A car accident caused by a drunk driver can be very severe in terms of injuries. If you’re a victim of a car accident caused by a drunk driver, it is only right that you get compensation for injuries and damages sustained. The Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney is here to help you seek compensation for your injuries and damages.
The Relationship Between Car Accidents and Drunk Driving
A drunk driver can face severe penalties and charges after an arrest while driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The consequence becomes worse if he/she is involved in a car accident, causing injuries. Drunk drivers cause a majority of car accidents that happen in Los Angeles almost every day. Drunk driving affects a person’s judgment on the road and the ability to focus on the way to be able to notice foreseeable factors that can lead to accidents.
Despite many efforts put in place to prevent drunk driving in the state of California, accidents involving drivers under the influence of alcohol are still on the rise. According to statistics reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drunk drivers have killed more than 10,000 people in accident crashes between the years 2005 and 2012. Too many people lose their lives in these preventable accidents, hence the need for strict state laws for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
If a drunk driver has led to a life-changing injury on your body or if you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, you might want to learn about legal options that you have in such a case. Hiring a reliable lawyer should be your first step in punishing the offender and seeking compensation for your injuries and damages sustained.
According to California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC, it’s a criminal offense to drive an automobile with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) that is 0.08% or above. Drunk driving in California can attract criminal charges or civil lawsuits if the driver is involved in an accident causing injuries.
What You Need to Do When Involved in a Car Accident with a Drunk Driver
If you’re a victim of a car accident caused by a drunk driver, whether as a pedestrian, cyclist, or another car driver, you need to know your legal rights in such an incident and also seek compensation for any injuries or damages caused. There are a few things you need to do immediately after being involved in a car accident involving a drunk driver to be on the safe side in terms of liability and compensation for the damages sustained. Below are crucial things you need to do after involvement in a car accident with a drunk driver:
- Ask for contact information of the driver and at least one eye witness at the scene
- Whatever you say just make sure you don’t admit the accident fault and also don’t tell anyone that you’re not hurt
- For evidence purposes, you might want to take videos and pictures of the accident scene
- Send a notice to your insurance company
- Talk to a reliable car accident attorney
- Take records of the other vehicle information
- Call the police
- Report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) if it’s your vehicle
- Move to a safe location and seek medical attention if you’re injured
After all that, you can file a lawsuit against the drunk driver who caused the accident. A victim of a car accident involving a drunk driver can file a lawsuit for damages caused even if the driver is guilty of a DUI offense. The driver prosecution for DUI offense can happen separately from the civil suit. As a victim of a car accident caused by drunk driving, you should be happy if the offender is charged with a criminal case for DUI because it will strengthen your civil lawsuit case for the damages and injuries sustained.
Determining Liability in a Car Accident Caused by Drunk Drivers
In Los Angeles, liability for drunk driving car accidents can take a different twist, depending on the accident’s circumstances. Several parties might be held legally liable for accidents caused by drunk drivers. Most people would say that the individual drivers who cause an accident are legally responsible for their behaviors and actions while driving. However, establishing the legal responsibility of any drunk driving car accident case is more complicated than you think when matters get to court.
Although the drunk driver carries most of the responsibility for a car accident, other parties may also contribute to the circumstances that lead to the accident. Examples of other parties liable for a drunk driving accident include:
Alcohol vendors like a bar or a restaurant are liable for injuries and damages involving a drunk driving accident case according to California dram shop laws, especially if the drunk driver was a minor. Suppose the alcohol vendor continued serving alcohol to an underage driver even after noticing he/she is intoxicated. In that case, the vendor should be held legally liable for any damages and injuries resulting from the accident.
Alcohol is not only served in bars and restaurants. Party hosts or social hosts who served alcohol to the driver who caused an accident can also be held liable for injuries and damage. A social host can be any person who serves alcohol to a driver in a private setting hence making the driver cause an accident due to alcohol intoxication.
An Insurance Company
Even if the car accident fault was typically due to the driver’s carelessness and negligence, if he/she has auto insurance, the insurer will also share some of the responsibility for the accident in covering the damages and injuries of the accident victims.
Determining the negligent party in a car accident involving a drunk driver and proving liability can be very overwhelming; hence it is recommended to hire a car accident attorney if you’re a victim of the accident. You need an experienced and skilled attorney who will protect your legal interest after a drunk driving car accident to be able to recover your deserved damages from the party at fault.
The Threshold of a Civil Lawsuit in a Drunk Driving Car Accident Case
Victims of drunk driving car accident cases have a right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to receive damages caused by the accident. The basis for any civil lawsuit involving a car accident requires proof of negligence. The negligence linked to the drunk driver intoxication is always nearly to blame for any collision leading to injuries. A person is said to be negligent if he/she fails to act reasonably the way a careful person would in the same situation.
When you go to court with such a case, with your car accident attorney’s help, you must prove to the jury that the intoxicated driver's actions lead to your injuries and damages to win your case. Below are essential elements in proving negligence under California law:
Duty of Care
Duty of care is an obligation set forth by the state that every driver must observe reasonable care while on the road to prevent unreasonable risks that can lead to pedestrian knockdown or car accidents. For instance, all auto drivers ought to follow and obey traffic regulations to avoid foreseeable accidents. Failure to do that will have the offender held liable for all damages and injuries sustained by the accident victims. Therefore, in a civil lawsuit, your attorney must prove to the jury that the impaired driver owed you a duty of care in that situation to prevent the accident that leads to your injuries.
Duty of Care Breach
After proving that the drunk driver owed you a duty of care in the event of the accident, you must go ahead to prove to the jury that the impaired driver breached his/her duty of care, such as the speed limit hence leading to the accident that left you injured. Under California law, a driver is “Negligent Per Se” if he/she violates a statute or a law meant to protect pedestrians, cyclists or other drivers. Violation of a statute such as a speeding limit in certain areas is proof of negligence. With a reliable attorney, you should be able to prove that the defendant was negligent hence causing the accident that leads to your damages.
This element of negligence involves proving that the actions of the defendant, in this case, the drunk driver, lead to the actual damages and injuries that you suffered. It’s upon your attorney to prove to the jury that the injuries you incurred were a result of the accident, which would not have happened if the driver was sober. On the other hand, if you sustained injuries outside the intoxicated driver’s scope or the vicinity, the injuries you sustain cannot be directly linked to the driver’s impairment. For instance, if the driver hit a pole on the way which fell on you is indirect causation to your injuries. In court, this is also called proximate cause to your injuries and damages.
To get your deserved remedy, you must prove to the jury that you suffered some costs due to bodily injuries sustained or vehicle repair expenses as a result of the accident caused by the impaired driver. Below are examples of evidence you can you use to prove damages:
- Provision of testimonies from medical experts
- All medical bills receipts for a medical service provided
- Medical records such as X-rays
- Vehicle maintenance receipts
Generally, if the defendant is guilty of negligence hence leading to an accident that caused you damages, you will be able to recover your deserved compensation. However, the compensatory damages you receive are subject to the severity of the accident and injuries sustained. Examples of compensatory damages a plaintiff can receive after a car accident include:
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life
- Occupation or physical rehabilitation
- Psychological counseling
- Medical bills
- Damages for loss of an intimate partner/companionship
- Car repair costs
- Punitive damages
It is also essential to pay attention to the statute of limitations after an accident to file your compensation claim promptly. According to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1, the law of limitation for filing a lawsuit against a negligent party in a car accident is two years. Failure to file a lawsuit within that period, you will not be able to sue the offender again.
Factors That Can Prevent a Victim of an Accident from Getting Compensation in A Drunk Driving Car Accident Lawsuit
As much as the drunk driver could be the reason for the occurrence of the accident that left you with damages and injuries, you should also exercise reasonable care while on the road to notice foreseeable accidents. For instance, if you see a car approaching you with a significant speed that can lead to an accident, you should act more cautiously to avoid that foreseeable harm.
Acting negligently in preventing foreseeable harm, might prevent you from getting adequate compensation for your injuries, or also you might get nothing at all. Below are some of the factors that can prevent a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit from getting his/her compensation for car accident damages involving a drunk driver:
Assumption of an Accident Risk
Suppose you noticed the possibility of an accident due to how the driver was driving his/her car and you went ahead to engage in risky activities. In that case, you might not get compensation for the accident damages because you were negligent in preventing that foreseeable harm. Assumption of an injury risk shifts the accident blame to a person who engages in risky activities during the accident.
During the event in which the claimant has signed a liability waiver and risk assumption agreement, the defendant ought to exercise a reasonable duty of care to prevent unnecessary injuries. Even though you acted negligently during the occurrence of the accident, if the drunk driver was very reckless or if he/she acted intentionally leading to the car accident, you should get your compensation for the accident damages and injuries. You should also get your compensation if the defendant's conduct during the accident were outside the range of things an ordinary person would do at that particular time.
The Cause of The Accident Was Outside the Scope of What the Drunk Driver Could Expect
If the car accident that leads to your damages and injuries was due to other factors outside the scope of what the drunk driver would expect you might not get compensation for injuries and damages. Some of the elements outside the scope of the driver's expectations while on the road include defective vehicle parts or natural occurrences, for example, mist/fog.
In such a case, even if the drunk driver was observing his/her obligation for duty of care, such factors can lead to unexpected accidents. If the defective vehicle part leads to the accident, other parties like the vehicle manufacturer could be liable for the accident. The vehicle manufacturer has to prevent harm to users of their cars by warning them before if the vehicle has a defective part.
Shared Accident Fault
Shared accident fault is another factor that can affect the amount of compensation a plaintiff gets in a personal injury lawsuit. When you file a compensation claim and you were partially at fault for the accident, you should expect different trial results. The defendant might claim that you contributed to the accident. If that is the case, the trial results might be different as per the California Comparative or contributory negligence law. According to comparative negligence law, the claimant who is partially liable for a negligence accident case should receive compensation for damages and injuries depending on his/her degree of carelessness towards the occurrence of the accident.
Frequently Asked Questions in Car Accidents Involving Drunk Drivers
There are some common questions that most people involved in car accidents ask to be on the safe side in terms of liability and compensation. They include:
How Intoxicated Must a Driver Involved in a Car Accident be Charged Guilty with a DUI Offense?
In California, the legal limit for DUI is subject to the following statutes:
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.04% or higher
- Underage 21 driving with a BAC of 0.01% or higher
- Overage 21 driving with a BAC of 0.04% or higher
The above statutes act as a basis for determining who to be held guilty of a DUI offense, depending on their BAC level. A driver operating a vehicle with a BAC above this legal limit after blood or breath test for alcohol is presumed to be impaired from driving a car as a cautious sober person would. Other factors, such as field sobriety test performance, can also be used to determine an intoxicated driver level of impairment.
If I Sustained Injuries as a Passenger in a Car Driven by a Drunk Person, Can I Sue Him/Her?
Drivers of all automobiles owe a reasonable duty of care not only to pedestrians and other drivers but also to the passengers onboard regardless of whether the driver is intoxicated or not. However, suppose the passenger onboard played a part in the driver’s intoxication or he/she was aware that the driver was drunk and still chose to ride with him/her anyway. In that case, the passenger might be unable to file a successful claim for compensation against the driver.
Do I Need an Attorney After Involvement in a Drunk Driving Car Accident?
It’s in the best interest of any car accident victim to have legal representation after a car accident involving a drunk driver. Laws relating to car accidents and DUI are not easy to understand to a layman; hence having a reliable attorney by your side is always a brilliant idea when you want to seek justice after an accident.
If the Driver is Guilty of DUI, Do I Have to Wait for Him or Her to Face Criminal Actions Before I File a Civil Lawsuit for The Car Accident Damages and Injuries?
No, you can file your civil suit for the damages and injuries that came by as a result of the drunk driving car accident without having to worry about the drunk driver's criminal actions for DUI. However, you should pay attention to the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. In California, victims of personal injury claims have a maximum of two years to file civil suits against the at-fault party and a maximum of three years for property damage that came by as a result of the car accident. After this period, you might not be able to file a civil suit against the offender.
What Should I do If the Drunk Driver Responsible for the Car Accident That Leads to My Injuries and Damages is Uninsured or Underinsured?
You can get relief from your auto insurance policy under premium features such as uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in situations where the other motorist is uninsured. In such a case, you should notify your insurance provider as soon as possible and keep pieces of evidence from the accident scene that will prove the other party is responsible for the accident. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage policy will not offer reimbursement for damages and injuries resulting from an accident if you’re liable for the accident.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney Near Me
Car accidents involving drunk drivers are not always as easy as many people presume, especially if you’ve no legal representation in the case. Suppose you fall victim to a car accident involving a drunk driver. You can contact the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney for legal representation as you focus on your recovery if you’ve sustained injuries. Get in touch with us at 424-237-3600 to schedule an appointment with our skilled and experienced attorneys.