Sustaining an injury and incurring additional damages after a car accident can be detrimental to your well-being and that of your loved ones. The experience is even worse when a road accident involves a driver charged with a DUI. You will need to seek redress and compensation for your damages after such an accident. You could increase your chances of securing a successful case outcome by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to help you navigate the justice. Furthermore, your attorney will help you with building your case, including sourcing evidence and drafting submissions. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, our wealth of experience has equipped us with the best skills to help you file a lawsuit and increase your chances of success.
Understanding How Civil Lawsuits Work
When you decide to file a lawsuit against a DUI offender for personal injuries, you must understand the civil case procedures informing your course of action. This way, you will have a reference point to help you prepare thoroughly and provide the necessary details.
Firstly, you should note that a civil lawsuit action is applicable where you intend to seek compensation from the defendant. This is in contrast to a criminal case, whereby the offender may end up in jail if found guilty, on top of fine payment penalties. Moreover, you should note that you are the complainant filing a suit against the defendant in civil cases, compared to criminal cases where the state sues on your behalf under the state prosecutor.
Although criminal and civil cases operate separately, a driver suspected of a DUI violation may simultaneously face both criminal and civil suits. Therefore, this means that you do not have to wait until the defendant’s criminal case is concluded before filing a civil lawsuit. This allowance is to help you seek compensation as soon as possible if you are successful, as your life may currently be on hold.
Parties Accepted as Plaintiffs in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The law also has restrictions on the parties who can file a lawsuit to prevent multiple repetitive cases from piling up on the same issue. Hence, you should find information on whether you are eligible to file the suit by consulting your injury attorney.
Usually, the minimum requirement is that a plaintiff should have been affected by the DUI-related accident directly. If the effects were indirect, the potential plaintiff should show a nexus between the collision and its effects. Hence, the following are common parties accepted as plaintiffs in personal injury cases:
Passengers Inside the Accident-Causing Vehicle
Passengers present in the vehicle driven by the party found to have violated DUI restrictions can file a lawsuit against them. You should ensure that their plight is well represented, meaning that you should have a credible narrative on how the accident affected you.
For example, if you were a passenger in a bus driven by a drunk driver, you can show that your safety was compromised by the collision caused by the driver’s mental state. Further, passengers who faced the accident while using commercial driving services like taxis and limousines can also present the same claim.
Although not common, you can also file a claim against the driver even if they are well known. This may be because their DUI violation was deliberate, meaning that they acted negligently and endangered your life or that of your loved one. The lawsuit is also justifiable if you suffered severe injuries and the defendant refuses to take responsibility for them.
Pedestrians Involved in the Accident
Additionally, since most drunk drivers have impaired vision and judgment, they are more likely to hurt pedestrians after losing control of their vehicles. As a result, a pedestrian will have a rightful claim where they sustain serious injuries requiring continuous medical attention.
Claims involving multiple hurt pedestrians are also acceptable, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. Hence, you can discuss whether you want to combine claims with other affected parties or if you would prefer to present a separate lawsuit to help you seek the required compensatory amount.
Passengers in Other Vehicles
Similarly, passengers in other vehicles have the right to file a lawsuit against the driver in violation of DUI laws to help them access compensation for personal injury, among other losses. The claims are acceptable provided they can prove that the driver in question undertook actions that resulted in the accident.
Therefore, the premise of their lawsuit is based on the theory that if the defendant had not been drunk when driving, the passengers would not have suffered harm. Your personal injury attorney can offer further guidance on how to present your suit for better chances of receiving a positive case outcome.
Elements for You to Prove Before the Defendant is Found Liable
After establishing that you are a suitable plaintiff in the personal injury lawsuit you want to file, you can then research the specific elements to prove the case. Doing so will give you a clear roadmap on the best strategies to apply when pursuing legal action and the recommended evidential sources to support your case.
Usually, a civil suit involving a DUI accident will require you to show that the drunk driver’s actions were negligent before the court can award damages. Negligence is a concept that should prove the specific wrongful actions that the respondent was involved in and the harm you suffered as a result.
Therefore, you want to be thorough with your research and findings to ensure you present a credible case that will increase your chances of a successful case outcome. Your injury attorney will help you narrow down the specific elements of negligence for you to prove and the required arguments to apply to establish a solid case.
The following are the four elements of negligence to establish:
The Driver Owed You a Duty of Care
The premise of suing the driver involved in a DUI violation is to hold them accountable for the duty of care they owed to you. Therefore, you want to establish this element by showing how the driver should have conducted themselves on the road as a duty to exercise care.
Typically, statutory provisions and customary road practices impose a duty of care for all drivers to exercise caution and driving etiquette while on the highway. This includes only driving when sober to avoid loss of proper judgment and impairment of visual and motor skills. A failure to adhere to these regulations will result in arrests and possible prosecution, and civil action by any aggrieved person.
Your case should establish that the driver was aware of the duty of care expected of them, which is easy to demonstrate if they have a driver's license. This is because all motorists will have undergone driving training sessions that elaborate on upholding good practices while operating a vehicle.
You can also rely on various legal provisions to specify the duty of care imposed against drunk driving. Under section 23154 of the California Vehicle Code, driving under the influence is prohibited, resulting in penalties for any person found in violation of the law. Hence, your injury attorney can quote the section to ensure your position is well elaborated on.
A Breach of Duty Occurred
Secondly, you will need to show that the driver was involved in a breach of duty, meaning they violated the statutory expectations imposed on them. This second element aims to prove that a civil wrong occurred based on the respondent’s failure to observe the required standard.
In this case, you want to show that the respondent was found drunk or under the influence of drugs when the accident occurred. You can source relevant information to help you prove your position by liaising with the arresting officers who conducted a DUI test on the respondent. With your personal injury attorney’s help, you will obtain the required evidence to help you convince the presiding judge of the wrongdoing.
However, you should note that some evidence may be withheld by the prosecutor handling the respondent’s criminal case to uphold a fair hearing. If so, you may need to seek alternative ways to help support your position without infringing on the rules of evidence.
For example, if the involved traffic police department kept records of the respondent’s blood alcohol concentration(BAC) readings, you can request copies certified for release as public information. Alternatively, you can request a witness who was present when the driver faced arrest with testifying on the types of charges that the respondent was arrested for.
On top of this, you may rely on the respondent’s conduct moments before and after the accident to further show that they were under the influence, meaning that they breached their duty of care. For example, if they became rowdy or portrayed impaired motor and speech skills, you can testify in court as these observations show how drunk the respondent was.
Video graphics or audio evidence is also admissible as proof of the respondent’s level of being under the influence, provided it is relevant to the case in question. For example, if you intend to rely on the footage to show that the driver was aware of their wrongdoing and the effects of their breach of duty, you can select specific sections that demonstrate this position.
Causation of the Accident was Related to the Driver Being Under the Influence
Moreover, you want to establish that the cause of the road accident and the subsequent harm suffered was the respondent being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Proving causation is crucial because it links the driver’s violations to the subsequent outcomes. Therefore, your attorney will guide you on the best approach to ensure that your argument is well presented.
The best argument strategy to apply is that if the driver was sober or exercised more caution, they were less likely to cause the collision you suffered. You could use this argument by showing that the incident's circumstances were avoidable if a regular and level-headed person had operated the car.
For example, if you were a pedestrian walking on the designated sidewalk when the respondent ran over you, they were not focused on the road, causing them to swerve. By applying the reasonable person’s test, you can demonstrate that the chances of the incident occurring in everyday situations were less.
You also want to include the findings that proved that the driver was under the influence when proving causation to avoid working on assumptions. Therefore, you should acquire the BAC readings and any available police reports that prove the driver was answerable for a DUI violation. Once the judge is convinced of your position, they will be more likely to issue a decision in your favor.
You Suffered Damages from the Accident
Finally, you will also need to show that you suffered damages or losses from the DUI-related accident. The requirement is to ensure that the court does not handle frivolous matters, as some parties may file a civil suit to seek compensation without any rational demands.
Preparing to present on this element requires you to prepare adequately, as the court will need you to present convincing information to justify your claims. Hence, working closely with your personal injury attorney is beneficial to help you meet all the necessary expectations.
Furthermore, you should ensure that the damages raised are related to the DUI accident, as any other pre-existing circumstances may be ruled out as irrelevant to the case in question. For example, if you plan to make claims on back pain caused after the accident yet you have a pre-existing back condition, the matter may become complicated.
Nevertheless, you can still prove your position by presenting detailed medical reports and records that prove you suffered additional harm from the accident. The court can also consider further damages beyond physical injuries to give you a chance to recover for the inconveniences you suffer. Thus, your main priority should be to ensure you have sufficient proof for all presented claims.
Upon establishing that all elements of negligence are present, the presiding judge is more likely to side with your point of view and allow you to seek compensation from the defendant. Nevertheless, you should note that the judge holds discretion in making the final determination on a balance of probabilities.
Negligence Per Se Cases
In some cases, the court will only require you to prove that the respondent violated a legal statute and that you suffered harm from their violation. This phenomenon is known as establishing negligence per se.
It is often imposed where the respondent's actions were an outright demonstration of a legal violation, so proving the conventional elements of negligence becomes unnecessary.
For example, the civil case is more straightforward if the criminal courts have already concluded on the defendant’s case whereby they are found guilty of a DUI violation. Thus, you will only need to show the specific legal provision that the respondent violated and your damages before the judge issues a verdict.
With your personal injury attorney’s help, you can find the specific legal violations in question and help the court reach a final determination within a short duration.
You should also note that once you present the laws that the respondent violated, they will take on the burden of proof to show that their actions did not violate DUI regulations. This means that you do not need to build on multiple argument points as long as you are adequately prepared to counter the defendant’s position.
Claims to Present When Seeking Compensation
Each lawsuit presents different facts, so you want to identify the acceptable claims to present when seeking compensation for a DUI-related personal injury case. In choosing the claims to present, you want to ensure that your experiences reflect the struggles you have faced after the incident.
For example, if you sustained severe injuries, you want to present medical records that prove you sought assistance for the issues. Common claims to present during your case include:
- Compensation for medical expenses
- Loss of earning capacity and wages
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Psychological distress
Find a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
When you or a loved one suffers harm after a car accident caused by a driver facing DUI charges, you handle multiple challenges. Therefore, the party liable for your injuries and other losses should compensate you, especially if they were under the influence when the collision occurred. In your pursuit of justice, you may need additional legal support to help you build a strong case against the defendant. Working with an attorney gives you an advantage, as their expertise is valuable to help support your case. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, you will receive help thanks to our quality legal services. We dedicate our time and resources to helping you file a lawsuit after being involved in a car accident, especially with a DUI suspect. Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of clients in Los Angeles, California, giving them a better chance of recovering damages. Call us today at 800-492-6718 to learn more about preparing a lawsuit.