Injuries caused by a drunk driver frequently lead to civil suits. While drunk drivers can face serious criminal charges, with penalties that may include jail time and restitution, they can also face civil liability if they are sued by their victims.
A civil suit for drunk driving is a separate and distinct process from any criminal proceedings a drunk driver may face. Criminal proceedings are designed to protect the public from future harm by acting as a deterrent to drunk driving, as well as to punish the drunk driver for acting in a reckless manner. A drunk driver can face criminal prosecution even if there is no accident or injury involved.
A civil suit in relation to a drunk driving accident is initiated as an injury lawsuit filed by the victim of drunk driver, or in the case of death, filed by the victim’s next of kin. If you are injured by a drunk driver, a civil suit could be your only recourse when attempting to recover any lost wages, costs of medical treatment, damaged property or other economic damages. Depending on the law of your jurisdiction, a civil suit also may offer the opportunity to recover non-economic damages such as money for suffering and pain.
In some states it may be more difficult to file a lawsuit against a drunk driver. In states with “no-fault laws”, it is likely there are laws in place prohibiting a person from filing a lawsuit against a drunk driver unless injuries or damages exceed a certain dollar amount required by state law.
The effect of “no-fault laws” on civil suits against drunk driving is constantly debated in no-fault states. Unlike in other states, drunk drivers in no-fault states are not automatically subject to civil liability. Even though a drunk driver has clearly injured you through a negligent act, “no-fault laws” still require a threshold be met before a suit can go forward. But laws vary from state to state regarding exceptions or variations on this rule.
When a drunk driver victim dies, the next of kin or another duly appointed personal representative may file a civil suit for wrongful death on behalf of the deceased estate. A wrongful death suit is often a mechanism employed by family members to ensure that those surviving the deceased have some financial stability. Both non-economic and economic damages are available. Some states may also allow you to pursue punitive damages. Punitive damages are arbitrary amounts awarded with the sole intent of punishing the drunk driver and deterring future drunk driving incident.
Our office handles drunk driving lawsuits from across the country. If you or a loved was injured by drunk driver, contact us immediately.