Updated: Dec 27, 2022
Filing Civil Claims Against Negligent Drunk Drivers
Are you a survivor of a drunk driver's irresponsibility? Have you been injured as a result of a drunk driver's negligence? You have legal rights, and you can file a lawsuit and recover substantial damages from an accident with the assistance of an experienced and committed solicitor.
Drunk driving injuries occur daily, and the consequences can be catastrophic. Your rights must be secured if you're in a drunk driving accident.
In Los Angeles, drinking and driving are illegal.
According to California Vehicle Code 23152, a driver is considered intoxicated on the road if her blood alcohol content reaches the legal limit of 0.08 percent. If the person in question is driving a commercial vehicle while inebriated, the BAC (blood alcohol level) limit is even lower, at 0.04 percent. Underage drivers must have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than 0.05 percent to prevent being charged with drunk driving.
Following an accident, police officers or legal authorities on the scene must measure the blood alcohol content (BAC) of all involved parties to ascertain whether they are intoxicated and to what extent they are intoxicated. If the appropriate parties fail to submit to tests, they can be charged with negligence on the road and drunk driving under California Vehicle Code 23612.
Even if the person who caused your crash cannot be found guilty of driving under the influence (DUI), you can always speak with one of our prescreened Personal Injury Lawyers about your legal options. Depending on the damages our team decides you will get, an applicable party may also be subject to civil liability suits.
Statistics on Drunk Driving in California
According to data from the California Highway Patrol, the following happened in 2017:
More than 10,300 people were killed in California drunk driving crashes between 2003 and 2012.
The most likely to drive drunk are drivers between the ages of 21 and 34.
1.8 percent of California drivers confess to driving under the influence of alcohol on occasion. The national average is 1.9 percent, so this figure is slightly lower.
Between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., almost half of all drunk driving deaths in California occur.
While the total number of drunk driving deaths in the United States decreased between 2009 and 2018, the rate of drunk driving deaths in California rose by more than 8%.
A driver with a blood-alcohol level of.15 or higher were involved in nearly 70% of all drunk driving deaths.
In California, over 127,000 people were arrested for drunk driving in 2018.
More than 22% of drunk drivers who cause fatal car accidents have been convicted of drunk driving in the past.
In California, alcohol-related traffic fatalities account for 30% of all traffic deaths.
In California, the following are the most common forms of drunk driving accidents:
colliding with something
crashing into another car from behind
Accidents on the broadside
Rollovers are when something unexpected happens.
Collisions that occur head-on
Civil vs. Criminal Claims
Driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics is illegal in California, as it is in most other states. Those who commit DUI crimes face various penalties, including fines, prison time, and driver's license suspensions. Drivers who are convicted and found guilty of drinking and driving can face criminal charges and penalties. In California, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is.08 percent means that any driver caught with a higher BAC will be charged with a DUI. Any driver under the age of 21 who has any detectable amount of alcohol in their bloodstream will be arrested if their BAC is.01 or higher.
However, it's important to remember that victims of drunk driving incidents are unlikely to obtain monetary compensation if the driver is convicted. Individuals and families should instead file a civil lawsuit known as a personal injury claim to recover costs such as medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage in a civil claim known as a personal injury claim. When a person is killed in a drunk driving accident, their surviving family members will file a wrongful death lawsuit to cover funeral expenses, lost income, and loss of companionship. Individuals must prove that the at-fault driver was negligent (driving while intoxicated) and that this negligence caused their injury and damages.
The Risks of Drinking and Driving
Anyone who has had a drink at a party or even a glass of wine with dinner has seen the effects of alcohol on their body and mind. Alcohol impairs your motor functions, reasoning, and ability to make judgments – all of which are critical attributes for driving a car—as a consequence, driving while inebriated significantly increases the chances of being involved in an accident and hurting yourself or others. Even though California's BAC limit is.08, driving with any amount of alcohol in your bloodstream is risky.
What Effect Does Alcohol Have on Driving Ability?
The harmful effects on a person's central nervous system increase as the amount of alcohol in their system rises. Alcohol is ingested directly into the stomach and small intestine walls. It then travels to the bloodstream, gathering until the liver processes it.
Drunk driving is generally determined by the weight of alcohol in one deciliter of blood, which is known as blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A Breathalyzer system or a blood test may be used to determine BAC.
Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent is illegal in all states, including California. The legal limit for commercial vehicle drivers, such as big trucks, vans, and rideshare vehicles like Uber and Lyft, is 0.04 percent. In other words, commercial drivers who have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher can be charged with DUI and lose their driver's license.
This is because your blood alcohol content does not have to be 0.08 percent to have an effect on your driving ability. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair a person's ability to drive. In 2016, 2,017 people died in traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 percent to 0.07 percent.
Drunk driving can cause fatal collisions in the following ways:
Reduced concentration: Drivers must always keep their eyes and ears on the road, but alcohol decreases a person's attention span significantly. Drunk drivers are more likely to have trouble controlling their pace, remaining in their path, and becoming mindful of other vehicles on the road due to this.
Alcohol slows a person's reaction rate, which means an intoxicated driver would have less time to brake or swerve to avoid a road danger, increasing the risk of an accident. Alcohol may also impair a driver's balance, making it difficult to locate their car's brakes, switch, or change lanes.
Reduced vision: When a person drinks excessively, their vision may begin to blur, or they may see double. As a result, a drunk driver operating a vehicle on the road can be extremely dangerous. Drivers may have difficulty measuring distance and may miss certain hazards or items that are ahead of them.
Inhibited judgment: Intoxicated people's judgment is impaired; consequently, they're more likely to make risky decisions. Drunk drivers are more likely to make abrupt turns or lane changes without thought, and they are more likely to drive faster than the speed limit.
Is it true that drunk drivers are still liable for damages?
In most drunk driving collisions, the driver would be held legally liable for the damages. However, determining liability in an accident can be difficult, and others likely are to blame in your case. If the drunk driver who caused the injury was on the job at the time of the crash, for example, their employer might be held responsible.
Dram shop laws can keep bars, restaurants, and other establishments liable for drunk driving accidents, but they are uncommon in California. A survivor will file a negligence lawsuit against a waiter or bartender if it is discovered that they served the driver while still inebriated.
Since each case is unique, it is important to have an experienced Drunk Driver Accident Attorney by your side.
Delegating Fault and Establishing Your Responsibilities
Though drinking and driving is still a serious crime in California, the state still assigns percentages to all parties involved in accidents. According to California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) Section 405, you can be responsible for costs after an accident even if you are not at fault. Our prescreened Drunk Driver Accident Attorneys will assist you in determining where you stand in the eyes of the law, what expenses you can incur, and whether or not you are entitled to compensation for your losses.
It's also worth noting that DUIs and negligence civil cases often overlap. If a driver is convicted of a DUI in California, this acts as sufficient evidence of negligence, potentially expanding the compensation options. Similarly, regardless of what car you were driving at the time of the crash, whether it was a motorcycle or a truck, you might discuss a case against a person suspected of being intoxicated. If you were a pedestrian and were injured due to a drunk driver's negligence, you have similar privileges.
Have You Been Injured in a DUI Accident in Los Angeles?
You should take some steps to protect your legal rights and choices if you have been involved in a Los Angeles DUI accident.
Call the cops. Stop at the scene or somewhere nearby that is secure, and stay there until authorities arrive. Officers will assist by assisting at the accident scene and determining how the accident happened. Inform the responding officer if you believe the other driver was under the influence or was behaving erratically at the time of the accident. If the victims or relatives of deceased DUI victims file a complaint, this knowledge may be crucial.
Get medical help as soon as possible. If you've been hurt, it's important to seek medical attention, medication, and care as soon as possible. Do not refuse care if medical services arrive on the scene. If you have any signs of injury, such as pain or bleeding, go to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible. And if you don't have any symptoms right away, see the doctor and ensure you haven't had any internal trauma or other injuries that don't show signs right away.
Take as much information as you can from the scene. Especially in court, a picture is worth a thousand words. Take pictures and video of the accident scene on your phone, including the cars, damage, skid marks on the ground, and, if possible, the alleged drunk driver. Take as much detail as possible about the drunk driver and the other vehicle's occupants.
Motorists in California are required by law to share certain details, including:
Digit on the driver's license
The driver's name and address, as well as the vehicle's owner's address
Number of the vehicle's registration
Data on insurance
The following are some additional vital details you can receive from the driver:
Year of birth
a mobile phone number
Description of the automobile
Name and policy number of the car insurance firm
The insurance agent's name, address, and phone number
If you've been hurt and need to go to the hospital or an emergency department right away, ask a friend or family member if they can collect this vital information for you.
Also, see if the driver you suspect of being inebriated was on the job at the time of the collision. According to California law, an employer may be held liable for any accidents or deaths caused by a negligently driven employee.
Bloodshot eyes, aggressive conduct, slurred expression, trouble standing, and the odor of alcohol are all symptoms of intoxication in a driver. Pay close attention to what the driver says about whether or not he or she has consumed alcohol. Bring these findings to the attention of the officers in charge of the investigation.
What if the drunk driver is not apprehended or charged?
A civil suit for disability compensation differs from a criminal lawsuit for DUI. They happen in two different trials, with two different judges. A prosecutor can refuse to file DUI charges or dismiss them after they have been filed for various reasons. Here are two scenarios to consider:
The police could have violated the defendant's civil rights by searching his car without a warrant.
The defendant's blood tests come out at less than.08 percent, which may be too poor for criminal prosecution in some cases but may also be used to prove negligence in civil court.
You can file a personal injury lawsuit regardless of what happens in criminal court. A prosecutor must show disability beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court. In the civil court, an injured plaintiff only has to show negligence by "a preponderance of the facts," which literally means "more probable than not," making it easier to prove impairment than in the criminal court.
Even if you can't prove the drunk driver has a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher, he or she may still be found negligent because driving with any amount of alcohol in the system is considered negligent. Negligent drivers are legally obligated to compensate accident victims for the injuries and financial losses they cause. Like many other states, California requires any driver to have a valid driver's license.
Regardless of what happens in criminal court, it's important to report suspected drunk driving to the authorities. Call 9-1-1 after the accident and cooperate with filing a police report. If the drunk driver tries to flee the scene, try to get a license plate or description of the vehicle or driver.
Damages You Might Be Entitled To
Our prescreened Personal Injury Lawyers may file a lawsuit to seek financial compensation for the injury, medical costs, missed income, pain and suffering, and property damage in the civil court system, which helps victims to receive financial compensation for the injuries and other damages incurred by the drunk driver.
Suppose the driver who caused the collision was legally intoxicated. In that case, we will be able to seek punitive damages on behalf of the accident victim, which may greatly increase the amount of money a victim receives. Punitive or exemplary damages are intended to financially punish and render an example of the driver who caused the collision.
If you have been a claimant, do not talk with an insurance adjuster without first consulting one of our Personal Injury Lawyers and not allowing any conversation to be documented. The insurance company intends to pay you the least amount possible, so their representatives can try to persuade you to accept a fast, low-cost settlement deal.
The effects of being injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver can be devastating: not only can a person sustain severe and life-threatening injuries, but so can their families. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 10,327 people died in drunk driving accidents in California between 2003 and 2012.
In the last 30 days, about 1.8 percent of adults in California claim they have driven after drinking too much.
Other significant damages that a plaintiff in a drunk driving case may want to claim to include financial reimbursement for ambulance expenses, other medical costs, and missed earnings. Without thinking about paying bills or collecting money, there are other significant damages that a plaintiff in a drunk driving case might want to seek.
Most importantly, many people who are injured in a car accident want to hear about pain and suffering damages. If so, you can contact an experienced California Personal Injury Lawyer right away.
What's So Different About Personal Injury Caused by Drunk Driving?
Although being struck by a drunk driver can make certain aspects of the case simpler, it does not mean it is worth more. The worth of a case is determined by the amount of harm that has been done to someone. Damages in a car accident situation that results in injury involve a variety of items. Past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical bills, past and future missed wages, and the failure to engage in everyday activities (both in the future and in the past), to name a few.
For example, a person who is hit by a drunk driver but is not killed has a worthless case. It would make no difference if a drunk driver struck the client if they were uninjured. The accidents and costs are what drive penalties, not the at-fault driver's behavior. Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer for any questions regarding the matter.
Clients, and people in general, also struggle to understand this idea. People, like jurors, also want to know why an accident happened while valuing a case and determining whether to award an injured victim. They want this information to help them figure out how much an injured person should be compensated for. Consider the following scenario:
Is it possible that the car crash happened because the driver was texting?
Is it possible that the driver was searching for a lighter to light his or her cigarette when the car accident occurred?
Is the traffic crash caused by a distracted driver who was on the phone?
Is it possible that the car crash occurred because the driver was applying makeup in their vanity mirror?
Is it possible that the car crash happened because the driver was on prescription medication and fell asleep behind the wheel?
Is it possible that the car crash happened because the driver was speeding?
Was the car accident caused by a traffic violation by the driver?
Is it possible that the car crash occurred because the driver was inebriated?
In fact, this information is irrelevant whether the at-fault driver or his insurance agent admits fault. If the at-fault driver has admitted responsibility for causing the accident, the court will usually not authorize a jury to hear this testimony, much less determine what caused the crash. At that point, the cause of the accident is insignificant, and the case is solely about the damages suffered by the injured party.
It will, of course, make claiming guilt or fault simpler in some cases. If the other party refuses to admit blame, proof of the other driver's drunk driving or drug use may become very important. It may be used to show that the intoxicated driver's response speed was slowed, that the at-fault driver's memory of the accident events was skewed, that the at-fault driver's motor functioning was damaged, and a variety of other related issues to prove fault. As a result, being struck by a drunk driver can make the case easier to prove. However, this does not always imply that the personal injury case is worth more.
Is it Possible to Sue a Drunk Driver Who Hit Me and Caused a Car Accident for Punitive Damages?
The general rule that an accident caused by a drunk driver does not generally raise the value of an injury claim has one exception. If punitive damages are eligible, this exception applies. Punitive damages are damages intended to punish or render an example of another.
Punitive damages can be awarded in California if there is a finding of intent, injustice, or fraud. In an automobile accident, though, this is almost never the case. The majority of car accident incidents are caused by human error or negligence. Even if a drunk driver causes a car crash, it is obviously the last thing he or she intended to do, and now he or she faces criminal responsibility on top of all the other problems that come with a car accident.
If the at-fault driver intentionally attempted to crash into others to injure them, punitive damages can be awarded. In other terms, whether the driver used his or her car as a weapon on purpose. It may also apply if the at-fault driver was found to have acted in a manner that he knew was likely to cause harm to others. This will refer to intoxicated or drunk drivers. However, extending it to drinking or drunken drivers in the second case necessitates a unique collection of circumstances.
Punitive Damages in Car Accident Cases Caused by Drunk or Intoxicated Drivers in California
In 1979, the California Supreme Court discussed the issue of whether punitive damages could be recovered in a negligence case involving a car accident. Taylor v. Superior Court was the case that settled this issue, and it is still considered good law. If the injured party proves "that the defendant was aware of the possible dangerous consequences of his actions, and that he knowingly and intentionally failed to prevent those consequences," the case holds that "conscious disregard for the protection of others can constitute malice... to warrant an award of punitive damages."
The drunk driver who caused the collision and injury to others in the Taylor case has a long history of drunk driving. The following were the charges leveled against the at-fault driver:
That he had previously driven while inebriated, resulting in a serious car accident
He has also been arrested and prosecuted for drunk driving on multiple occasions
He had just completed probation for drunk driving at the time of the incident
One of the terms of his probation was that he not drive for six hours after drinking some alcohol
He was facing an additional drunk driving charge at the time of the accident
At the time of the car crash, he was carrying alcohol
That he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the car accident
That he was driving while inebriated at the time of the car crash
Since he was aware that his behavior would possibly cause severe and grave injury to others, but he knowingly and intentionally disregarded that fact, the court found that his actions could justify a punitive damages claim based on these extreme and extraordinary facts.
Since the Taylor case, there have been almost no reported California cases discussing what is necessary to enable punitive damages to claim against a drunk driver to proceed. The California Supreme Court released a Peterson v. Superior Court ruling three years after Taylor was decided. Taylor was extended due to this ruling, allowing it to be implemented retroactively.
The Peterson decision essentially held that the Taylor rule—that punitive damages can be recovered from an intoxicated driver who causes injury in a car accident—could be extended to cases and litigation brought before the Taylor decision. However, no reported cases have since established what behavior qualifies for a punitive damages claim against a drunk driver. As a result, the California Supreme Court's only guidelines on what punitive damages are necessary against a drunk driver coming from the drastic facts outlined in Taylor above.
A legal review is required to determine if an individual has a punitive damages claim against a drunk driver who crashed into him or her and caused injuries. A professional Drunk Driver Accident Attorney should evaluate the case, evidence, and history of the driver involved. On a case-by-case basis, each situation must be determined and evaluated.
Understanding California's Pain and Suffering Damages
In general, California law allows victims of auto accidents to request two forms of compensatory damages, both of which are intended to compensate the victim for his or her losses:
Financial losses (these are precise economic losses that are tied to an objective dollar figure, such as the cost of surgery, a specific set of hospital bills, or lost wages based on pay stubs)
Noneconomic damages (these are more subjective damages that cover injuries such as physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress, none of which have an observable dollar value that can be applied in each case).
According to California law, "no fixed norm exists for determining the amount of... noneconomic damages." As a result, the court must use its discretion to determine a fair amount based on the facts provided in the case and "common sense." When a person seeks noneconomic damages for pain and suffering, he or she may claim one of two forms of damages:
Previous Noneconomic losses
Noneconomic losses in the future
The plaintiff must be able to prove that she or he is "reasonably likely to suffer the harm" to claim future noneconomic damages. While the definition is vague, California law cites the following as examples of non-economic damages that a court may consider when determining how much to award a plaintiff:
Loss of pleasure in life
California's Average Drunk Driver Settlement
Many people who are injured in accidents caused by drunk drivers will obtain fair settlements before going to court. While you might be wondering what the typical drunk driver settlement in California is, there is no such thing, and the overall settlement or verdict is entirely dependent on the facts of the case.
Many factors will be considered when deciding a compensation sum for pain and suffering—and other non-economic damages—for example, the settlement offer will differ widely depending on the following:
The seriousness of the accident
How long will the injury last?
Is it possible that the damage will be permanent?
Is there any disfigurement as a result of the injury?
Many other factors can influence a claim's average payout, so you should always consult with a California Personal Injury Lawyer about your case.
Find A Personal Injury Lawyer in California
1000Attorneys.com is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a fitting Personal Injury Lawyer. We will refer you to a Drunk Driver Accident Attorney best fit to handle your unique case. You can contact us through our 24/7 live chat (or complete our case details submission form) for a free initial consultation.