Although I represent DUI defendants, and have been successful in dismissing a DUI criminal charge, there are times when a DUI can result in an accident where there is a victim. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, hundreds of individuals die each year from an accident involving a drunk driver. When an individual is injured in a motor vehicle accident because of the negligence of a drunk driver, he or she can pursue a civil claim.
Typically there will be a criminal proceeding against the alleged drunk driver. A restitution hearing may even take place. But, injured parties can also initiate their own civil claims. There is no requirement to wait for the criminal case to be completed, or even filed. However, a criminal conviction could positively impact the civil case, as the burden in a civil proceeding is much lower — proof by a preponderance of the evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is important to consult with a personal injury attorney after one has been injured as the result of a DUI driver. An attorney can investigate immediately, and determine whether there are other defendants besides the driver. Negligence may be apportioned to different individuals, or entities. Sometimes the accident could have been prevented had someone exercised good judgment and prevented the intoxicated person from driving.
A negligence cause of action could also be pursued against a bar, nightclub, or restaurant. Legislators have passed laws obligating operators of drinking establishments to use reasonable judgment when serving alcohol to its patrons. When a bartender keeps serving drinks to an intoxicated person when the bartender knew or should have known that the person was intoxicated, the bar could be held liable for the actions of that intoxicated person if he or she causes an accident later.
Similarly, hosts of parties can also be held liable for the negligence of a drunk guest. A party host cannot keep serving drinks to a guest who appears inebriated. Steps need to be taken by hosts to ensure that their guests do not harm others, especially when there are so many different opportunities to prevent a drunk driving incident.
Of course the driver may be sued, and his or her own insurance will need to be notified. The important thing is that in a DUI incident resulting in injuries, there are ways to be made whole again. Vehicle repair costs, medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages are all damages that can be claimed. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a drunk driving incident, call an experienced attorney.