Injury Claims Relating to DUI Accidents in California
Recovering compensation from a motor vehicle accident typically depends on proving that the driver was negligent.
Proof of negligence often entails showing that the driver disobeyed a traffic signal or operated the vehicle at excessive speed, causing the accident.
If the driver or vehicle owner has insurance in place, then the injured person's liability claim can, in some cases, be relatively straightforward.
DUI accidents, though, can complicate financial recoveries. First, simply because the driver turned out to be drunk does not automatically make a liability case.
The drunkenness must have contributed to the carelessness that caused the accident.
Drunkenness often does cause delayed reaction times or drowsiness or otherwise interferes with safe vehicle operation. But the claimant must still prove that contribution, which can take significant investigation into alcohol levels and their effects on driving.
Another potential problem with DUI accident recoveries is that drunk drivers can be irresponsible about other things, like insuring their vehicle.
Too often, the drunk driver who caused serious injury doesn't have liability insurance or, if they do, the limits are not high enough to compensate the victim in full.
If you, your family member or your friend have suffered an injury in a DUI accident, contact our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers for a prompt claim review.
Vehicle-Owner Liability in California
Some drunk drivers indeed have little or no liability insurance. The Insurance Information Institute reports that about 15% of California's motorists drive illegally uninsured.
The drunk driver may not even own the vehicle they crashed, causing injury or damaging any other vehicle, thus having no obligation to insure against liability.
Importantly, then, California vehicle owners share the liability with those they allow to drive their vehicle. California's owner liability statute states:
- “Every owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle, in the business of the owner, by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of the owner.”
Persons injured by a drunk driver can sue the vehicle owner too and recover from the vehicle owner's liability insurance unless the drunk driver stole the vehicle or was otherwise operating it without consent, which is a relatively common issue in drunk driving cases.
In any case, claimants may be able to make a claim not just against the drunk driver, but against the vehicle owner as well.
Abolishing the Server's Liability
Does a person injured in a DUI accident have other potential avenues for recovery, beyond the drunk driver and the vehicle owner?
There used to be a time in the 1970s when California case law recognized liability claims against bars and social hosts when they served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or a minor who then drove carelessly, injuring the claimant.
The California legislature eventually overturned that case law with a 1978 statute that restricts liability to the one who imbibes and drives, not the one who serves the driver.
The statute's subsection (b) states in relevant part that:
- “the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.”
The same statute's next subsection (c) reinforces that:
- “no social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person can be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages.”
So much for broad dram shop or social host liability.
Preserving Limited Server Liability
Yet, the same California statute preserved claims against social hosts who serve someone whom they knew or should have known to be a minor, under the legal drinking age of 21:
- “Nothing in subdivision (c) shall preclude a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at their residence to a person whom they know, or should have known, to be under 21 years, in which case, the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.”
Another California statute within the Business and Professions Code 25602.1 also imposes liability for resulting injury on any person, licensed or required to be licensed to serve alcohol, who serves a visibly intoxicated minor.
Proving obvious intoxication depends on outward signs of drunkenness like:
- slurred speech,
- unstable standing or walking,
- glassy eyes, and
- lack of emotional control.
The upshot of California's case law back and forth is that an injured person may seek compensation for their injuries from:
- (1) the bar that serves an intoxicated minor, or
- (2) the social host who serves someone they knew or should have known to be a minor.
Our personal injury lawyers know how to investigate and prove these claims.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Claimants injured by a drunk driver have one other potential source of recovery: UM/UIM coverage.
Vehicle owners may purchase additional insurance coverage that pays when the careless driver injures them, in cases where the at-fault driver's vehicle was not insured or the policy limits were too low to provide full compensation. The claimant may also take advantage of this option if they simply reside with someone who has uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage.
These uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist policy terms are complex, warranting experienced counsel.
Personal Injury Attorney for California DUI Injuries
The above discussion shows that if you have suffered an injury at the hands of a drunken driver, you should retain a seasoned personal injury attorney.
For DUI accident cases, we have the knowledge, skill, experience, resources and reputation to aggressively pursue broader recovery theories beyond the
straightforward claim against the drunken driver.
You pay no fee unless you recover. Don't let your claim wait. Hire a Los Angeles personal injury attorney you can trust.
Injury Justice Law Firm are top-rated personal injury attorneys serving victims of negligence throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
We are located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067, and in the San Fernando Valley at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.