgment
  • Increased risk taking

The chances of a dangerous or deadly collision go way up. You should call our firm if you suspect a drunk driver hit you.

Can You Sue a Drunk Driver?

Any motorist who hits you because they failed to drive carefully is at fault for an accident. That’s the good news. An accident victim can seek financial compensation from the negligent driver for:

  • Car repairs
  • Medical treatment for their injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost income or wages

Drunk driving is not only negligent, it’s reckless. A drunk driver is certainly at fault for a wreck they cause due to their impaired driving, and you can seek financial compensation.

Proving Intoxication

The fact that you were hit by a car doesn’t automatically mean you can win a case. You also need evidence a driver was negligent. In the context of drunk driving, we need proof the driver was under the influence when they struck you. It would be easy if a driver just fessed up, but very few do.

Instead, we’ll need to rely on the following:

  • Your observations. Maybe the driver was stumbling around or was gripping a beer can when he exited the vehicle. This is all important evidence. Opened bottles in the passenger’s seat are also solid proof a driver was intoxicated, as is slurred speech and red eyes.
  • Breathalyzer or urine tests. One reason to call the cops after a crash is that an officer can investigate. If the police suspect intoxication, they can have the driver undergo field sobriety tests. They might also request a breathalyzer or urine sample. We can seek to introduce the results of any chemical test to find out the blood alcohol concentration.
  • Dashcam video. An officer’s dash cam can show a motorist stumbling around or record them slurring their words. This video is also persuasive evidence.
  • Eyewitness testimony. The more testimony, the better. Other people can testify that the driver appeared intoxicated. We might even have a customer at a bar testify that they saw the defendant looking drunk when they left.

This is some of the most helpful evidence in a car accident case. Call Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C. today to schedule a consultation so we can dive deeper into the facts of your claim.

Punitive Damages

We might also seek punitive damages in a drunk driving collision. Iowa Code § 668A.1 allows accident victims to obtain punitive damages if they have clear evidence the defendant acted with willful and wanton indifference toward the safety of other people. This is more egregious conduct than being merely careless.

Drunk driving, or driving while high on drugs, are clear examples of wanton indifference to people’s safety. We might request these damages to punish the defendant.

Iowa doesn’t cap punitive damages, which is good news. Let us review whether it makes sense to request them.

Bringing a Dram Shop Claim

Drunk driving accidents are unique. In addition to suing the drunk driver, we might also file a claim against any establishment that served the defendant. Under Iowa Code § 123.92, an establishment is liable when they serve alcohol to someone who appeared intoxicated, or if they served the person to the point they would become intoxicated.

Consequently, we might sue a bar, tavern, or restaurant for overserving the driver who struck you. This step is often beneficial. Businesses typically have much larger insurance policies, which means obtaining fair compensation is easier. The drunk driver might only have the bare minimum insurance required by the state.

Suing a restaurant or other business comes with challenges, however. Bar employees are afraid of losing their jobs, and bars could lose their liquor license.

Meeting Deadlines

Victims should reach out to our firm promptly. You have important deadlines to meet with your drunk driving case. One mistake people make is thinking the prosecutor will file this claim. That’s not true. Although the defendant might face criminal charges, it’s up to victims to initiate a civil claim for financial compensation. Call us.

Iowa’s statute of limitations gives you, at most, two years to sue the driver. You get less time (6 months) if you want to bring a claim against an establishment, like a bar. The shorter notice requirement is found in Iowa Code § 123.93.

Deadlines are often confusing. Just pick up the phone and call us. We will do everything possible to protect your rights by submitting a claim or filing a deadline before any deadline expires.

Our Des Moines Car Accident Lawyers Are Here for You

Drunk drivers ruin lives. We intend to change that. At Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C., we are proud to represent accident victims in injury claims against impaired motorists. We fight for the maximum compensation for our clients. Let us explain our approach in more detail in a free consultation.