California DUI Victims' Rights
Please note: We do not provide representation of drivers charged with DUI. We are plaintiff's lawyers: we represent the victims of DUI accidents in civil lawsuits. If you have suffered an injury in a DUI accident, please contact us to find out if we can help you.
Drunk driving crashes are often classified as car accidents. But it is important to remember that there is nothing accidental about them. These are collisions that would have been prevented if the at-fault driver had used better judgment and did not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 10,000 people die every year in the United States as a result of drunk and drugged driving. Even when these crashes do not result in fatalities, they have the capacity to cause catastrophic injuries that may significantly impact the crash victim's life.
DUI accident victims can suffer all types of injuries. Some may escape with minor maladies, while others are left with extreme physical and emotional trauma, in some cases requiring extensive treatment and ongoing care. This can result in mounting medical costs, not to mention a major impact on the DUI victim's quality of life.
If you have been injured in a DUI crash, you have the right to seek and obtain compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact an experienced DUI victim lawyer who will fight to protect your rights every step of the way.
Who Is the DUI Victim?
In talking about DUI car accident cases, there are usually multiple parties involved in a crash. So, who are we referring to when we talk about the DUI victim?
The DUI victim is someone, usually a driver, pedestrian, or cyclist, who is injured in a collision with a vehicle operated by someone who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
As noted at the top of this page, Bisnar Chase is a law firm that represents plaintiffs in civil cases. This means that we help those who have been injured in DUI crashes to seek compensation. This may involve handling negotiations with either the victim's or at-fault driver's insurance companies to clinch the best possible settlement, or taking a case to trial.
These civil proceedings should not be mistaken with criminal DUI charges. Bisnar Chase is not able to provide representation to drivers who have been charged with a DUI offense.
Blood Alcohol Content and DUI Claims
One of the main pieces of evidence that is needed to charge a driver with driving under the influence in California is his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This is a number that shows how much alcohol is present in the driver's bloodstream. The BAC is typically determined through chemical tests of blood, breath or urine. A breath test is usually conducted roadside with a portable instrument called the Breathalyzer. A blood or urine test is done at a police station or hospital.
The legal blood alcohol content limit is 0.08% according to U.S. federal law. For example, if the driver who crashed into you registered a 0.17% BAC, you would know that their BAC at the time of the crash was more than twice the legal limit.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a DUI crash, it is important to be aware of how the driver's BAC might affect your personal injury or wrongful death claim. Such vital evidence can be used by your California personal injury lawyer to consolidate your civil claim and prove that the other driver was negligent and reckless by choosing to drive while under the influence.
DUI Victims' Right to Compensation
Victims of DUI crashes have options when it comes to seeking justice. One form of justice may come through the at-fault driver being charged and punished by the criminal courts. But victims are also able to fight for compensation through the civil courts. This could include:
- Filing a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance policy.
- Filing a claim against your own UM/UIM insurance.
- Filing a claim against the assets of an at-fault driver.
Your ability to file a claim can be impacted by the circumstances of the crash, and the status of your insurance policy, as well as the insurance policy of the driver responsible for the DUI accident.
The most common form of recourse is to file a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance policy. Your experienced DUI victims' attorney will either negotiate a settlement with the insurance company, or take the case to trial if a fair agreement cannot be reached.
But some drivers responsible for DUI crashes do not have insurance, or even a valid license. Some irresponsible people may even be driving despite having a suspended or revoked license following a past drunk driving conviction. If you have uninsured motorist/under insured motorist coverage as part of your own policy, you may be able to seek compensation from your own auto insurance company. You may also be able to seek compensation from the assets of the at-fault driver.
There are also a few other potential avenues by which to seek compensation. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, you may be able to seek compensation from the establishment that sold alcohol to the driver. However, those types of options are limited in California since the state has a number of restrictions on such laws.
You may also be able to file a lawsuit against the driver's employer if he or she was on the job at the time of the crash, or if they were driving from an employer-sponsored event such as a holiday party or some other event. Since the laws in this area are complex and challenging to comprehend, it is crucial that you contact an experienced California DUI victim lawyer who can help determine fault and liability in these cases, and secure maximum compensation for all your losses.
It is important to note that we may be able to take the case of a DUI victim, even if you do not have insurance. A lack of insurance will usually restrict a victim's ability to recover damages. But these restrictions are lifted if the responsible driver was DUI.
There are also some circumstances under which you cannot file a civil lawsuit, even if you are a DUI accident victim. For example, if you were the victim, but were also charged with driving under the influence, we would not be able to take your case.
What is a DUI Case Worth to the Victim?
Here are some of the damages DUI victims have the right to claim:
Medical expenses: This tends to be a significant portion of the damages sustained by DUI victims and could include everything from emergency transportation costs, hospitalization fees, and cost of surgery. It also includes other recurring expenses such as doctor visits, diagnostic tests such as X-Rays and MRIs, cost of medications and medical equipment.
Rehabilitation costs: Apart from hospital stays and other medical expenses, expenditures relating to rehabilitation can add up very quickly. Rehabilitation may include everything from physical therapy and chiropractic care to occupational therapy and psychological counseling. These are services patients may need to regain some of the physical strength and flexibility they had prior to the accident and also to regain emotional stability.
Loss of income: When you take time off work to recover from your injuries, you may end up losing a significant amount of pay. While you may be able to get a portion of your income in disability benefits, you may still lose a substantial amount of money, particularly if you are self-employed or do temporary or contract-based projects. In addition to the income you lose while recovering from your injuries, you may also suffer future losses. For example, some people may lose their jobs because of extended time away from work. Others may not be able to perform the jobs they used to prior to the accident. For example, if you have suffered an amputation, you may never be able to return to the construction job you had before the accident. So, anyone who faces diminished income, loss of career or livelihood may be entitled to additional damages.
Permanent injuries and disabilities: Car accidents have the potential to cause permanent injuries, scarring, disfigurement, and lifelong disabilities. In addition to having a physical impact on DUI victims, such permanent injuries and disabilities may have severe emotional and financial impacts. Individuals may become depressed as a result of not being able to return to work. Their family members might suffer financially if the injured victim was the sole breadwinner or wage earner.
Pain and suffering: DUI victims can also collect damages for the physical pain and mental anguish they endure in the aftermath of a DUI crash. Our California personal injury lawyers advise victims, regardless of the circumstances of their injuries, to maintain a journal after the accident describing in detail their physical pain, emotions and activities they can or cannot do. This might include playing with kids, cleaning the house, doing gardening work or playing sports, etc. Such a journal helps give a detailed account of how the injuries have affected your everyday activities and quality of life.
Wrongful death: Those who have lost loved ones as the result of a DUI crash can file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault parties, seeking compensation for damages including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income, pain and suffering and loss of love and companionship.
If you have been injured in a DUI crash, there are a number of damages and losses you may have suffered. The driver will most likely face criminal charges. Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal under California Vehicle Code Section 23152. A host of other California Vehicle Code areas also refer to various DUI laws.
For example, Section 23152(b) sets the BAC limit, while a lower limit is set for commercial drivers. Drivers in California aged under 21 also have a BAC limit of 0.01%, as do those on probation with a previous DUI offense or conviction. Additionally, 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).
In addition to facing criminal charges and penalties such as jail time, probation, and hefty fines, DUI drivers can be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses they cause. This can happen through a civil lawsuit, or through criminal restitution. Read more about restitution in the next section.
DUI Victims' Bill of Rights
In California, Marsy's Law significantly expands the rights of victims in criminal cases, including those who have been injured in DUI collisions. This does not strictly relate to the civil cases handled by Bisnar Chase, but is useful information for DUI victims nonetheless. Under Marsy's Law, the California Constitution article I, § 28, section (b), victims have the following rights:
- To be treated fairly and with respect of their privacy and dignity and to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse through the criminal or juvenile justice process.
- To be reasonably protected from the defendant and those acting on behalf of the defendant.
- To have the safety of the victim and victim's family considered when it comes to fixing the amount of bail and release conditions of the defendant.
- To ensure that confidential information or records are not disclosed to the defendant, his or her attorney or anyone who is acting on behalf of the defendant.
- To refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, the defendant's attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview to which the victim consents.
- To be given reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.
- To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.
- To a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings.
The Right to Receive Restitution
All persons who suffer losses as a result of criminal actions have the right under California law to seek and obtain restitution from those convicted of the crimes causing their losses. The court orders the convicted wrongdoer to pay restitution regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed in which a crime victim suffers a loss.
The law also requires that all monetary payments and/or property collected from any person who has been ordered to make restitution is first applied to pay the amounts ordered as restitution to the victim.
Staying on Top of the DUI Investigation
You may have a strong DUI personal injury or wrongful death claim if the at-fault driver received a citation or was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after a police investigation. This puts you in the best place to negotiate the claim. There are also several other steps you would be well advised to take in order to protect your legal rights.
First and foremost, get yourself to a hospital or emergency room so you can receive prompt treatment and care. If possible, try to remain at the scene of the crash and gather evidence that will help your claim. If you smell alcohol or marijuana on the driver's breath, be sure to tell the investigating officer.
Make sure you file a police report and get a signed copy of that report for your own records. Also, ask the officer for his or her name and badge number. Try to get as much evidence as possible from the crash site including photographs and contact information for eyewitnesses. If you are injured and need to get to the hospital, ask a family member of friend to collect these crucial pieces of evidence from the accident scene.
It is also critical that you follow up on the case to see if the driver was charged and if the case went to court. If so, find out if the driver pleaded guilty or was convicted and sentenced. Your personal injury lawyer can help you gather all the court records showing the disposition of the case. This can help bolster your civil personal injury or wrongful death claim, particularly if the driver was charged and/or convicted of the crime and sentenced.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
The experienced California personal injury lawyers at Bisnar Chase have a long and successful track record of protecting the rights of victims of impaired or negligent drivers.
We offer a No Win, No Fee guarantee, and have an outstanding track record when it comes to winning maximum compensation for injury victims. We have a 99% success rate, winning more than $650 million for our clients.
If you have been injured in a DUI crash or if you have lost a loved one in a drunk driving car accident, please call us at (800) 561-4887 to find out how we can help you.