Operating a vehicle while under alcohol or drugs in California can attract severe penalties. The injuries and damages sustained in these accidents might be devastating. In many cases, the accidents result in several deaths. However, the law allows the victims of the accidents to receive compensation for the injuries they suffer. The victims must file a lawsuit against the liable party to obtain compensation.

Determining liability after the accidents might be a complex process, especially when many drunk drivers are involved. So, you might be confused about where to start. It is recommended you seek legal help immediately from a DUI attorney. The attorney will help you know how to sue the drunk drivers, the injuries to include in your claim and the evidence you require to support your claim.

When Should I File a Lawsuit Against a Drunk Driver?

In California, you have a right to sue a lawsuit after an accident caused by a drunk driver. The liable party must compensate for the damages and injuries you suffer. According to the state’s law, every driver must have insurance cover to compensate victims after an accident. The law considers one impaired when after taking alcohol, they become unable to operate a vehicle. However, before you file a lawsuit against a drunk driver, you must prove:

  • The alleged driver was drunk and negligent.
  • Due to the driver’s negligent behavior, the alleged victim suffered injuries and property damages.

According to the law, drivers are negligent when they ignore and observe care to other road users like pedestrians. Failure to avoid causing harm to others while driving a vehicle is an example of negligence behavior.

What Your DUI Attorney will Prove in Your Case

In the case of a drunk driver, the concept will rotate on the driver’s negligence. In California, the causation of the accident must be linked with the driver’s negligence and the injuries sustained. A skilled DUI attorney is highly recommended for the best results for your case. So, your attorney must prove the following four elements:

  • Breach of Duty

In California, all commercial or private drivers are responsible for adhering to and driving their vehicle in a manner that does not place risks on other road users. However, in cases where the driver is intoxicated, the attorney may argue that intoxication is a breach of duty. Therefore, the driver will be responsible for the damages and injuries suffered.

  • Damages

Your injury attorney must prove you sustained injuries related to drunk driving. Also, your attorney must have strong evidence to prove your injuries. For example, your attorney should have medical bills and records to show the injuries you suffered.

  • Cause in Fact

Under this element, your attorney must show that the driver's intoxication caused your injuries and damages.

Therefore, when you suffer injuries due to a drunk driver, the law in California considers the act a breach of duty. However, your attorney has the critical obligation to link the injuries with the accident. So, you must seek legal help from your attorney before moving to the next step.

California DUI Laws You Want to Understand Before You File a DUI Lawsuit

California has many laws regarding drunk driving and intoxicated driving. The following are the commonly violated laws:

  • VEH 23152(a)

VEH 23152 covers the fundamental laws on driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Under VEH23152(a), operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and alcohol is a criminal offense. When intoxicated, your physical and mental ability changes making it impossible to operate a vehicle safely.

  • VEH 23152(b)

According to this law, it’s a crime for people under 21 years to operate a vehicle with a BAC above 0.08%. To determine your BAC level, the arresting officers must administer a chemical test to the alleged driver. The officers use a blood test or breathalyzer to determine your BAC level in many cases.

  • VEH 231(d)

Under this statute, it’s an offense for commercial drivers to control a vehicle with a BAC level above 0.04%. In the state, the court considers the crime BAC CDL. The law insists that commercial drivers should be held in higher regard than other drivers to ensure road safety.

  • VEH 23152(e)

Since July 2018, the statute has made it illegal for any driver to drive a vehicle with a BAC reading above 0.04% while carrying passengers. It means a limo driver or taxi driver should not drink and drive as they carry passengers.

  • VEH 23136

The statute prohibits anyone below 21 from operating a vehicle while they have a BAC reading above 0.05%. An arrest for an underage DUI comes with harsher penalties. To impose these severe penalties, the court only needs evidence of BAC reading from the defendant. Remember, California is a zero-tolerance state when handling underage drinking. So, when the police arrest your child over operating a vehicle when their BAC reading is 0.01% and above, they will face infraction charges.

Although the court will not categorize this as a DUI offense, it violates the zero-tolerance law. The court considers any lawsuit brought against a child intoxicated negligence per se. But, the court will have the critical duty to prove the alleged driver operated a vehicle while impaired, and it's their actions that resulted in the victim's injuries and damages.

  • VEH 23612(a)

After a suspicious DUI arrest in California, you must submit to the chemical tests according to the arresting officer's instruction. Failure to do so is a violation of VEH 23612(a). so, when the police arrest you over DUI driving, ensure you submit for the chemical tests. Otherwise, it will be considered negligence behavior. In a similar case, the judge will understand that you failed to submit for the test because you were intoxicated.

Federal Regulations

Like California laws, the federal government bans drunk driving for commercial drivers. Any driver with a license for a commercial vehicle is forbidden from operating the vehicle when:

  • The BAC level is above 0.04%
  • The law requires them to operate the car safely.

What Happens When I am Partially at Fault?

California is a shared fault state; many parties may be held accountable for the accident. The civil courts use comparative negligence to impose the percentage of liability to the involved parties. However, where the fault is shared, the case becomes more complex. So, you need to retain your injury attorney to help you throughout the legal process.

After the accident, the insurance company will more likely use the witness statement and the police report to determine the liability. The company can then assign the liability to multiple drivers. That's why it's essential to document the facts of the accident and include the injuries and damages sustained. This information will be critical before the insurance company can assign a higher percentage of liability.

However, comparative fault doesn’t necessarily mean you will not seek compensation for your damages. Other states may require you to bear 50% of the fault. However, the law in California will hold you partially at fault for the accident when you committed the crime as a result of intoxication. Your degree of liability in the accident will determine what awards you obtain.

The Importance of Evidence in a DUI Lawsuit

The main reason the law is strict about DUI is to discourage intoxicated and drunk driving. For the alleged driver to face conviction for the crime, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime. The law ensures the accident victims receive fair compensation for the damages and injuries suffered. However, liability must be proved. To prove liability, the prosecutor must have substantial evidence. So, when the prosecutor has insufficient evidence, this will become a big win for the defendant.

Damages Recoverable After Being Hit by A DUI Driver

Damages include property loss and injuries to your body. As the victim in a DUI case, you may be eligible for compensation for damages suffered. The economic damages can reimburse your financial losses, both past and future losses. The common injuries you can recover after a DUI accident include:

  • Economic Damages

Economic damages include medical costs and other injuries related to the accident that results from your inability to work. They have medical bills, lost wages, repair costs, psychiatrists' treatment costs, and short-term and long-term care costs. To receive compensation for the economic damages, you want to keep all receipts for a medical bill.

  • Lost Wages

Lost wages include the finances missed because of the injuries suffered. If you cannot work again due to permanent damage, you will be compensated for the amount you would have earned in your lifetime. This can help compensate for the funds you would gain from your job.

  • Medical Cost

When injured by an intoxicated driver, you want to seek compensation for the medical bills you paid. The cost includes the present and future. For instance, if you require medical attention for your lifetime, you will be compensated. The medical bill damages will cover the cost of injuries and cater for rehabilitation later.

2.Non-economic Damages

Non-economic injuries cover pain and suffering after the accident.They include:

  • Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering consider the emotional and physical injuries you face due to the accident. Pain is measured by the activities you cannot perform and medication due to the accident. People suffering from TBI, broken bones, and post-traumatic stress are compensated for pain and suffering damages.

  • Wrongful Death

Sometimes, injuries resulting from DUI may result in death. Spouses, parents, and children seek wrongful death compensation for loved ones who die in an accident. The damages are paid mostly when the victim is an income earner. The settlement covers the deceased's lost wages together with the emotional stress of their loved ones left.

  • Loss of Companionship

You may be unable to enjoy your family relationship like you used to before the injury. For instance, you are unable to be sexually intimate with your partner. Again, you may be unable to perform your household chores. You are entitled to non-economic damages since you won't enjoy your life anymore.

Can the Victim’s Family Members File a Lawsuit Against the Drunk Driver?

When the liable party injures or kills the victim, the law allows close family members of the deceased to file a lawsuit and seek compensation. The following are the common type of damages the family members can include in the lawsuit:

  • Wrongful death: the compensation should consist of funeral and burial costs
  • Lost consortium; the family will sue for the love, guidance and companionship of the victim

The main aim of these losses is to give the family of the deceased companionship and support the victim would have brought to the family members. The family, however, should work closely with a personal injury attorney. The attorney will guide the family members from the start of the legal process until they obtain the compensation they deserve.

What to Do When A Drunk Driver Hits You?

As per California law, you can sue the other driver when you are a victim of a DUI. All you need is to file a personal injury lawsuit so that the defendant can compensate you for the various damages caused. However, before filing the personal injury case, here are the steps you want to follow when hit by an intoxicated driver:

  1. Call The Police

After a collision, the first step to take is to call 911. The accident might have resulted from the driver operating the vehicle while impaired, giving you the right to receive compensation for damages. Calling the police shows the officers time to document the accident. The accident documentation is essential when filing an insurance claim against the liable party. Again, the written report will be used if the drunk driver escapes the accident scene.

  1. Take Photos and Gather Information

You want to collect relevant evidence from the scene of the accident. Take pictures of all the vehicles involved in the accident. Again, include the accident scene, damages, and the injuries suffered. Collect necessary information from the other driver, including insurance information, driver's license number and phone number.

You can also take photos of the nearest intersection and street signs. If you have suffered severe injuries and are unable to gather the Information, you can use someone else to do it for you. You also want to gather witnesses together with their phone numbers, name and a brief description of their view on the accident. In case the intoxicated driver turns wild against you, let the police interact with them and obtain the needed information.

  1. Seek Medical Attention

If you experience pain in your body after an accident, you want to seek medical care. In cases of rear-end collision, you may suffer a severe spinal injury. If left untreated or unnoticed, it may result in a disability or permanent handicap. Even when you don't feel any pain in your body, you don't assume that you are okay—soft tissues in the body manifest days after an accident. Again, when you notice changes in your moods, it may be a sign of severe brain injury, and that's why you don't want to assume you were not injured.

  1. Document The Accident

To protect yourself from liability, you want to document everything. When the officers arrive, note their names and badge numbers. You also want to ask the officers to issue you a copy of the accident report. The police report is vital to your insurance company when filing a lawsuit. You also want to include the name of the at-fault driver, the witnesses' names, and contact information.

  1. Report The Accident Claim to The Insurance Company

You should call your insurance company and inform them about the accident. They will communicate with the drunk driver's insurance company. You have to note that the insurance company cannot be at your side. The company is in its interests, and that's why you want to be cautious when making any communication with them. All you want to do is, take your time, don't admit fault, do not speculate and also don't accept the first settlement offer.

  1. Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer

When you suffer injuries following an accident, you want to seek legal representation immediately. The lawyer will preserve all the essential evidence. Again, he /she will consult you before commuting to the insurance companies. The other driver's insurance company will call you and record your statement. They will try to make you liable for the accident, either party or fully. Again, they may make it sound like you did not suffer any injuries after the accident. Your injury attorney will help you avoid falling into their pitfalls and guide you accordingly.

Contact A DUI Attorney Near Me

It’s a criminal offense to operate a vehicle in California while intoxicated. The crime comes with severe penalties. However, if you are a victim of the crime, you require compensation for the injuries you suffer. The settlement, however, can take a long process, especially in cases where multiple parties are liable for the accident. So, it's recommended that you seek legal help from a California DUI attorney.

At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we are here to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys have deep experience and understanding of California DUI laws. So, when the police arrest you in Los Angeles, CA, contact us as soon as possible. Contact us at 310-935-0089, and we will help you receive the compensation you deserve.