Drivers who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol are more than just irresponsible and reckless. They are committing an exceptionally unlawful and negligent act that can lead to property damage, serious injuries, and even death.
Anytime a driver decides to get drunk and get behind the wheel, they put themselves, their passengers, and others on the roadway, at risk of injury or death.
In a criminal court, a DUI conviction often results in incarceration, hefty fines, and probation. Unfortunately, these penalties fail to address any type of financial compensation for those injured in a drunk driving accident or their families for the injuries and other damages they have incurred through no fault of their own. Our California DUI injury lawyers have years of experience providing legal representation to injured drunk driving victims as well as families who lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of a driver under the influence.
We are dedicated to holding drunk drivers financially liable for their wrongdoing and negligence in civil court. If you were injured or lost a family member in a California drunk driving accident, call our law office at (213) 296-1802 to speak with our qualified California DUI accident lawyers about how to recover financial compensation through a personal injury claim. Schedule your free consultation today.
DUI Accidents in California
In California, driving with a blood-alcohol level higher than 0.08% is considered driving under the influence. State laws also dictate what the consequences will be if a driver is caught operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Even if a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration is under the legal limit, they can still be arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving. Police officers might ask them to submit to a breathalyzer or take a field sobriety test. If the driver refuses or fails the test, they will probably be detained, even if they are sober.
Many people think they will be able to sidestep a drunk driving charge if they are on a bicycle or scooter. Actually though, both scooters and bicycles are considered vehicles in California. This means that, even if you are riding a bike, excessive alcohol consumption can still get you taken into custody. This same law applies to operating a watercraft, such as a boat or jet ski, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
To be lawfully charged with driving under the influence, California drunk driving laws state that an intoxicated driver has to be operating or attempting to operate a vehicle. So, if you are sleeping in the backseat of your car, you are most likely safe from criminal charges. However, if your hands are on the steering wheel or the key is in the ignition, this could be interpreted as intent to drive.
Most DUI charges, especially those that are first offenses, are misdemeanors. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your charge, however, it is possible to be convicted of a felony offense in a criminal DUI case. This is especially true if:
- This is your fourth DUI charge in less than 10 years
- You have previously been charged with a felony DUI
California’s Definition of Drunk Driving
California law says that a driver is under the influence if they are impaired by a substance, either legal or illegal, to such a degree that it has a negative effect on their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. When it comes to driving under the influence, the state of California makes absolutely no distinction between legal and illegal drugs; if it causes you to be a dangerous driver, then you are breaking the law.
California’s DUI laws pertaining to drunk driving violations are laid out in Vehicle Code section 23152. Some of the central points include:
- It is unlawful for anyone who is under the influence of any drug, alcoholic beverage, or combination of the two to operate a motor vehicle.
- It is against the law to drive with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or more.
- The perceived intention to operate a motor vehicle while drunk or under the influence can be cause for arrest.
It is also worth mentioning that, in California, a person who is addicted to drugs may not lawfully operate a vehicle unless they are participating in a treatment program.
California’s DUI Laws for Underage and Commercial Drivers
California DUI traffic laws have added provisions and harsher blood-alcohol limits for drivers who are under 21 years of age and those who operate commercial vehicles.
Underage Drivers and Drunk Driving
Any driver who is 20 years old or younger is guilty of driving under the influence if they operate a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level higher than 0.01%. California abides by a zero-tolerance policy, making it very easy to become intoxicated by state standards by simply consuming part of a glass of wine or a beer.
DUIs For Commercial Drivers
As previously mentioned, drivers of non-commercial vehicles are beholden to a blood-alcohol limit of no more than 0.08%. For the driver of a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is a mere 0.04%. This stricter regulation is due to the immense size and weight of commercial vehicles, their proximity to the public, and their likelihood of causing car accidents.
A commercial driver in California may also experience DUI consequences if they operate their vehicle while intoxicated and a passenger for hire is also present. In other words, if a commercial driver attempts to drive while under the influence and then tries to switch places with a passenger and claims that no drunk driving offense has been committed, the driver could still be charged with DUI.
Blood-Alcohol Limit and Per Se DUI Accidents in California
As outlined in an earlier section, a driver’s blood-alcohol level plays a significant role in determining if they will be charged with a crime and face DUI consequences. Reaching the legal limit of 0.08% is known as a per se DUI.
Per se is Latin for “by or in itself”. Where the law is concerned, per se means that proof of violation is sufficient and law enforcement does not need any further evidence to make an arrest. If, for example, you were pulled over and the cop suspects you are under the influence, blowing a 0.08% on a breathalyzer is enough proof that you are in violation of the law. You can then be charged with a per se DUI.
Rights of DUI Accident Victims in California
If you are involved in a California DUI crash and an open container citation was issued to the at-fault driver or they were arrested after an investigation, you will have a solid position from which to negotiate your civil claim. Instead of relying wholly on arrests and citations, however, there are additional actions you can take to ensure that your right to seek compensation is protected after a drunk driving crash. They include:
- Tell the responding officer if you smell alcohol on the other driver or their vehicle. You can also keep an eye out for the other driver trying to get rid of beer cans, liquor bottles, etc. along the roadside before the responding officers arrive on the scene.
- If you notice the other driver applying eye drops, tell the officer. That could be enough to warrant a drug test.
- Before police are on the scene, take a good look at who was driving. It is not uncommon for a driver and passenger to trade places after a drunk driving accident.
- Always file a police report and request a copy for your records.
- Follow up on the drunk driver’s arrest and see if they were convicted or pleaded guilty. Although this information is not required for you to pursue a wrongful death or personal injury claim, knowing if the other driver was charged can go a long way toward strengthening your civil case for a DUI crash.
- Seek immediate medical care for any injuries. Not only will this help you to recover as quickly as possible but it will also create an official paper trail regarding the severity of your DUI accident injuries and the medical treatment you require. It also creates a timeline for how long your injuries or disabilities impacted your life.
- Keep all documents, invoices, medical bills, and receipts associated with your DUI accident. This includes any bills arising from emergency transportation, surgeries, hospitalization, prescription medications, rehabilitation, medical devices, etc. Additionally, keep careful track of how much work you missed and the wages you missed out on because of the injuries you sustained due to the drunk driver.
- Consult with an experienced California DUI accident attorney who is willing to fight to hold the negligent driver liable and ensure your rights are protected.
Victims’ Options Following a California Drunk Driving Accident
Anyone convicted of DUI offenses in California could potentially face some serious consequences including incarceration in county jail, steep fines, the suspension or revocation of their driver’s license, probation, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
Even though these punishments act as strong deterrents to negligent drivers, it is important for drunk driving accident victims to understand that they are not the only forms of justice available to them.
Following a drunk driving accident, most injured victims are left with serious economic, mental, and physical afflictions. The majority of DUI accident victims sustain devastating and even lifelong injuries that make it impossible for them to continue their profitable and productive day-to-day lives. California DUI victims or their surviving family members are entitled to pursue financial compensation for their damages from the DUI driver via a personal injury case.
A DUI personal injury attorney from Soliman Law Group can help you file a claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, you will ensure that you are not forced to pay for anything out of pocket after a drunk driving accident. We can negotiate a fair settlement for your injury claim. Failing that, we can take your case to trial to make sure you are justly compensated and that the drunk driver is brought to account.
What Damages Are Victims of California DUI Accidents Entitled To?
The value of your personal injury claim will depend primarily on the nature and scope of your physical injuries, the severity of any other damages you sustained, and the degree of negligence committed by the drunk driver. In California, drunk driving accident victims are entitled to pursue financial compensation for damages such as:
- Medical expenses: These include medical bills related to ambulance services, paramedic services, surgeries, medical care, medication expenses, medical devices, hospitalization, and more.
- Rehabilitation expenses: These include rehabilitative care expenses like chiropractic care and physical therapy.
- Lost wages: Drunk driving motor vehicle accident victims are eligible to collect for lost income along with any work-related benefits they lost while recovering from their DUI accident injuries.
- Future lost wages: If the victim’s injuries are catastrophic and their disabilities permanent, they may also pursue financial compensation for future lost income or loss of or diminished earning capacity.
- Pain, suffering, and inconvenience: This is compensation paid to the drunk driving accident victim for the physical pain and emotional trauma caused by the car accident.
- Loss of fellowship: In a wrongful death claim, these are damages sustained by the spouse of the deceased victim of a DUI accident.
A precedent exists in California courts that allows victims of drunk driving accidents to sue for punitive damages in DUI collisions.
Regardless of whether DUI accident victims pursue financial compensation to cover their losses or punitive damages to hold drunk drivers accountable and prevent DUI accidents, our California personal injury law firm can offer dedicated legal representation to victims of drunk driving accidents. Call our law firm today to schedule your free consultation.
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What is the Average Settlement for a California DUI Accident Victim?
Drunk driving accident settlements do not have any specific fixed rate attached to them. The value of each case varies based on multiple factors including the severity and longevity of any injuries caused by the drunk driver as well as numerous other costs associated with other damages, such as medical expenses and lost earnings. DUI accident cases can be valued at anywhere between a couple of thousand dollars to seven-figure payouts based on the circumstances of the individual incident.
How Long Does a California DUI Accident Claim Take to Settle?
A drunk driving accident claim usually takes anywhere between a few months to a couple of years to settle. Depending on how complicated the injury claim is and whether it requires expert witnesses, eyewitness testimony, depositions, and several other factors will all play a role in how long it takes to resolve a particular case. Our law firm has years of experience handling DUI accidents. We will stay on top of the insurance company and will keep you informed of everything that is going on.
California Drunk Driving Crashes and Wrongful Death
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that drunk driving accidents lead to roughly 10,000 fatalities and about 500,000 injured victims every year in the United States.
The victims of fatal DUI crashes are usually not the drunk driver. An overwhelming percentage of fatally injured victims are the occupants of the other vehicle, passengers in the car driven by the intoxicated driver and innocent pedestrians. Drunk driving collisions commonly result in multiple catastrophic injuries and can even claim multiple lives.
In the event that a DUI collision results in a fatality, the deceased victim’s surviving family members are eligible to file a claim of wrongful death pursuing financial compensation for damages including medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, lost future earnings and benefits, pain, suffering, and mental anguish.
It is important to keep in mind that the offending driver may face criminal charges such as murder or vehicular manslaughter. Even though a criminal case can lead to penalties including restitution and jail time, it still does nothing to monetarily compensate the surviving family members of the drunk driving accident victim.
A wrongful death claim is a civil case filed against a drunk driver. It has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of any related criminal trial. The burden of proof in a civil claim is a preponderance of evidence which is a much lower threshold than the burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt” carried by a criminal case. The plaintiff will have to prove that the drunk driver violated the duty of care they owed to the deceased and that this violation was the direct cause of the death.
Reach out to our California wrongful death law firm to schedule your free case evaluation with an experienced injury lawyer.
Support for the Families of California DUI Victims
Friends and surviving family members of DUI crash victims can feel the effects of a car accident well into the future. It is not uncommon for DUI car accident victims and their families to need support in different ways after a fatal crash. Those who survive a DUI car accident are often forced to deal with more than excruciating physical pain; they have to deal with serious psychological trauma as well.
Many victims are faced with mental issues like chronic depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias. The costs of receiving the physical and emotional care that DUI victims need after a car accident can run into the thousands, taking an additional financial and emotional toll.
The not-for-profit organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving provides accident victims from all over the country with multiple resources. They have over 1,200 victim advocates throughout the United States and are usually able to offer support and assistance to victims and families 24 hours a day. Those support services include:
- Emotional support, such as grief counseling if the DUI accident caused a fatality.
- Guidance on the civil and criminal legal processes.
- Support during legal proceedings.
- Assistance preparing a victim impact statement.
- Support groups where victims are able to meet other people who have endured a similar experience.
There are also numerous groups across various social media platforms, especially Facebook, for survivors and other victims of intoxicated drivers.
Some resources for additional information are:
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving Southern California Chapter: https://www.madd.org/southern-california/
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (Orange County Chapter): namioc.org
- National Center for Victims of Crime: ncvc.org
- California Attorney General’s Victims’ Services Unit: https://oag.ca.gov/victimservices
- Students Against Destructive Decisions: sadd.org
- National Organization for Victim Assistance: trynova.org
New Technology to Prevent DUI Accidents
A bill that was signed in 2021 will ultimately require all motor vehicle manufacturers to outfit every make and model of car they produce with technology that prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver is intoxicated.
These new technologies include sensors and cameras outside the vehicle that oversee a driver’s performance, sensors and cameras inside the vehicle that detect the position of the driver’s eyes and head, and alcohol sensors that are able to determine if a driver is under the influence and, if so, prevent the car from moving.
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People who choose to get behind the wheel after they have been drinking are much more likely to cause serious car accidents than drivers who are sober. Due to their delayed reaction times, and their impaired depth perception and judgment, accidents involving drivers who are under the influence are almost always more severe and cause more catastrophic injuries and fatalities than other types of car accidents. At Soliman Law Group, we have no compassion for anyone who is negligent enough to drink and drive.
If you were injured or lost a member of your family in an accident caused by a drunk driver, we will do everything in our power to hold them liable and ensure you get the financial compensation you need and deserve for your hospital bills, lost income, pain, and suffering. Call our California DUI injury lawyers today at (213) 296-1802 or fill out the contact form on our website.