Seeking Compensation For Victims Injured By Drunk Drivers
Drinking and driving is an ongoing public safety issue across the nation. Unfortunately, many drivers choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence and innocent people are injured and killed as a result. Each year, approximately 10,000 people are killed in alcohol-related crashes in the United States. Those who survive a drunk-driving accident can end up with devastating or permanent injuries.
If you’ve been seriously injured or lost someone you love to the negligent actions of a drunk driver, contact the attorneys at Woods Williford, P.C., today. With decades of combined experience and four convenient office locations, we serve clients throughout California.
The Sobering Statistics About The Problem Of Drunk Driving
Every day we share the roads with drivers who are operating their vehicle while under the influence. According to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), there are 300,000 intoxicated drivers on the road each day. However, only around 3,200 people are actually arrested for DUI. Unfortunately, much of the time, a driver who is arrested for driving while intoxicated has driven drunk many times before. MADD estimates that “the average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before a first arrest.” In addition, according to the NHTSA, “about one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.”
And even though a person convicted of a DUI may have a suspended license, that person may still drive regardless of whether or not they have permission to do so. MADD reported on one study that found that “50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.” This is one of the reasons that the organization is pushing states to require ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders, not just those with a certain BAC level or with multiple DUI’s.
You Can Pursue Compensation From A Negligent Drunk Driver
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that the risk of a fatal crash increases the greater the driver’s blood alcohol content. If you or your loved has been injured by a drunk driver, you may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against that person in order to recover damages. In order for a plaintiff to hold an intoxicated driver liable for the injuries that the driver caused, the plaintiff has to show that the driver was negligent. Negligence is the “failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary 1133 (9th ed. 2009). To prove that a person is negligent, the plaintiff must prove certain elements.
In California, these elements, according to J.P. v. City of Porterville, 801 F. Supp. 2d 965, 990 (E.D. Cal. 2011) are:
- The legal duty to exercise due care
- A breach of that duty
- Showing causation
If a plaintiff can prove all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, then the plaintiff may be able to recover damages from the person who caused the injuries.
Understanding Available Damages In Your Case
The compensation that you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit is categorized as either economic damages, noneconomic damages or punitive damages. What damages are available in a case will depend on the applicable law, as well as the facts and circumstances of the particular case. These include:
- Economic damages: Economic damages are defined as “objectively verifiable monetary losses including medical expenses, loss of earnings, burial costs, loss of use of property, costs of repair or replacement, costs of obtaining substitute domestic services, loss of employment and loss of business or employment opportunities.” Cal. Civ. Code § 1431.2(b)(1).
- Noneconomic damages: Noneconomic damages are defined as “subjective, nonmonetary losses including, but not limited to, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental suffering, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation and humiliation.” Cal. Civ. Code § 1431.2(b)(2).
- Punitive damages: Unlike economic and noneconomic damages, which are meant to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries, punitive damages have a different purpose. This type of damages is meant to punish the defendant for past reprehensible conduct and deter any similar conduct in the future.
In order to recover punitive damages in California, the plaintiff must meet a different burden of proof when seeking economic or noneconomic damages. A plaintiff must prove that a defendant was liable by a preponderance of the evidence to recover economic or noneconomic damages.
Punitive damages require a higher standard of proof. To recover this type of compensation, a plaintiff must prove “by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice.” Cal. Civ. Code § 3294(a). If the defendant’s conduct was so egregious that it meets this heightened standard, then punitive damages may be appropriate.
However, there are some instances where punitive damages are not available. In many states, California included, punitive damages are not available in a wrongful death action. However, there is an exception to this rule for the family of the decedent, if the decedent was killed as a result of felony murder and the person who killed them was convicted of the crime, as per Code Civ. Pro. § 3294(d).
Contact Us For A Free Discussion Of Your Legal Options
If you have been injured or your loved one was killed because of a drunk driver, please do not hesitate to contact Woods Williford, P.C.. We truly care about the clients we represent and are dedicated to helping our clients recover just compensation for the injuries they have sustained.