Apr 2, 2014

A sad story came out of Arapahoe County this last week regarding the untimely death of a 17 year old named Juan Carlos Dominguez-Palomino. Juan was hit and killed by an uninsured drunk driver named Ever Olivos-Gutierrez. Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez did not have a driver's license and is in this country illegally. This appears to be Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez's fourth DUI.

Police estimated that Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez was driving down Colfax at 80 mph when he ran a red light and struck the other vehicle. In addition to the loss of their child, Mr. Dominguez-Palomino's family faces an uncertain financial future because Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez was uninsured and the family did not carry uninsured motorist coverage. Sadly, Mr. Dominguez-Palomino's family will likely receive little to no compensation for their loss and for burial/funeral expenses.

Nevertheless, because Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez admitted that he drank at a bar before the collision and his BAC was more than three times the legal limit (.25), the family may have a dram shop claim against the bar who served Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez alcohol. The family would have to discover the name of the bar within a year due to the applicable statute of limitations and prove that the bar served Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez alcohol after he became visibly intoxicated. For more information on dram shop personal injury claims, please read this prior article.

It is true that Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez is being prosecuted for first-degree murder and will likely face a very long criminal sentence. If Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez ever gets out of prison (and my suspicion is he will), he will likely have a very large restitution order imposed on him. So, if he ends up staying in this country (he will probably be deported) and if he stays in compliance with his probation obligations (not likely), a small portion of his very small future earnings [1] will go to the victim's family for their funeral related expenses.

In reviewing this sad drunk driver victim news story, the one thing that is abundantly clear to me is that oftentimes we do not think about how we should financially arm ourselves against drunk drivers like Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez. Specifically, how can we protect ourselves against financially irresponsible people like Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez who do reckless things without considering the consequences? While there is no substitute for good behavior, the only way to protect yourself against financially reckless drivers is to carry uninsured motorist coverage. The State of Colorado believes that uninsured motorist coverage is so important that state law requires insurance companies to sell it to you. Even though you can decline this coverage, you should always purchase it to protect yourself and your family from irresponsible drivers.

It has been my experience that the average stay in a hospital in the Denver metro area can range anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 per day. As a personal injury attorney who has represented thousands of people injured or even killed by drunk drivers, it is my opinion that no one should be driving on the road with less than $1,000,000 of uninsured motorist coverage. While only a mere fraction of drives on the road are financially irresponsible, reckless drunk drivers are sadly a part of life in Colorado. Every year, hundreds of drunk drivers are prosecuted in the Denver metro area. Every time a person decides to drive while intoxicated, that driver creates a potential tragic situation for another unfortunate victim like Mr. Dominguez-Palomino and his grieving family.

At Anderson Hemmat, we know that no one plans to get hit and injured by a financially irresponsible drunk driver. Unfortunately, there are many drivers out there just like Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez and the only way to truly protect yourself from the reckless irresponsibility of others is to purchase a high level of uninsured motorist coverage. If you want to financially protect your family from drunk drivers like Mr. Olivos-Gutierrez and you have questions about the type of auto insurance coverage you should be carrying, please call and speak with one of our experienced accident attorneys today.

[1] On the whole felons tend not to be high wage earners.


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