Are you a victim of a drunk driving car accident? If injured, contact a Los Angeles car accident injury attorney as soon as possible. Almost 25,000 people a year are hurt or killed by drunk drivers in California. Any car accident is upsetting, and any injury is difficult to deal with.
However, it is especially problematic when the other party to the accident was engaged in reckless and illegal behavior – drinking and driving. California law recognizes that while some accidents are likely an unavoidable consequence of driving, drunk driving accidents are avoidable, and punishes drunk drivers harshly. This means both criminal consequences (jail and fines) as well as civil consequences – additional penalties paid to someone who is injured.
It is very important to remember that the criminal part of a drunk driving case has very little to do with your financial recovery. While there are cases in which a judge will order a criminal defendant to pay restitution, typically, an injured victim will need to make a claim on the drunk driver's insurance policy or bring a lawsuit against the driver in order to recover compensation. For this reason, it is important that anyone involved in an accident with a drunk driver speak with a personal injury lawyer immediately after their accident has occurred. The Los Angeles criminal court system will not waste much time prosecuting DUI cases, but it's up to you to take the first step in a civil case. This might seem like a difficult process, but our top-ranked Los Angeles personal injury law firm is here to help you through this difficult period in your life. Our attorneys have helped many clients and their families obtain closure though successful personal injury claims.
What is Drunk Driving?
Under California law, most people are considered to be driving drunk when their blood alcohol content is .08% – the equivalent of four normal drinks. However, someone driving a commercial vehicle – a truck, a bus, a cab, or similar – is considered drunk with a blood alcohol content of only .04%. Anyone below the legal drinking age of 21 is considered to be driving drunk with any amount of alcohol in their system.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
In California, a number of people could potentially be liable for injuries caused by a drunk driver. First and most importantly, of course, is the driver. However, it does not end there. Under certain circumstances, California law allows recovery from the host of a private party, or from the management of a bar or restaurant which served an obviously-inebriated person alcohol. If the driver was not the owner of the car, the owner is potentially liable if they lent their car to someone obviously inebriated. If the driver was driving as part of their employment, under some circumstances their employer can be liable.
What Happens in a Drunk Driving Lawsuit?
There are several important legal consequences to driving drunk. First, since driving drunk is illegal, the drunk driver is generally considered to be “negligent per se” – a legal term which means that important legal question of whether the other person was doing the wrong thing is already answered. Additionally, in a drunk driving case, California law allows for “punitive damages” – damages meant to punish a party who was doing something that the law wants to discourage. This means that in addition to covering injuries and damages done, under some circumstances, the drunk driver will have to pay an additional amount to the party or parties they damaged. Again, the civil court system allows victims to recover financial compensation for your injuries and other damages caused by the drunk driver. However, every personal injury settlement is unique. This means the resulting damages are on case by case basis. It depends on a variety of different factors, including the severity of the injuries and degree of negligence involved. In some cases, you could be entitled to significant compensation. Since drunk driving is a willful and reckless decision, a court might award the maximum amount of damages possible. Compensation could include some or all of the following:
- Emergency medical expenses
- Hospital costs
- Loss of past and future wages from your job
- Pain and suffering
If you are the victim of a drunk driving accident, don't speak with an insurance claims adjuster without first contacting an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer at our law firm. Keep in mind their primary goal to settle for the least amount possible. They will frequently encourage victims to agree to a quick and cheap settlement offer.
The Importance of Retaining a Personal Injury Attorney
As a victim, you may be wondering whether you need to retain attorney at all – after all, if a drunk driver is almost always automatically held liable for an accident, what a lawyer can do for you. In order to answer this common question, it's helpful to consider how drunk driving cases are resolved. While the insurance company may concede liability, the question of how much it will pay out still needs to be addressed. Establishing damages related to economic losses like property damages, lost income, and medical expenses is usually straightforward – but what about damages like pain and suffering and future medical expenses? These can be extremely difficult to calculate, and without the assistance of an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer, you run the risk of accepting a settlement offer far below the actual value of your case. For this reason, you should always retain a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer when negotiating a settlement with an insurance company.
Contact a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer
As a drunk driving car accident victim, you are most likely weighing your legal options. While you have some important decisions to make, we encourage you to consult with one our personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. The statute of limitations in California gives you two years from the date of the accident to pursue compensation. When you've been injured by someone else's criminal act, you shouldn't have to worry about how to pay your medical bills. Hire a car accident attorney with the experience you need to make sure you have peace of mind. Our Los Angeles car accident lawyers specialize in drunk driving accident cases and can make sure you're taken care of at a difficult time. Call our law firm to review the specific details of your case. All consultations are free of charge. We are available at 310-734-7974. Serving the greater Los Angeles area.