Can I Bring An Injury Lawsuit Against A Drunk Driver That Hit Me?
If you have been injured by a drunk or intoxicated driver, you may be able to sue for damages. The perpetrator does not need to be convicted of a DUI before a civil lawsuit can be filed. Potential plaintiffs include passengers in the DUI driver’s vehicle, occupants of other vehicles, and pedestrians.
The plaintiff simply needs to prove that the driver was negligent under California law.
A motorist is negligent when he or she:
- Fails to use reasonable care to prevent harm to others
- Is negligent “per se” by violating a statute, such as:
- Vehicle Code 23152(a), driving while under the influence,
- Vehicle Code 23153, driving while under the influence causing injury, or
- Vehicle Code 23154, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher.
If you have been injured by a drunk or intoxicated driver, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
Damages recoverable after being hit by DUI driver
If you have been hit by a drunk driver, you may be able to recover damages in a lawsuit. These damages can include medical bills, car repair bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If your loved one was injured or killed by a drunk driver, you may also be able to bring a wrongful death or survival action against the driver. Call an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options.
When can someone sue a drunk driver in California?
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk or drugged driver, you may be able to sue for damages.
In California, a driver is considered intoxicated when the alcohol and/or drugs impair his or her ability to operate a vehicle safely. To succeed in a lawsuit, the injured party (the plaintiff) will need to prove that the defendant was negligent and that because of the negligence, the plaintiff suffered damages.
If you have been hurt in an accident caused by a drunk or drugged driver, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
When is a driver negligent under California law?
A driver who violates a law or statute meant to protect other drivers and pedestrians may be deemed “negligent per se” under California law.
This means that the violation of the law is, in and of itself, proof of negligence. Drivers owe a “duty of care” to other motorists and pedestrians, and failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to others when driving is considered negligence.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and options under the law.
California’s “negligence per se” law
If you are injured because someone else violates a law, statute, or ordinance, you may be able to file a negligence per se claim against them. Under California's negligence per se law, a defendant is presumed negligent if they violate the law and because of that violation cause an injury.
This means that once the plaintiff introduces evidence of negligence per se, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to prove that they did not violate the statute or that the violation did not cause the plaintiff's injury.
If you believe you have a valid negligence per se claim, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and pursue the compensation you deserve.
California DUI laws
Driving under the influence – Vehicle Code 23152(a), (f) and (g)
Driving under the influence is a serious offense in California. If you are convicted of DUI, you could face significant penalties, including jail time, fines, and the loss of your driver's license.
If you are charged with DUI, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you defend against the charges. An experienced attorney will know how to challenge the evidence against you and may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
Don't take chances with your future - if you have been charged with DUI, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.
“Per se” DUI for adult drivers – Vehicle Code 23152(b)
It is against the law in California for anyone 21 years or older to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. A BAC can be measured by a DUI chemical test – usually, a DUI breath test or DUI blood test – that is taken at the time of an arrest. If drug use is suspected, the driver will usually have to take a blood test.
Excess BAC CDL — Vehicle Code 23152(d)
If you are a commercial driver and you are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04% or higher, you can be charged with a crime. This offense is sometimes known as
“Excess BAC CDL.”
Commercial drivers who drive between states are also subject to federal motor carrier safety laws. If you are convicted of this offense, you may lose your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and your job. You may also face jail time and heavy fines.
If you have been charged with this offense, it is important to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and your rights under the law.
DUI by ride-sharing, taxi or limo drivers — Vehicle Code Section 23152 (e)
If you are a driver of a ride-sharing service, taxi, or limo, it is now illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.04% or higher when you have a passenger for hire in your vehicle. This new law went into effect on July 1, 2018.
Passenger for hire means anyone who is paying for the driver’s services. So, if you are driving for Uber, Lyft, or any other similar service, or if you are driving a taxi or limo, this law applies to you.
The penalties for violating this law are severe. You could be fined up to $10,000 and lose your commercial driver’s license for one year. If you cause an accident while driving under the influence, you could be facing even more serious charges.
So, if you are a driver of a passenger-for-hire vehicle, make sure you stay under the 0.04% BAC limit. It’s not worth the risk to your livelihood or your safety.
Underage DUI – Vehicle Code 23136
It is a crime in California for any driver under the age of 21 to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05% or higher. This is because underage drivers are considered too drunk to drive at this level, even if they are not impaired. If you are caught driving with a BAC of .05% or higher as a minor, you could face serious penalties, including license suspension, fines, and even jail time. If you have been charged with underage DUI, it is important to seek experienced legal help immediately. An experienced DUI attorney can help you understand your rights and options, and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.
“Zero-tolerance” law for underage drivers — Vehicle Code 23136
If you are under the age of 21 and are caught driving with any trace of alcohol in your system, you will violate California's zero-tolerance law. This means that even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is below the legal limit for adults, you can still be charged with a crime.
While this is not technically a DUI, it can still lead to serious consequences. If you are sued in a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff will only need to prove that you were impaired while driving to win their case.
So, if you are underage and drinking, it is important to always have a designated driver. Or better yet, don't drink at all until you are of legal age. Otherwise, you could be putting yourself and others at risk.
Driving while addicted to a drug — Vehicle Code 23152(c)
It is important to note that, even if you are participating in a court-approved treatment program for opioid dependence, you can still be found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs if it can be proven that your driving was negligent.
Therefore, it is always best to err on the side of caution and not drive if you have used any substance, whether it be prescription or over-the-counter medication, that could potentially impair your ability to drive safely. If you are stopped by law enforcement and found to be driving under the influence of drugs, you will face the same penalties as if you had been caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
These penalties can include jail time, fines, and the suspension of your driver's license. If you are facing charges for driving under the influence of drugs, it is important to seek out experienced legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced attorney will be able to review the evidence against you and help you build a strong defense.
Chemical test refusal — Vehicle Code 23612(a)
When you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI in California, the officer will ask you to submit to a chemical test. This is because of California's "implied consent" law, which states that by driving in the state, you are giving your consent to a chemical test if you are lawfully arrested on suspicion of DUI.
If you refuse to take the test, you are violating VC 23612. This means that you can be considered "negligent" per se, and the jury may conclude that your refusal means you were inebriated.
However, you should always consult with an attorney before making any decisions about whether to take a chemical test.
Federal motor carrier safety regulations
If you are a commercial driver, it is important to be aware of federal laws regarding driving under the influence. You are prohibited from driving with a BAC of .04% or higher, or while performing any safety-sensitive functions with a controlled substance in your system. These prohibitions are in place to help keep both you and other motorists safe on the road. If you violate these laws, you could face serious penalties, including fines and possible jail time. So, if you are going to be driving a commercial vehicle, make sure you know the law and stay within its limits.
The accident must be caused by the drinking or drug use
The plaintiff must still prove that the violation caused the plaintiff’s injury. This can be done by showing that the defendant’s actions were a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Proximate cause is defined as “a cause that is adequate to bring about a result.” To show proximate cause, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s actions were a foreseeable result of his or her actions.
If you have been injured in a DUI accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you investigate the accident and determine whether the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of your injuries. An experienced attorney will also be able to assist you in recovering the maximum compensation possible for your injuries.
Does the defendant need to be convicted?
However, in a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff (the person filing the suit) only needs to prove that the defendant was “negligent” – that is, that they failed to use reasonable care and this failure led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
There is no need for all 12 jurors to agree in a civil case – a simple majority is enough. And, because the burden of proof is lower, it may be easier to win damages in a civil case than a criminal case.
What types of damages can be recovered in a California DUI lawsuit?
If you are successful in your California DUI lawsuit, you may be awarded “damages”.
These are designed to compensate you for your losses and may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Punitive damages (in some cases)
Is a DUI conviction proof of negligence?
Even if the defendant avoids jail time by pleading to a California “dry reckless” or other vehicle code violation, it will still be negligence per se.
(Note that it does not work the other way around. Being found liable in a civil lawsuit for DUI does not establish guilt under California’s criminal DUI laws).
But the defendant has the right to introduce evidence showing that his or her impairment did not cause the accident. This is often done with expert testimony regarding how alcohol affects drivers. If the jury finds this evidence persuasive, they may find that the defendant was not negligent after all.
Damages recoverable in a lawsuit against a DUI motorist
Compensatory damages that can be recovered in a DUI settlement may include:
- Medical bills
- Psychological counseling
- Long- or short-term care
- Physical or occupational rehabilitation
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of a limb or the use of a limb or other body part.
To recover these damages, the plaintiff must prove that:
- They suffered the damage
- The damage was caused by the other driver's negligence.
If you've been injured by a DUI driver, you may be able to get compensation for your losses. Contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your case and learn more about your legal options.
Are punitive damages recoverable against a DUI driver?
Punitive damages may be available to Californians who are injured by drunk drivers. To recover these damages, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was guilty of malice, oppression, or fraud. Malice in this context means a conscious disregard for the safety of others. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, contact a personal injury attorney to explore your legal options.
When does drunk driving constitute malice?
Punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant's conduct is found to be malicious. To meet the "malice" test, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his or her conduct and willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences.
The California Supreme Court has held that this test is met when someone voluntarily consumes alcoholic beverages and/or drugs to the point of intoxication and knows that he or she must thereafter operate a motor vehicle. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to punitive damages. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal options.
Can families of injured people sue a DUI driver?
If you or a loved one has been hit by a drunk driver, you may be able to recover damages in a lawsuit. Possible bases for recovery include loss of consortium, wrongful death, or a California “survival” action. All these causes of action arise from the loss of the companionship and financial support of a loved one.
In many cases, punitive damages are recoverable when a family member is hit by a DUI driver. If you have been affected by this type of tragedy, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
What if I was partly to blame for an accident with a DUI driver?
If you were hit by a drunk driver, you may be wondering if you can still sue even if the other driver was technically at fault. The answer is yes – California follows a “comparative fault” standard of negligence. Also known as “comparative negligence” or “shared fault,” this allows a jury to apportion fault for an accident between two or more parties.
Unlike some states (such as Nevada), California does not require that the defendant be 50% or more responsible for an injury. A plaintiff can sue even if the defendant was only slightly at fault.
This means that even if the other driver was DUI, you may still have a case against him or her – and you may still be entitled to compensation for your injuries. If you have been in an accident with a drunk driver, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.
Does insurance cover DUI drivers?
If you are injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to recover compensatory damages from the driver's auto insurance policy. However, if no insurance covers the accident, or if the policy limits do not cover your damages, you may have to sue the driver directly.
Will insurance cover punitive damages?
If you are considering filing a lawsuit after a car accident, it is important to understand that your insurance company will not pay for punitive damages if you have awarded them. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant and deter future bad behavior and are therefore not covered by insurance.
This means that if you are awarded punitive damages, you will need to try to collect them directly from the defendant. This can be difficult or impossible if the defendant has no assets or does not have enough to cover the full amount of the award.
However, your insurance company will still pay for compensatory damages such as medical and car repair bills. An experienced California car accident lawyer can help you determine whether it is worth it to file suit, based on the facts of your case and the assets of the defendant.
What should I do if I am hit by a drunk driver?
If you are hit by a drunk driver in California, it is important to call the police and file a report. This will be the best way to prove that the other driver was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Even if the driver was not drunk, there are still some important steps to take after any car accident in California.
Some of the key things to do after an accident include getting information from the other driver, such as their name, driver’s license number, insurance company name, and policy number. It is also important to take photos or videos of the scene if possible. Other steps include exchanging information with witnesses and seeking medical attention if necessary.
By taking these steps, you can help ensure that you have the best possible chance of receiving fair compensation for any damages or injuries that you may have suffered.