Drunk Driving Accidents
Across the nation in 2013, drunk driving fatalities made up 31% of all traffic fatalities. Drunk drivers can be held responsible for their actions both in criminal and civil court. Drunk driving that causes bodily injuries may be charged as a felony in California. Although the criminal court punishes a drunk driver that causes injuries to another, it does not always compensate the victim of the accident. To recover compensation from a drunk driver who caused an accident, you must bring a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. At Sharifi Firm, PLC, our lawyers can help victims recover compensation after a car accident involving drunk driving in Los Angeles.Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents
Under California Vehicle Code § 23152, it is a misdemeanor to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (or a drug). If the defendant was arrested for driving under the influence, it is likely the doctrine of negligence per se will apply.
Under this doctrine, negligence is presumed if (1) the defendant violated a statute or regulations, (2) the violation was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries, (3) the injuries were of the type that the statute or regulation was designed to prevent. This presumption is rebuttable, but generally, the plaintiff that is able to prove negligence per se must simply prove his or her damages to recover compensation.
It is more straightforward to use negligence per se in a case where a defendant has been charged with drunk driving in a criminal matter. This makes it especially important to contact the police while at the scene of the drunk driving accident, rather than agreeing to simply notify insurers. If the defendant does not receive a citation for drunk driving, it is simply your word against his that his breath smelled like alcohol or that he was exhibiting other signs of drunk driving.
By bringing a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover all damages that would return you to the position you were in before the accident. Compensation will likely include both special damages and general damages. Special damages are tangible damages that can be documented objectively, such as medical bills and lost income. General damages are intangible damages that naturally arise from the accident, but which may be evaluated subjectively, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium and mental anguish.
Sometimes it is appropriate for a plaintiff to also sue for punitive damages. However, proof of negligence is insufficient to recover punitive damages. Rather the plaintiff must show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is guilty of oppression, fraud or malice. The California Supreme Court has allowed punitive damages to be awarded against drunk drivers on the grounds that someone who willfully gets drunk and drives shows a conscious disregard for others' safety. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the drunk driver and also deter future similar actions.Consult a Riverside Attorney for Victims of Drunk Driving Crashes
Driving while intoxicated can lead to catastrophic injuries or even a wrongful death. If you are hurt in a drunk driving accident in or around Riverside, our knowledgeable attorneys can help you sue the drunk driver to recover compensatory damages, and in some cases punitive damages. Contact us at 1-866-422-7222 or via our online form for a free, no-obligation consultation. We also represent clients in San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, and Temecula.