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 case for liability.
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 causes serious injury doesn't have liability insurance or, if they have it, don't have enough of it to compensate for the serious injuries they cause.
If you or a family member or friend have suffered an injury in a DUI accident, then contact our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers for a prompt claim review.
Vehicle-Owner Liability in California
It's true that some drunk drivers 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 of those whom they consent 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 hope to make a claim against not just the drunk driver but also the vehicle owner.
Abolishing the Server's Liability
Does a person injured in a DUI accident have other claims beyond the drunken driver and vehicle owner?
For a time in the 1970s, California case law recognized liability claims against bars and social hosts when they served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or minor who then drove carelessly, injuring the claimant.
The California legislature, though, promptly overturned that case law with a 1978 statute that clearly restricts the 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 makes liable for resulting injury to any person, licensed or requiring a license to serve alcohol, who serves an obviously 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 hold liable for resulting injury:
- (1) the bar that serves an obviously 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 they of claims.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Claimants injured by a drunk driver have one other potential source of recovery.
Claimants who own and insure their own motor vehicle or reside with a relative who may have uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage.
Vehicle owners may purchase insurance coverage that pays when the careless driver injures them, and that driver's vehicle's owner has no insurance or too-little insurance for full compensation.
These uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist policy terms are complex, warranting experienced counsel.
Personal Injury Attorney for California DUI Injuries
The above discussion indeed shows that if you have suffered an injury at the hands of a drunken driver, then you should retain a seasoned personal injury attorney.
For DUI accident cases, we have the knowledge, skill, experience, and all-important 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.