Should I Bring a Civil Lawsuit Against a Drunk Driver?

civil lawsuit

Many civil lawsuits seek remedies from drunk drivers who caused injury to another person. While it is true that the state prosecutor can bring criminal proceedings for driving under the influence or vehicular manslaughter, those criminal cases may not result in the types of monetary remedies an injured party deserves.

Criminal Prosecution vs. Civil Lawsuits

Not all court proceedings are the same. It is important to understand the difference in matters that can be litigated in both a civil court and a criminal court.

In a criminal proceeding, law enforcement officers will gather evidence, and prosecutors will file charges against the person accused of a crime. Then, motions are filed, and hearings are held. Sometimes these cases end with a plea agreement, and other times these cases can go to trial, and a judge or jury will listen to the evidence and determine if the accused person is guilty.

If the defendant is found guilty in a criminal case, perhaps some restitution payments might be required. Still, it may be better for the victim or their family to pursue monetary damages in civil court.

Conversely, when a drunk driver causes an injury, the victim — or in the case of wrongful death, the victim’s family — can file a lawsuit against the driver in a civil court. Civil lawsuits can ask the court to assign fault and grant compensation. Civil lawsuits can be effective when attempting to recover the costs of medical treatments, lost wages, or the value of the damaged property.

Can the Criminal Case Affect My Civil Lawsuit?

If the defendant in the criminal case was found guilty of driving under the influence, it certainly strengthens the civil lawsuit. The first thing to consider is that insurance companies will aim to avoid a lawsuit regarding a car accident when there is a DUI conviction. Usually, insurance companies will attempt to settle the case out of court if the criminal side of the case results in a conviction.

Secondly, and more generally, it becomes easier for the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit to meet the burden of proof that the vehicle driver was negligent for operating their car while under the influence. Criminal court convictions carry great weight with civil law juries. Many states will accept evidence of a criminal conviction as proof that a person breached their duty of care.

What if the Victim Died as a Result of the Injury?

Family members of a victim killed by a drunk driver are allowed to file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate for wrongful death. This type of claim is a variant of personal injury lawsuits based on negligent acts. Usually, damages for both actual costs and punitive costs are available.

Punitive damages are amounts of money awarded to the victim or victim’s estate with the sole purpose of punishing the drunk driver and deterring future drunk driving incidents.

Whether you are looking to file a lawsuit for yourself or for a loved one who suffered at the hands of a drunk driver, it is always important to consult with an experienced injury and accident attorney in the field of personal injury. Contact the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm today at 833-2542923.

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