DUIs come with a heavy cost, both financially and emotionally. A car accident involving an impaired driver might leave you dealing with a serious or permanently disabling injury. Unfortunately, DUIs in the Inland Empire are more common than we’d like to think. In fact, San Bernardino has the dubious honor of ranking #1 in the nation for alcohol-related crashes. The #3 city for alcohol related crashes in the nation is Riverside, which is just 14 miles south. The city has three times more alcohol-related crashes than the national average.
If you’re a motorist in San Bernardino County, you’re more likely to encounter a drunk driver than almost anywhere else in the country. If you or a loved one incurred an injury with a drunk driver, knowing your legal options can be helpful in determining your next course of action.
DUI Civil Suits and Criminal Charges
It’s important to note that criminal proceedings and civil suits are separate entities. Even if the person who committed the DUI is facing criminal charges, you’re still free to file a civil action against this person or the party who sold him or her the alcohol. A civil lawsuit might be the best course of action to recover damages resulting from your accident.
Criminal proceedings exist to protect the public from any future harm by punishing drunk drivers for their reckless behavior. A civil case, on the other hand, helps victims of a drunk driving accident find legal recourse and compensation for lost wages, medical treatment, property damage, and intangible losses such as pain and suffering.
How Fault Plays a Role in California Civil Actions
California is a negligence state, which means you’re free to sue a drunk driver for the damages you sustain. To successfully make your case, you must prove:
- The other driver was at fault for the accident. In the context of a drunk driving accident, this is not a hard point to prove to a judge or jury.
- You sustained injuries in the accident. In other words, your injuries were not due to any other cause.
- You incurred damages as a result. Damages might include things like medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.
Keep in mind that California is a “comparative negligence” state. This means that if an insurance company or judge finds you partially at fault for an accident, any claim you receive will be lessened by your degree of fault. Say, for example, that you are seeking $200,000 in damages from a drunk driver. If you were speeding, a judge or jury might find you 10% at fault for an accident. In this scenario, your maximum award would be $180,000.
For more information on comparative negligence, view our article What if I am partially at fault for a Car Accident?
Your DUI Accident Attorneys in San Bernardino
Being involved in a drunk driving accident can be scary. You may be struggling with medical bills, worried about losing your job, or even wondering if you’ll make a full recovery. These are not burdens you should have to bear alone. Call the drunk driving accident attorneys at Estey and Bomberger, LLP. We are committed to your best interests, and we will help hold drunk drivers accountable for their actions. Contact us to schedule a free consultation! (909) 882-2016