Drunk driving is a leading cause of car accidents in California and throughout the United States. Many times, drunk driving accidents cause serious, even fatal injuries to other motorists and their passengers, including passengers riding in the car with the drunk driver.
Like all other states, California has strict laws against drinking and driving, and those who drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs can face harsh legal consequences. Along with criminal penalties, drunk drivers can also face civil actions from those they hurt or from the family members of those they killed in a drunk driving accident they caused.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident in California, you may hold the other party accountable whether they received criminal charges or not. However, to support your claim, you need to know what evidence to collect and how to obtain it to show the driver was driving under the influence and that their wrongdoing caused the accident and your injuries.
For help, you need to contact an experienced drunk-driving car accident lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can thoroughly investigate your case and help you gather the evidence you will need to establish the other driver’s liability and get the compensation you deserve.
California’s Drunk Driving Laws
California law recognizes several scenarios where drivers can face criminal charges for operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs:
- Drivers over 21 years old can face DUI charges if their blood or breath alcohol content (BAC) registers 0.08 percent or higher.
- Drivers under 21 can face charges if their BAC is 0.01 percent or more.
- Drivers of any age can receive charges if they are currently on DUI probation and have a BAC of 0.01 percent.
- Commercial drivers with CDLs can face charges if their BAC is 0.04 percent or higher
- Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare drivers can face DUI charges if their BAC is 0.04 percent or more.
Drivers can still face DUI charges even if their BAC is below 0.08 percent in some cases, and any driver can face charges if they refuse to submit to a blood or urine test to check for drug or alcohol impairment.
Also, anyone 13 to 20 years old who received a conviction for riding a bicycle under the influence may receive a suspension of their driving privileges or delays in getting a driver’s license once they reach legal driving age.
The Burden of Proof in California Drunk Driving Accidents
If you are seeking monetary damages from the drunk driver who injured you or killed a close family member, you and your legal counsel have the sole burden of proof to establish the driver was legally intoxicated at the time.
For your case to have merit, you will have to establish:
- The at-fault driver acted negligently, recklessly, or carelessly by operating their motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- The driver’s negligence or wrongful actions caused the accident.
- You suffered at least one injury.
- Your injury was the direct result of the accident.
In some cases, the defendant’s guilt of driving while impaired is clear because they received a citation or were arrested for DUI. In those cases, their insurer may accept the claim and admit fault for the accident.
In other cases, their liability is not so clear. An experienced California drunk driving accident attorney can gather all the evidence needed to prove the other driver was driving impaired when they caused the crash and are therefore liable for your injuries.
What Evidence Do I Need for a Drunk Driving Accident Injury Claim?
To establish liability, your attorney will have to collect various pieces of evidence that can include:
Official police reports of the accident are vital to any motor vehicle accident claim, but especially so for DUI-related accidents. The police report will contain critical details about the accident, including whether the other driver appeared intoxicated at the time of the crash.
Your lawyer may also subpoena the officer to testify about the information they included in their reports and ask them questions as to whether they smelled alcohol on the other driver’s breath or had other indications the driver was impaired. The report will also state whether the officer issued a citation or arrested the driver for alleged DUI.
Police Body Cameras
Most California police officers wear body cameras that record their activities while they are on duty. Police departments typically don’t like to hand over officer body cam footage voluntarily, but your lawyer can subpoena the police body cam footage to obtain important evidence. Body cam footage can show how the accident occurred, the officer’s interactions with the other driver, and other key areas that corroborate your version of events.
Traffic and Surveillance Video Footage
Many intersections in California’s major cities have traffic cameras installed, and numerous businesses throughout the state have surveillance cameras operating 24/7. If your lawyer believes any of these cameras recorded the accident, they can subpoena traffic authorities and store owners for their video footage of the crash. This can establish exactly how the crash happened and hold the other driver responsible.
Your lawyer may also send a spoliation letter to businesses with surveillance cameras located close to the accident scene. The letter will demand they do not erase or tape over any of the recorded video footage or otherwise damage or destroy any material evidence regarding the crash.
If anyone witnessed the accident, your lawyer could speak with them and obtain their version of what happened. A witness may be able to tell how fast the other driver was going, how they were behaving behind the wheel, and how they caused the accident that injured you.
Eyewitness testimony can be powerful evidence to prove the other driver’s liability, and your attorney can subpoena any witnesses to testify in court if necessary.
Common Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Victims of drunk driving accidents can suffer a wide range of injuries, some of which can be very serious and life-threatening. The severity of injuries depends on the force of the impact and the victim’s body movements during the crash, along with other factors.
Drunk drivers tend to cause severe accidents because they are speeding or traveling at highway speeds, or because they do not attempt to stop or take evasive action prior to the crash. As a result, victims can suffer catastrophic injuries that lead to extensive hospitalization, permanent disabilities, or death.
Some common drunk driving accident injuries include:
- Head injuries and traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones and crushing injuries
- Rib fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Soft tissue damage
- Severe burns
If you suffered any serious injuries in an accident a drunk driver caused, you should first seek immediate medical care. Even if you did not suffer injuries that required emergency medical treatment in the crash, you should still get a prompt medical evaluation to determine whether you suffered injuries that may manifest later.
If you do not get medical attention following a drunk driving accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may claim you were not injured in the accident or that your injuries were not that serious.
Apart from ensuring your own health and well-being, you will need a documented record of your injury and the treatment you received to file a drunk accident injury claim. Your lawyer will use this as evidence of the medical damages you seek.
What Kinds of Compensation Can I Receive for My Drunk Driving Accident Injuries?
You suffered a lot because of someone else’s bad choice to drive while intoxicated, and you deserve to get compensation to cover all your expenses associated with your injuries and losses.
Some common forms of compensation you can receive for a California drunk driving injury claim include:
- Medical expenses
- Therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent disability
- Loss of a body part
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship or consortium
You may recover other forms of compensation as well depending on your case. Your lawyer can determine the compensation you can pursue and provide a realistic opinion of how much you can get. They will also know how to negotiate with the insurance company to help you get the maximum amount possible.
Additionally, drunk driving accident injury claims may result in punitive damages against the at-fault driver. As the name implies, punitive damages punish a wrongdoer and send a message to others not to engage in similar behavior. Courts may award punitive damages in cases where a defendant’s unlawful actions caused someone else harm.
Another scenario of when you may need to take your drunk driving accident case to trial is if the insurance policy limits won’t cover all your expenses, or if the insurer acts in bad faith regarding your claim.
Your attorney can advise you on whether they think you should take your case to trial, and they can present a compelling case on your behalf to sway the court’s decision in your favor.
How Long Do I Have to File a Drunk Driving Accident Lawsuit?
California allows you two years from your injuries to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in court. If you did not discover your injury until some time later, you have one year from when you discovered your injury. The statute of limitations is the same for wrongful death if the drunk driving accident killed a close family member.
Some exceptions can extend the time you have to file, such as if you were in a hit-and-run accident and authorities can’t locate the driver.
Regardless, you have no time to waste in contacting a California drunk driving accident attorney and initiating your claim.
Contact an Experienced California Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Immediately
You shouldn’t bear the costs of your medical expenses and other losses because of someone else’s selfish and unlawful actions. You also need to hold the other driver responsible for their wrongdoing and the pain and suffering they caused you and your family.
An experienced California personal injury attorney from the Law Offices of Mickey Fine can gather the necessary evidence for you to prove the at-fault driver is liable for your injuries and fight to protect your rights and best interests.
Contact us today at (661) 333-3333 for a free consultation concerning your drunk driving accident case so we can help you get the full compensation you deserve.