An American dies in a DUI accident every 45 minutes. This makes sense when you consider that even a .05 blood alcohol concentration lowers coordination, reduces your ability to track moving objects, and creates difficulty with steering and responding to surroundings.
If you recently were involved in a drunk driving accident, understanding the consequences of a DUI for both parties is critical. Read on to learn some possible outcomes, what you can expect after being hit by a drunk driver, and how you can get fair compensation.
California DUI Accident Penalties
California law dictates that no one with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above should operate a motor vehicle. At this point of inebriation, a driver will:
- Be unable to concentrate
- Have significantly impaired coordination skills and reaction times
- Experience short-term memory loss
- Lose information processing capabilities (such as signal detection and visual cues from lights and signs)
- Be unable to perceive obstacles and hazards on the road, including other cars
However, even if someone does not experience all of these symptoms, it is still illegal for them to drive. If they are caught operating a vehicle anyway, their penalty will depend on the consequences of the accident.
If no one is injured and there is no considerable vehicle damage, a drunk driver will only be charged with a DUI. A first-time driver can expect 2 days to 6 months in prison if there are no other issues.
Minor injuries mean that the driver will get a minimum 5-day prison sentence and lose their driver’s license for one year in addition to standard DUI punishments. They would also need to pay compensation to the injured party.
They also will need to pay the victim for damages sustained through their insurance company.
Drivers who have pre-existing DUIs also will face higher penalties than first-time offenders. This applies both to civil charges and to license suspension. First suspensions in California are only about four months while all subsequent offenses within 10 years will result in a yearlong suspension.
Criminal Charges and DUIs
If the DUI results in serious injury or death, the driver may be charged with “aggravated DUI” in California. This generally carries a 6-month prison sentence and a $1000 fine, though the sentence can vary based on other factors. Those who have multiple offenses may go to prison for longer periods, may have to pay higher fines, and may lose their licenses.
However, they also may face additional criminal charges in addition to an aggravated DUI.
Some drivers who seriously injure someone while driving drunk will face vehicular assault charges. If someone dies due to the accident, they may also face vehicular manslaughter accusations.
These charges almost always carry heavy jail sentences and even heavier fines. However, the exact charges will depend on the specific situation, the severity of the injuries, and how inebriated the driver was.
What Are Damages?
“Damages” are financial compensation that a victim gets after sustaining an injury or property damage. This compensation can cover financial and personal losses after a DUI accident. Some losses that an attorney can help you recover after a car crash include:
- The cost of medical bills to treat injuries you sustained
- Money to make up for lost wages after an injury
- Temporary or permanent disability compensation
- The bills you paid to fix your car (or any other property that the intoxicated driver damaged)
- Pain and suffering compensation for mental and physical anguish resulting from the injury
These are some of the most common examples, but a lawyer can help you figure out if there are other types of compensation available.
Driver insurance policies do cover those who were involved in a DUI accident. This means that someone who gets behind the wheel while drunk or high still can get coverage from their insurance policy. This includes damage to their vehicle as well as the victim’s property.
This is especially important because California is an at-fault state. This means that the state will not pay either drivers or victims in the event of an accident. Damages will come from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Consequences of a DUI for Victims
DUI accidents are not one-size-fits-all, and the impact on the victim can vary based on the situation. In any scenario, however, the victim has the right to get due financial compensation after a crash.
In the worst cases, the person hit by the drunk driver will sustain serious or fatal injuries. This could lead to a serious injury or wrongful death case.
In some cases, minor or moderate injuries may be sustained. These victims are entitled to damages for money lost due to the accident. They also may be entitled to pain and suffering damages.
Many DUIs result in vehicle/property damage but no injuries. In these scenarios, the victim can get compensation for the money it costs to fix or replace the property.
Victims can almost always recover damages even when they face only minor consequences.
In many cases, a DUI accident will be 100% the inebriated driver’s fault because they were intoxicated. However, it’s important to note that California is a partial liability state.
This means that a drunk driver can be responsible for 90% of the accident while a victim is 10% at fault (for an illegal turn, running a stop sign, etc). If the victim was driving an unregistered vehicle or speeding, the fault may be 60% on the drunk driver and 40% on the victim.
Victims with a lower percentage of fault can recover more damages than victims with a higher fault level.
How Can You Recover Damages After a Car Crash?
Recovering damages to cover the consequences of a DUI crash is a worthwhile process. To begin, you must hire a lawyer that specializes in auto accident law. Choosing someone with specialized knowledge means better results because they’ll better understand the ins and outs of your case.
An attorney will first listen to you talk about the accident and look at the information you gathered at the accident site. Some of this information may include:
- Information about the other driver and their vehicle
- Photos of any property damage
- Photos of your injuries
- Photos, drawings, and diagrams of the accident site
- Documentation of fault
- Copies of the police report you filed
- Your medical bills
- Reports of wages you lost post-injury
They’ll then gather other evidence, including:
- Surveillance footage from any nearby cameras
- Photos taken by authorities and third parties
- Eyewitness accounts of the accident
They may also go to the scene of the accident to try to recreate and reconstruct what happened. This will give your auto accident attorney a better understanding of your case.
Determining Fault and Compensation
Once they assess all available evidence, your attorney will determine what percentage of fault the inebriated driver bears. This will be an especially easy process if they have committed other offenses alongside the DUI. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many factors contributing to the partial fault.
This knowledge will then help them ascertain what constitutes fair compensation. They’ll figure out how much you can get in the best-case scenario. They’ll then determine a range for a “good” settlement and work toward getting you compensation within that ballpark.
The Settlement Process
The settlement process takes place when your car crash lawyer negotiates with the DUI perpetrator’s insurance company. The insurance company will want to pay as little as possible so they don’t lose money. Your attorney’s job is to get them to give you as much compensation as possible.
They know how to negotiate with insurance companies and have extensive experience in doing so. They know all the ways that the agent may try to trip them up and how to avoid pitfalls that could lose you money. This, and the fact that a lawyer has likely worked with the same agents multiple times, is a critical reason that you should not try to negotiate alone.
Throughout the process, you will get various offers. Don’t take the first ones- they’re likely going to be much lower than you’re due. Listen to the counsel of your attorney and accept the offer that they deem reasonable.
Get Your Due Compensation With Legal Assistance
Now that you know some common consequences of a DUI accident, it’s time to begin legal proceedings that will get you fair compensation after a crash. At Sweet Lawyers, our team is committed to helping you reach a settlement to cover your expenses and get your life back on track.
With a 98% success rate and 100% contingency-based fees, we aim to make the process of getting due funds as simple and stress-free as possible. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.