Drunk driving accidents often lead to severe injuries because the drunk driver does not realize what he or she is doing. A drunk driver not only faces criminal charges, but she will most likely face a civil lawsuit so the victim can recover damages. The at-fault driver’s insurance and/or the at-fault driver could be responsible for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Civil Lawsuits and Criminal Proceedings After a DUI Accident
The state attorney’s office brings the criminal proceeding to criminal court. The criminal proceeding punishes the at-fault driver for breaking the law. In order for you to recover damages, you must take the at-fault driver to civil court. Even if the drunk driver did not hurt anyone, the state would still levy DUI charges against them.
In civil court, you must prove that the defendant is at fault and caused your injuries. You will most likely go up against the defendant’s insurance company, but in some cases, you could sue the at-fault driver and other defendants, depending on the circumstances. If the accident was fatal, the estate or the family members bring a lawsuit against the drunk driver and/or his insurance company.
How to Know if Drinking and Driving Caused the Accident
The police will note this in the police report if the defendant tests for a 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration. If the driver is a commercial driver, the limit is 0.04 percent blood alcohol concentration. If the driver is under the age of 21, the police could charge the driver with driving under the influence regardless of the blood alcohol concentration.
Any person who refuses to complete tests or does not pass the tests for driving under the influence after a DUI accident can lose her license for 12 months. For a second offense within 84 months, the driver loses his license for 24 months, in addition to other fines and jail time.
Working With Insurance Companies
Your car insurance company might offer to represent you after a car accident. However, this could become a conflict of interest if your insurance company needs to pay for some of your damages. You should always retain your own car accident lawyer after a DUI accident.
Keep in mind that all insurance companies are in business to make money. Any claim they have to pay out means less money in their pockets – and that includes your insurance company. It does not care that you paid premiums for years – it just sees those dollars flying out of its account. The only way to ensure that your best interests are met is to retain your own car accident lawyer.
Proving Negligence After a DUI Accident
To prevail in your case against a drunk driver, you must be able to prove negligence. A negligence claim has four elements:
- You must show that the drunk driver had a “duty of care” to you. This is usually easy – every driver on the road must drive in such a manner to keep others on the road safe.
- The drunk driver breached his or her duty of care. Everyone knows that you cannot drive after drinking. If the DUI happened because of prescription drugs, the drug normally has a warning on the label. Driving under the influence is breaching the duty of care.
- That you suffered harm in the accident, whether you sustained injuries, lost a loved one, or even if you suffered no physical injuries, your vehicle has damage to it.
- That the driver’s actions – driving under the influence – caused your injuries, the death of a loved one, or caused damage to your vehicle.
In most drunk driving accidents, plaintiffs do not have a problem proving negligence.
After a drunk driving accident, you can settle with the driver’s insurance company, or you can sue the insurance company and/or the driver. You can recover economic damages and non-economic damages after a DUI accident.
Economic damages are those with a monetary value and include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, replacement of destroyed personal property, and funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses.
Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value, but like economic damages, they are meant to make you whole again. Sometimes called general damages, non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, loss of companionship and/or consortium, loss of use of a body part or bodily function, amputation, disfigurement, excessive scarring, and inconvenience.
Those who try to represent themselves in settlement negotiations often leave money on the table because they do not know the laws. Insurance companies know this and will use several tricks in an attempt to deny your claim or offer you a pittance. A car accident lawyer can help you recover the compensation you deserve.