Russell Hebets Feb. 13, 2019

Filing A Civil Claim In a Drinking Under the Influence (DUI) Case

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD),up to 75 percent of individuals convicted of DUI continue to drive with a suspended license. If you are injured as a result of a DUI-related accident, you may have to file a claim against the drunk driver in a civil court. This is where it will be determined what monetary and other awards you will receive for the injuries and losses you experienced. A civil court will utilize state law to determine the monetary compensation.

No-Fault States

If you are the victim of a DUI driver in a state with no-fault laws, the amount of money you can recover for your injuries is predetermined. There are exceptions in most of these states with accidents involving damages and injuries that exceed the mandated amount for a civil settlement. In these states, a DUI driver is not automatically subjected to civil liability. In no-fault states, a threshold must be achieved prior to a civil suit being able to proceed. If your losses are limited to property damage as well as minor injuries, you will be required to file a claim with your own insurance company. States with these laws all have variations and exceptions when it comes DUI civil suits.

Pure Negligence States

If you are a victim of a DUI accident in a pure negligence state, you'll be able to file a civil suit against a drunk driver for compensation to cover the total amount of injuries and damages you experienced. In a pure negligence state, you will only have to prove the accident was the fault of the DUI driver. This is the same standard that must be met in all civil lawsuits.

Wrongful Death Suit

If you are involved in a drunk driving accident and a family member passes away, you may be able to bring a civil lawsuit against the driver for wrongful death.

  • You must be able to prove the drunk driver was completely liable for the accident.

  • You will need to establish the amount of alcohol in the driver's system. It needs to be proven their intoxication level was too high to safely drive a vehicle.

  • You will also have to prove the drunk driver failed to operate the vehicle with reasonable care.

Evidence utilized will often consist of a police report, accident witnesses, expert opinions, and any other evidence to help prove your case. A wrongful death suit will not bring back a loved one. However, it can help family members deal with the financial difficulties that could result from such a loss.

DUI Legal Defenses

There is no such thing as an easy DUI civil suit. It's important to remember that defense attorneys and the insurance companies they represent have a history of investing large amounts of time and money to defend such cases. They know all the successful defense strategies in DUI civil suits and how to expertly use them.

Affirmative DUI Defenses

There are a number of defenses a drunk driver can use during a civil trial. The driver may claim they had no other option than to drive to avoid a more serious situation. Sometimes they claim a law officer encouraged them to drive while intoxicated. Some try to claim they did not know they were intoxicated. Others have said they didn't know what they consumed actually contained alcohol.

Common DUI Defenses

It is common for drunk drivers to claim a law enforcement officer lacked probable cause to make the traffic stop. Others will claim the field sobriety test was not properly administered, and the results were inaccurate. Often it is claimed a breathalyzer is improperly calibrated. It could be alleged the field sobriety test was mishandled. Another common defense is that the driver's blood alcohol level was the legal limit when they started but increased as they drove the vehicle.

If you would like to talk to an attorney about filing a DUI claim against the drunk driver, contact our office. A skilled personal injury lawyer DC trusts can review your case and make suggestions about how to move your claim forward.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their insight into DUI related civil claims.