Content Courtesy of Shah Law Firm
Getting pulled over by a police car and getting charged with driving under the influence or DUI is bad enough. Getting involved in a DUI accident is even worse. For those arrested for DUI, hiring an experienced DUI lawyer is necessary to help them fully understand the legal matters involved in DUI accident cases.
When there is no accident, death, injury, or property damage involved, a person arrested for DUI can still face criminal prosecution as driving under the influence is a criminal offense that results in fines, parole and jail time sentencing. And when a drunk driver causes an accident that results in the death of a person, he or she could even be charged with involuntary or vehicular manslaughter. The punishment for those convicted of involuntary or vehicular manslaughter is much more severe than a routine DUI case.
A drunk driver involved in a car crash may also be sued in civil court. The civil suit will be a separate and distinct process from the criminal case that may be brought up against him or her and is typically filed to recover the cost of medical treatment, damaged property, lost wages and other economic damages. A drunk driver may face a civil case filed by the family of victims killed in the accident and by victims who suffered injuries and/or sustained property damage. A decision favorable to the victim means the driver will have to compensate the victims or their families. The driver will also likely face difficulties obtaining insurance or renewing his or her driver’s license.
Civil Suits and No-Fault States
Victims of drunk drivers in pure negligence states can easily file a civil suit against a drunk driver for any injury or damage sustained. In states that have no-fault laws in place, however, civil liability is not automatically imposed on drunk drivers, even if they clearly caused injuries to a victim. A civil suit can only proceed if a certain threshold for severity of injuries or the dollar amount of damages is met. Still, no-fault laws vary from state to state, and there are states with exceptions that allow victims to file suit against the drunk drivers that injured them or damaged their property.
Dram shop laws
In 38 states, drunk drivers are not the only ones that may be held criminally liable for DUI accidents. According to their “dram shop laws,” criminal liability also extends to shop owners and social hosts who served the drunk driver alcohol shortly before the DUI accident. The same applies to adults who gave alcohol to drunk drivers who are minors or allowed them to drink within their property before getting involved in the accident. There are also states where homeowners are also liable for a DUI accident caused by a minor if that individual had been drinking in their home, with or without their knowledge.