Getting behind the wheel while under the influence is never a good decision. Even if you think you haven’t consumed enough to hinder your driving ability, it is always better to play it safe and get a ride home from someone who hasn’t been drinking. Taking these precautions will help to keep you and those around you much safer during a night out. Being precautionary will also prevent you from having to deal with an unnecessary DWI charge. Individuals who receive DWI charges are not only subject to criminal proceedings but also to civil suits. While we always recommend avoiding putting yourself in such a situation, we are also here to help you navigate these difficult legal proceedings should you ever find yourself being charged with a DWI. Here we will cover the difference between criminal and civil proceedings and how to best navigate being sued for DWI.
Civil Suits vs. Criminal Proceedings
If you were involved in a car accident while under the influence, you will be subjected to both criminal proceedings and civil suits. As a drunk driver who caused a car accident, you will likely be charged with a DWI. This is part of the criminal proceeding that comes with driving under the influence. The purpose of criminal proceedings is to protect the public from future harm caused by drunk drivers. Even if no accident or injury occurs, criminal proceedings can still take place. Along with criminal proceedings, civil suits can arise if someone is injured or killed because of a drunk driver.
If someone does get hurt or killed in a DWI-related accident, the driver can be charged and sued for DWI with injury. The victim, or in the case of fatality, the victim’s next of kin can file a civil case in the form of an injury lawsuit. Victims can sue to recover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, damaged property, or other economic damages that occurred as a result of a drunk driver.
The Basics of Criminal Proceedings:
- Receiving a DWI Charge
- Facing jail time
- Having to pay fines
- Attend mandatory DWI recovery programs
- Charges are brought against the defendant by the state
The Basics of Civil Suits:
- Being sued by a victim who suffered injury or property damage
- Having to provide the victim with financial compensation for compensatory damages like lost wages, medical care expenses, property damage, or other associated costs.
- Having to provide the victim with financial compensation for punitive damages, which is additional compensation intended to punish the defendant deemed liable for reckless behavior
- Charges are brought against the defendant by their victims
Navigating a DWI Injury Lawsuit
Having to navigate being sued for DWI can be a difficult situation. Therefore, as soon as you have been served with a personal injury lawsuit, it is best to contact an experienced attorney to receive proper representation in a court of law. Anyone injured by a drunk driver has the right to sue. This includes passengers of the drunk driver, other motorists, or pedestrians.
When it comes to injured passengers, they will need to prove their injuries occurred as a result of the drunk driver’s negligence. In most situations, injured passengers can prove negligence through four elements:
- That the drunk driver owed a “duty of care” to the passenger.
- That the driver breached their duty.
- That they were injured or harmed in some way.
- That the drunk driver’s breach was a cause of the injury or harm, they endured.
If a judge sides in favor of the plaintiff, the drunk driver, also known as the defendant, will be responsible for providing compensation to the injured individuals. The good news is that your car insurance company will most likely cover any compensatory damages owed to the injured party through your liability insurance policy. However, if the court also awards punitive damages to the injured party, you will likely be faced with having to pay for those particular damages out of your own pocket.
Overall, it will be in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney in order to reach the best-case scenario for your case. Some lawsuits are resolved within a few short months, while others can take several years to reach a conclusion. Therefore, it is best to connect a specialized car accident lawyer as soon as you find out you are being sued for DWI.
Consult with an Experienced DWI Attorney Today
Navigating the aftermath of a DWI charge is not a process to embark on alone. Consulting with an experienced attorney will make this journey much easier to go through. Contact us today to discuss the next steps for your DWI case. We look forward to working with you and helping you reach the best possible outcome.