Over the years, accident fatalities resulting from alcohol-impaired driving has been on the rise. As a measure to reduce the deaths, the law criminalizes driving under the influence. This also presents an opportunity for victims to pursue a civil case against a drunk driver. Therefore, if the driver is found guilty, they could face criminal or civil penalties. Many have fallen victim of such carelessness and expert advocates such as TJ Smith, seek justice for these victims. Here is a look at the various legal avenues available that you may learn about in your pursuit of justice.
Criminal vs. Civil Suits
Criminal proceedings against a drunk driver are instituted as a deterrent measure. The main aim of the proceedings is protecting the public by setting an example through those convicted. The offense is criminalized with the offender facing possible jail time after a conviction.
Civil suits are injury lawsuits filed against a drunk driver by the victim of the accident, or his/her next of kin. If you fall victim to a case of alcohol-impaired driving, civil suits could be an avenue you could pursue to recover the sums used in catering for the medical bills, damaged property, lost wages, or other financial damages.
Generally, as a victim, the civil cases are what your advocate pursues and the following present some of the issues your lawyer considers in quest of winning the civil suit.
Civil Suits in the No-Fault States and the Pure Negligent States
The existence of No-fault laws in a state have a direct impact on the success of filing a civil suit. No-fault states require certain circumstances to be met for the civil suit to proceed even if you suffered injury as a result of the alcohol-impaired driving. The threshold borders between what your state defines as a serious injury or in the event that the medical bills are significant. Therefore, any damage claims revolving around minor injury and/or property damage, you will have to make a claim of the sums from your insurance company.
The circumstances in the pure negligent states are however different. Injury or property damage resulting from drunk driving are subject to an automatic civil liability. For that reason, you may be awarded the sums in the suit if you successfully prove fault on the driver’s part.
Wrongful Death Suits and Drunk Driving
Wrongful death lawsuits are filed against a drunk driver if the accident caused the death of a loved one. A duly appointed representative or the surviving parties to the deceased may file the suit on behalf of the deceased’s estate. Such a suit seeks to ensure the deceased’s family members are financially secure, a position they stand to lose owing to their loved one’s demise. If you file such a case, you stand to be awarded economic and non-economic damages. In some states, punitive damages may also be granted to the victims to serve as a punishment to the drunk driver.
Winning such cases has proven to be challenging. As with any negligence case, the common defenses are available and may be used against you as the victim, or against the deceased. Consider hiring the services of a good attorney to argue your case and better the chances of an award for your claim.