Drunk Driving Accidents: Civil and Criminal

Aside from a possible criminal charge following a drunk driving accident, a civil lawsuit can also be filed by an injured person against the drunk driver. Filing a civil liability lawsuit against the at-fault driver may be the only way for victims to recover compensation for the damages caused by the accident.

Whereas criminal proceedings are aimed to protect the public from possible future harm by punishing the drunk drivers’ reckless actions and by being a deterrent to DUI or DWI, a civil personal injury lawsuit follows a more distinct and separate process. The victim (or in cases of death, the immediate family of the victim) will be the one who will file the personal injury lawsuit. Establishing fault in a personal injury lawsuit would help in awarding compensation to cover for medical treatments and bills, lost wages, property damage, and other economic damages caused by the incident. Likewise, if the accident resulted in serious injuries or high medical expenses, some states may even grant compensation for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

States who follow “negligence” rules can make a civil lawsuit easier to win; the more important thing to prove is the negligence of the other party that resulted in the accident. Proving fault in a drunk driving accident would establishing your right for compensation, however it is still important to consult with a personal injury lawyer who understand he laws in that specific state in order to ensure that factors such as “comparative” and “contributory” negligence can play a factor on how your case will proceed.

In states that have “no fault” rules, you can still recover compensation from a civil lawsuit if you are able to prove that the drunk driving accident resulted in serious injuries or very expensive medical bills. These states require a certain threshold to be reached in order to qualify for damage awards. Laws may vary according to each state, but generally if the damages or injuries are minor, claims can be filed to your own insurance company under your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.