HAWAII PERSONAL INJURY and
AUTO ACCIDENTS CAUSED BY A DRUNK OR INTOXICATED DRIVER
There are serious financial consequences for the driver at fault for a drunk driving accident in Hawaii. In addition to criminal penalties imposed by the State of Hawaii, a drunk driver who causes an injury is subject to significant personal liability for causing an injury in a drunk driving accident.
Oftentimes, a drunk driving accident causes life-threatening injuries. With serious injuries come significant medical expenses, lost wages and permanent lifestyle changes. Hawaii law considers these, and other losses, to be recoverable as "damages" against the drunk driver. Additional damages include, but not limited to: pain and suffering; loss of earning capacity; loss of consortium for certain family members; and loss of enjoyment of life activities.
Insurance may be available to compensate the victim and his or her family for the damages incurred as a result of the drunk driving accident. However, auto insurance policies may be insufficient to fully compensate the victim. Auto insurance policies are subject to certain "policy limits" that limit the amount the insurance company will pay out on the insurer's e total dollar amount that an insurance company will pay out to the victim and victim's family. The minimum auto insurance policy limits currently required under Hawaii law (August, 2015) is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident.
A drunk/intoxicated driver's policy limits are rarely sufficient to fully compensate the victim and his or her family's damages incurred as a result of the accident. If policy limits are inadequate to fully compensate the victim and his or her family, the drunk/intoxicated driver is financially responsible to pay the uninsured damages.
The victim may make a claim with his or her own auto insurance policy under the "underinsured motorist", or "UIM" protection, if available. UIM protection covers the injured victim and his or her family for damages that exceed the drunk driver's policy limits. However, a UIM recovery is limited to the policy limits available under the victim's UIM policy.
If the victim makes a UIM claim, the drunk/intoxicated driver may be financially responsible to repay the insurance company for any settlement paid to the victim and his or her family. If there is no UIM claim, the drunk/intoxicated driver may be financially responsible to the victim and the victim's family.
Such financial responsibility cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. 11 USC 523(a)(9) prohibits the discharge of a debt: "for death or personal injury caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft if such operation was unlawful because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol, a drug, or another substance".
Therefore, a driver who causes an accident due to his or her intoxication may not legally escape the significant financial responsibility that comes along with a drunk/intoxicated driving accident. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a drunk or intoxicated driver, contact Foster Law Offices today. It is important to retain legal counsel as soon as possible after a drunk driving accident in order to protect the victim and victim's family's legal right to recover damages resulting from the accident.