California DUI Accident Victim Lawyers
The California personal injury attorneys at Bisnar Chase have secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for victims of negligence and wrongdoing. Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is not just reckless and irresponsible, but it is also an extremely negligent and illegal act that could result in property damage, injuries and loss of life.
When a driver chooses to get intoxicated and then get behind the wheel, he or she puts their own self as well as their passengers and others sharing the roadway at the distinct risk of injury and/or death.
DUI convictions in criminal courts tend to result in jail or prison sentences, fines or probation. However, these criminal penalties do not address compensating DUI victims and their families for the damages and losses they have sustained due to no fault of their own. Our California DUI accident lawyers represent all injured victims and families that may have lost loved ones as the result of a drunk or drugged driver’s actions.
We are committed to holding these drivers financially responsible for their negligence and wrongdoing. Please call us at (800) 561-4887 to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.
What Do California’s DUI Laws Say?
California law prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. According to California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a): "It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle."
The law also states that drivers shall not operate motor vehicles with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher. For drivers of commercial vehicles such as big-rigs, that legal limit is 0.04 percent. In addition, California Vehicle Code Section 23136 prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from driving with a measurable amount of alcohol in their systems. Also, a driver whose act of driving under the influence results in the death of another will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges under California Penal Code section 191.5 (a).
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Rights
If you were the victim of a DUI crash and the at-fault driver was issued a citation for an open container or was arrested following the police investigation, you will likely be in a strong position while negotiating your claim. There are also other steps you can take in such types of incidents to protect your rights:
- Tell the investigating police officer if you smell alcohol or marijuana on the driver's breath. Also, look to see if the driver tries to dump beer cans or bottles on the side of the road before police arrive.
- If you see the driver using eye drops, alert the officer. That might be enough for the officer to administer a drug test.
- Before police arrive, be sure to see who is driving. It is common for drivers to switch places after a crash with a passenger who hasn't been drinking.
- Be sure to file a police report and obtain a signed copy for your records.
- Be sure to follow up on the driver's arrest to see if he or she pleaded guilty or was convicted. While this is not necessary for you to pursue a civil personal injury claim or wrongful death claim, your case could receive a significant shot in the arm if the driver was convicted or even charged in your case.
- Get prompt medical attention treatment and care for your injuries. This not only helps you recover promptly, but also helps create documentation specifically regarding the types of injuries you sustained and the treatment you received. It also establishes a timeline for how long you were injured or disabled.
- Save all receipts, invoices and documents connected to the case. This includes all bills relating to emergency transportation, hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, medications, medical equipment, etc. Also, be sure to keep track of the number of workdays missed and income that you lost as a result of the injuries suffered in the DUI crash.
- Contact an experienced California DUI injury accident attorney who will fight hard to protect your rights and hold the at-fault parties accountable.
What Are DUI Victims' Options?
In California, anyone who has been convicted of a DUI faces serious criminal consequences such as time in county jail or state prison, hefty fines, license suspension or revocation, probation and the requirement to drive with an ignition interlock device. While these penalties are important and serve as important deterrents, it is crucial for drunk driving accident victims to realize that criminal penalties are not the only remedies available.
Often, after a drunk driving accident, victims are left with severe physical, emotional and financial hardships. Many suffer debilitating injuries and even permanent disabilities that prevent them from carrying on with normal, productive lives. DUI victims and their families have the right to seek monetary compensation for their losses from the at-fault parties.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for DUI Crashes?
So, what do you do when you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident and learn that the police found that the other driver involved was drunk and at fault for the accident? The negligent driver here is very likely to face criminal charges for causing the accident, property damage and injuries. In such cases, there is usually no question that the drunk driver is financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses you have sustained.
But, how much you actually money you recover as compensation from the driver depends on a few factors including how much insurance coverage he or she has. Unfortunately, drunk drivers often do not have insurance coverage or may have insufficient coverage to compensate you for your losses.
In these situations, your personal injury lawyer can better advise you regarding how the uninsured motorist clause of your own auto insurance policy might be able to compensate you for your losses. This clause will also apply in hit-and-run cases – in instances where a drunk driver takes off or flees the scene of a crash.
Please remember that in many states, there are laws that allow DUI accident victims to also hold liable other parties such as alcohol vendors, bars, restaurants or even social hosts who served alcohol to the at fault driver.
In California, the laws are complex and with some exceptions, social hosts are not liable for serving alcohol to intoxicated adults or minors. This also applies to California bars and restaurants that are not liable for serving alcohol to intoxicated adults. But, these establishments will be liable if they sell alcohol to minors.
In some instances, employers may also face liability if an employee who is on the job causes an accident because he or she was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. An employer could also be held liable for the actions of an employee who, for example, gets drunk at a company-sponsored event where the employer provided alcohol. These are cases where, in addition to holding a driver accountable, victims and their families can seek and obtain compensation from other parties who could potentially be held liable.
What Damages Can Victims Seek?
The worth or value of your claim will usually depend on the nature and extent of the injuries, damages and losses you have sustained and the degree of negligence of the other parties. Injured victims of California DUI accidents can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to:
- Medical expenses: This includes emergency transportation and treatment, hospitalization, surgeries, cost of medication, medical equipment, etc.
- Rehabilitation costs: This includes cost of rehabilitative care such as physical therapy and chiropractic care.
- Lost income: Victims are entitled to receive wages as well as any benefits they lose while recovering from their injuries.
- Lost future income: If the injuries are catastrophic and the disabilities are permanent, victims can also seek compensation for lost future income or loss of livelihood.
- Pain and suffering: This refers to the physical pain and mental suffering caused by the incident.
Loss of consortium: This is a claim for damages suffered by the spouse or partner of the injured victim.
Drunk Driving Wrongful Death
About 10,000 fatalities occur each year as a result of drunk driving collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Often, we see that the victim in a fatal DUI collision is not the drunk driver involved. These victims tend to be the passengers in the vehicle being driven by the intoxicated driver and/or passengers, pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles. Drunk driving crashes potentially result in devastating injuries and may even claim multiple lives.
In cases where a drunk driving accident leads to a fatality, the family of the deceased victim can file what is known as a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for damages including but not limited to medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income and benefits, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Once again, it's important to remember that the driver could face criminal charges such as vehicular manslaughter and murder. But a case that is resolved in criminal courts results in criminal penalties such as prison time and restitution. It still does not monetarily compensate the DUI victims' families for their substantial losses. A wrongful death claim is brought against a DUI driver in civil court. Here, the plaintiff (victim) establishes that the driver caused the decedent's death due to his or her negligence. In a criminal case, prosecutors must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Emotional and Other Support for DUI Victims and Families
Survivors as well as family members and friends of DUI victims may continue to feel the impact of a drunk or drugged driving crash long after it has occurred. There is no question that DUI victims and their families need emotional support and assistance in a variety of ways in the aftermath of a crash. Survivors of DUI crashes may be dealing not just with physical pain, but also significant emotional suffering.
Some may be dealing with psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or chronic depression. The financial costs of providing physical and emotional care for DUI victims can be extremely challenging. This also takes an emotional toll on the families that are caring for loved ones injured in DUI crashes.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offers significant resources in many parts of the country. They have more than 1,200 trained victim advocates across the country and often are able to provide round-the-clock assistance and support to victims and families. There are a number of support services DUI victims and families require during this difficult time: n
- Emotional support including grief counseling in cases where the DUI crash has resulted in fatalities.
- Guidance through the criminal and civil justice systems.
- Support during court proceedings.
- Help with preparing a victim impact statement.
- Support groups where victims can be with others who have endured similar losses or have undergone similar experiences.
Presently, there are also a number of social media groups, particularly on Facebook for victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving. Here are some resources for further information:
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving Southern California Chapter: https://www.madd.org/southern-california/
- California Attorney General's Victims' Services Unit: https://oag.ca.gov/victimservices
- National Center for Victims of Crime: www.ncvc.org
- National Organization for Victim Assistance: www.trynova.org
- Students Against Destructive Decisions: www.sadd.org
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (Orange County Chapter): www.namioc.org
How We Can Help You
The experienced California DUI accident attorneys at Bisnar Chase have more than 40 years of experience representing the rights of injured victims and their families. We offer clients our unique no-win no-fee guarantee. This means that you do not pay any fees or costs until we secure compensation for you.
We have an impeccable track record of financially pursuing DUI drivers and holding them accountable on behalf of our injured clients. We are also dedicated proponents of DUI prevention and support organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) that work hard to prevent these tragedies in our communities. Call us at (800) 561-4887 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.