Accidents involving a drunk driver are often more serious than others.
Unfortunately, victims often sustain debilitating injuries and trauma that require years of treatment.
If this happens to you or a loved one, you need a drunk driving accident lawyer in Los Angeles with extensive experience.
At Weinberg Law Offices, we understand what’s at stake for our clients and work tirelessly for their recovery.
How California Defines DUI
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, it’s illegal for someone to operate a vehicle if they have a:
- BAC of 0.08% or higher if 21 years old or older,
- BAC of 0.01% or higher if under 21 years old or on DUI probation,
- BAC of 0.04% or higher if operating a vehicle requiring a CDL, or
- BAC of 0.04% or higher if transporting a passenger for hire.
In any of these scenarios, the driver may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Difference Between a Civil and Criminal DUI Case
When it comes to DUI, there are two proceedings that occur related to the accident: civil and criminal. While both cases overlap each other, the purpose of each is entirely different.
In a criminal drunk driving case, the arresting officer has reasonable suspicion that the defendant broke the law.
This may include signs of drinking over the legal limit defined in California law, such as a BAC of 0.08 or higher or a failed field sobriety test.
This case aims to prove that the defendant committed a crime and exact the punishments and penalties associated with that crime. Typically, this is a fine, jail time, suspension of the defendant’s license, or a combination of the three.
A civil drunk driving case is different. Instead of trying to prove that the defendant committed a crime, the plaintiff—which in the case of a civil suit is not the state but usually an individual—must show that the defendant’s actions led to their injury.
In other words, plaintiffs seek compensation for their damages through a civil case rather than a conviction. Another difference is that in criminal cases, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s illegal actions beyond a reasonable doubt.
In civil DUI cases, the burden of proof is much lower and is based on the preponderance of the evidence.
Potential Damages in DUI Accidents
Two broad categories of damages apply to a drunk driving accident in Los Angeles.
The first, compensatory damages, includes both economic and non-economic losses, which make up the bulk of the case.
The second, punitive damages, is its own category and applies only in certain circumstances. Here’s an overview of each damage type and how they’re calculated.
All civil DUI accident cases start with financial losses attributed to the crash. Known as economic damages, these losses are the pillar of most claims.
Essentially, they include any past and future financial losses the plaintiff incurs due to their injuries.
Some examples of these losses include:
- Current and future medical expenses,
- Property or vehicle repairs/replacements,
- Lost wages during recovery, and
- Reduced earning capacity.
While tedious, these damages are relatively easy to calculate. Your drunk driving accident attorney in Los Angeles may add all of your receipts, bills, and quotes to get a better picture of your current losses.
To help determine future losses, they may consult experts, such as medical providers.
Not all losses in an accident are tangible. Some have far-reaching consequences that are emotional or physical, such as trauma or chronic pain.
These losses are referred to as non-economic damages and typically include the following:
- Mental anguish,
- Reduced quality of life,
- Permanent disability,
- Severe disfigurement,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Loss of consortium.
Drunk driving accident lawyers have different methods for calculating these losses. Some multiply the total economic damages by a whole number, while others determine a per-day cost to the victim.
Ideally, the attorney chooses a calculation that matches your specific situation. For example, if you are expected to recover for the most part, they may use the per-day method.
However, if your injuries are long-term or permanent, they might utilize a multiplier.
Although rare, punitive damages are sometimes included in a DUI accident case. Instead of reimbursing the victim for a specific loss, courts award punitive damages to punish the defendant.
Punitive damages would come into play only if the at-fault driver acted intentionally or with wanton disregard for the safety of others.
One scenario where a court may award punitive damages is if the defendant is a repeat offender. However, since every case is unique, we encourage you to consult with your drunk driving accident lawyer in Los Angeles.
Can a Business Be Held Responsible for Serving the Negligent Party Too Much Alcohol?
Generally, no. The dram shop law in California states that bars, restaurants, etc., that serve the defendant before the accident are not liable.
However, there is one exception to this rule in section 1714(d) of the California Civil Code. Under this subsection, the plaintiff may make a claim against any adult who knowingly gives alcohol to a defendant under the age of 21.
Ultimately, dram shops aren’t responsible for the defendant’s actions unless they knowingly served an underage person.
How Long You Have to File a Lawsuit
Much like other personal injury cases, drunk driving accidents have a legal statute of limitations. This time limit bars the plaintiff from bringing a lawsuit after a specific amount of time.
According to section 335.1 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, victims of DUI accidents must file their lawsuit within two years of the date of the crash. If a victim doesn’t file within the time limit, they forfeit their right to file.
Despite such a tight deadline, there are a few exceptions, depending on the situation.
For example, if the plaintiff is under the age of 18 or mentally disabled at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations is paused until they:
- Reach the age of majority (which is 18 years of age) or
- Have the mental ability to make legal decisions.
Another exception occurs if the defendant leaves the state of California before the plaintiff files the lawsuit. In this case, the clock doesn’t start until the defendant returns to the state.
If you believe any of these exceptions apply to you, consult with our experienced drunk driving accident lawyer in Los Angeles.
The DUI Car Accident Lawyers at Weinberg Law Offices Are Here for You
When you receive an injury in a drunk driving accident, you may have many questions. Unfortunately, the driver responsible usually has a complete disregard for your wellbeing.
At Weinberg Law Offices, our drunk driving accident lawyer in Los Angeles will work tirelessly to hold them accountable.
Disclaimer: This content should not be construed as legal advice.