California Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
The consequences of California drunk driving accidents can be devastating for victims and their families. If you need help, you can contact a local California drunk driving accident attorney for free 24/7.
California drunk driving accidents should not happen. There is no excuse—none—for someone getting drunk and then getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, many people make the poor decision to drive drunk, and they often do so with devastating consequences. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one, you should speak with a local California drunk driving accident lawyer about your legal rights.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28 people die every day in California drunk driving accidents in the United States. This is a startling statistic. Far more drivers and passengers suffer non-fatal injuries, and many of these victims experience negative effects for the rest of their lives.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a collision caused by an impaired driver, a California drunk driving accident lawyer can help you seek just compensation. Keep reading to learn more, then schedule a free consultation with a local attorney.
- What are Your Legal Rights After a California Drunk Driving Accident?
- How Do You Seek Just Compensation for a California Drunk Driving Accident?
- Injured or Lost a Loved One in a Drunk Driving Accident in California? You Deserve Justice
- Multiple Parties Could Be Liable for Your (or Your Loved One’s) Drunk Driving Accident
- A Criminal DUI Case Will Not Result in Financial Compensation for Your Family
- How Do California’s DUI Laws Affect Your Rights After a Drunk Driving Accident?
- Understanding California’s Statute of Limitations for Drunk Driving Accident Cases
- Are You Entitled to Punitive Damages for Your (or Your Loved One’s) Drunk Driving Accident in California?
- 5 Important Ways to Protect Your Legal Rights After a California Drunk Driving Accident
- Seeking Financial Compensation for a Fatal Drunk Driving Accident in California
- FAQs: Working with a California Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
- You Can Hire a California Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer at No Out-of-Pocket Cost
Victims and families of victims have the legal right to receive just compensation after California drunk driving accidents. When a drunk driver causes an accident, the drunk driver is legally responsible, and his or her insurance company has to pay.
In many cases, drunk driving victims and families of victims will have other legal rights as well. For example, in many states, victims and families can hold bars, restaurants, and even social hosts legally responsible for serving individuals who are too drunk to drive. If a drunk driver is on the clock at the time he or she causes a crash, then the drunk driver’s employer could also be legally responsible.
Regardless of what company ultimately has to pay, you and your family have the same right to just compensation. In non-fatal California drunk driving accident cases, victims can recover financial compensation for their:
- Medical bills
- Other out-of-pocket costs (i.e. repair bills, prescriptions, and vehicle and home modifications)
- Loss of income and benefits
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Pain, suffering, and emotional trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Post-traumatic stress
- Loss of companionship, consortium, society, and enjoyment of life
Fatal California drunk driving accident cases are a little bit different. Here, there is more variation between states with regard to what constitutes “just compensation” for aggrieved family members. A local California drunk driving accident attorney will be able to clearly explain your family’s legal rights and seek the maximum compensation available on your family’s behalf. Generally speaking, the types of financial compensation that are available in fatal California drunk driving accident cases include:
- Medical bills (for any treatment rendered prior to their loved one’s death)
- Compensation for their loved one’s pain and suffering prior to death
- Funeral, burial, and cremation costs
- Loss of their loved one’s future earnings
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of companionship, consortium, services, society, and support
Again, each state’s laws are different, and you will need to work with a California drunk driving accident attorney who knows the law in your state. Whether you need a lawyer for California drunk driving victims or a lawyer for victims in any other state, you can get the legal help you need through CarAccidentSource.com.
In order to seek just compensation for a California drunk driving accident, there are several steps you will need to take as soon as possible. While the statute of limitations for California drunk driving accident claims is at least a couple of years in most states, it is extremely important that you not wait any longer than necessary. Following a serious, non-fatal California drunk driving accident, you should:
1. Seek Medical Treatment
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you need to see a doctor right away. Tell your doctor what happened, and explain your symptoms to the best of your ability. This will be important to your claim for financial compensation (in addition to being important for your health), and if you wait to seek treatment this could make it more difficult to prove how you got injured.
2. Gather Everything You Have about the Accident
Once you are stable, you should gather everything you have about the accident. This includes any information you were able to collect at the scene, any photos or videos you were able to take with your phone, and any records you have from your trip to the doctor’s office or the hospital. You should also sit down and take 15 minutes to write out everything you can remember from before and after the collision.
3. Contact a Local Lawyer for a Free Consultation
In order to collect just compensation, you will need experienced legal representation. You will also need a legal practitioner to conduct an investigation and gather any additional evidence that may be available. It costs nothing out-of-pocket to hire a lawyer, and an experienced lawyer can help make sure you don’t settle for less than you deserve.
If you have lost a loved one in collision involving a drunk driver, you should contact a California drunk driving accident attorney right away. You can get started with a free consultation online 24/7.
If you are facing the consequences of someone else’s decision to get drunk and then get behind the wheel, you deserve justice. Under no circumstances is it acceptable or excusable to drink and drive. While serious and fatal drunk driving accidents have declined over the past few decades, these accidents are still far too common, and it only takes one mistake to change, or end, someone else’s life.
As the victim of a drunk driving accident in California (or as the family member of a victim), you are not alone. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), more than 10% of all fatal drunk driving accidents in the United States occur in California. FAAR’s data also indicate that California has disproportionately high rates of:
- Fatal drunk driving accidents involving drivers under age 21
- Fatal drunk driving accidents involving repeat offenders with a BAC above 0.15%
- Drunk drivers under the age of 18
- Total drunk driving (DUI) arrests
So, let’s say you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a DUI accident. How do you obtain the justice you deserve? The best thing you can do is hire an experienced California drunk driving accident lawyer. An experienced lawyer will be able to help prove your claim, hold the drunk driver (and potentially other parties) accountable, and pursue all available avenues for collecting the financial compensation you deserve.
Drunk Driving is Negligent Driving in California
Under California law, there is no question that drunk driving is negligent driving. In fact, since driving under the influence of alcohol is against the law, it is classified as “negligence per se.”
Under the doctrine of negligence per se, a person is deemed negligent based upon his or her violation of a statute—in this case, California’s DUI law. The doctrine specifically applies when:
- A person (i.e. a drunk driver) violates a state statute (i.e. California’s DUI law);
- The violation proximately causes injury or death of another person;
- The injury or death resulted from an occurrence the statute seeks to prevent (i.e. drunk driving); and,
- The statute was intended to protect the victim against the unlawful act (i.e. to protect motorists against the dangers of drunk driving).
When you hire a California drunk driving accident lawyer, your lawyer will almost certainly use this law to pursue a claim on your behalf. Again, there is no excuse for drunk driving, and there are no exceptions that make drunk driving anything other than negligent under California law.
Does a Drunk Driver’s Insurance Cover a DUI Accident in California?
In general, auto insurance does cover DUI accidents in California. California law requires all drivers to carry liability insurance, and this insurance covers accidents caused by all forms of negligence. If the drunk driver who hit you or your loved one has insurance, a California drunk driving accident attorney can help you file a claim under the driver’s policy.
If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist UIM) insurance, your California drunk driving accident attorney can help you file a claim under your UIM policy as well. This insurance applies if either (i) the drunk driver does not have auto insurance as required by law, or (ii) your total losses exceed the drunk driver’s policy limit. Even though seeking UIM coverage involves dealing with your own insurance company, you still need to prove liability, and this means that you need an experienced attorney on your side.
Can I Sue After a DUI Car Accident in California?
Technically speaking, yes, you can sue after a DUI accident in California. If the drunk driver’s auto insurance coverage isn’t enough (or if the drunk driver doesn’t have coverage), you have the option of suing the drunk driver directly.
Is It Worth Suing a Drunk Driver?
So, you can sue a drunk driver in California. But, is it worth it? In short, it depends. If a drunk driver isn’t paying for auto insurance, then the chances that he or she has enough financial resources to cover your losses are slim. But, if the drunk driver has sufficient assets, then filing a lawsuit may be an option. This is another subject you will want to discuss with your California drunk driving accident lawyer.
When it comes to seeking financial compensation for a drunk driving accident, it is important to understand that filing an auto insurance claim (or potentially suing the drunk driver) isn’t your only option. In some cases, it will be possible to file claims against other parties as well.
How could another party be responsible for a DUI accident? In these cases, liability is based on California’s “dram shop” law. Unfortunately, the legislature amended this law several years ago in order to limit the circumstances in which drunk driving accident victims and families can pursue claims against third parties. But, it is still possible to file a claim in some cases; and, if you have a claim, you will definitely want to hire a California drunk driving accident lawyer to help you fully assert your legal rights.
1. A Bar or Club
Under California’s dram shop law, DUI accident victims and families can file a claim against any bar or club that, “sells, furnishes, gives or causes to be sold, furnished or given away any alcoholic beverage, and any other person who sells, or causes to be sold, any alcoholic beverage, to any obviously intoxicated minor where the furnishing, sale or giving of that beverage to the minor is the proximate cause of the personal injury or death sustained by that person.”
The key limitations under the amendments to this statute are that (i) it only apples when a bar or club serves a minor, and (ii) it only applies when the minor is “obviously intoxicated.” While this might seem (and can be) difficult to prove, surveillance camera footage, eyewitness testimony, and various other forms of evidence will be available in many cases.
2. A Restaurant
The same law that applies to California bars and clubs also applies to California restaurants. If a restaurant serves alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated” minor who subsequently causes an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol, the restaurant can be held liable.
3. The Host of a Private Party
California law also establishes liability for hosts of private parties (or “social hosts”) who serve underage drivers. Unlike the dram shop law, this law does not require evidence of obvious intoxication:
“[A drunk driving accident victim or family can pursue] a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person whom he or she knows, or should have known, to be under 21 years of age, in which case . . . the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.”
4. A Teenage Drunk Driver’s Parents
The law that holds social hosts responsible also holds parents responsible when they provide alcohol to their own children. If a parent allows a teen to consume alcohol at home and then the teen gets behind the wheel, the parents can be held civilly liable in the event that the teen causes an accident while intoxicated.
A common misconception people have about drunk driving accidents is that a criminal conviction will provide justice for their family. But, while knowing that the drunk driver got convicted of DUI might provide some amount of emotional closure, it will not result in an award of financial compensation.
This is due to the distinction between the civil and criminal justice systems in California (and in other states around the country). When a driver gets arrested for DUI, this is a criminal charge. The driver will go to trial in criminal court; and, if found guilty, the driver will receive a criminal sentence.
But, seeking financial compensation for a drunk driving accident involves filing a civil claim. This is an entirely separate—and almost entirely unrelated—process. If you have a claim against a drunk driver (which you most likely do if you or a loved one has been injured in a DUI accident), you will need to hire a California drunk driving accident attorney to file a civil claim on your behalf.
While a DUI conviction does not result in an award of financial compensation for accident victims or their loved ones, a conviction can be helpful when pursuing a civil claim. Under California law, a DUI conviction can be used as evidence that the driver violated California law. Under negligence per se, this can limit the steps involved in proving a drunk driving accident claim. Without a conviction, you would still need to prove on your own that the driver was drunk in order for negligence per se to apply.
When it comes to using a DUI conviction in a civil case, the burden of proof is relevant as well. In criminal cases, prosecutors must prove a defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means they must prove the defendant’s guilt with somewhere around 99% certainty. But, in a civil case, all that is required is proof by “a preponderance of the evidence.” This means that it simply must be more likely than not, or 51% certain that the drunk driver caused the accident. Since the criminal burden of proof is greater, this allows a California drunk driving accident attorney to use a conviction as evidence that the driver violated California’s DUI laws in a civil claim for financial compensation.
What if the drunk driver isn’t convicted of DUI? Since the driver’s criminal case and your (or your family’s) civil case are separate, this does not impact your (or your family’s) ability to pursue a civil claim. While prosecutors may not have been able to prove the driver’s guilt with 99% certainly, your California drunk driving accident attorney may still be able to prove with 51% certainty that the driver is liable for your injuries or your loved one’s death.
With only very limited exceptions, drunk driving accident claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitations under California law. This means that accident victims and families have up to two years from the date of the accident to file a claim, and not a day longer. Once the statute of limitations expires, you will lose your rights—even if you would otherwise clearly be entitled to financial compensation because a reckless driver was drunk behind the wheel.
While there are some exceptions to California’s strict two-year statute of limitations, these exceptions won’t apply to most drunk driving accident cases. For example, one exception is the “discovery” rule, which extends the statute of limitations could not reasonably have discovered his or her injuries at the time of the accident. However, accident victims are expected to seek medical treatment promptly, and there won’t be an excuse for delaying medical treatment in most cases. In fact, delaying treatment any longer than necessary—even by a matter of days—could make it more difficult for your California drunk driving accident attorney to help you collect the financial compensation you deserve.
One exception to California’s two-year statute of limitations that will apply in some drunk driving accident cases is the exception for minors. For minors, the statute of limitations is “tolled” until they turn 18. So, if a child is injured in a drunk driving accident at age 12, for example, he or she would still be able to file a claim until he or she turns 20 (in most cases).
Regardless of how much time you have left to file, you should discuss your case with a California drunk driving accident lawyer right away. Any delays can be costly, and they can make it much more difficult to collect the financial compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a DUI accident in California, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights today.
Are You Entitled to Punitive Damages for Your (or Your Loved One’s) Drunk Driving Accident in California?
In most cases, accident victims and families can seek “compensatory” damages for others’ negligence. This means that the damages awarded are intended to compensate for, or replace, what victims and families have lost (and will lose in the future). But, in DUI accident cases, California drunk driving accident lawyers will often be able to help their clients recover punitive damages as well.
Technically, punitive damages are referred to as “exemplary” damages under California law. In pertinent part, California’s exemplary damages law states:
“In an action for [negligence], where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of . . . malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”
The key to recovering punitive damages in a California drunk driving accident case is proof of “malice”. The law defines “malice” as:
“[C]onduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”
In drunk driving accident cases, claims for punitive damages are typically based on the last part of this definition—despicable conduct with a willful and conscious disregard for the safety of others. Driving under the influence on the public roads will meet this definition in many cases; and, as a result, California drunk driving accident lawyers will often be able to use this definition to secure punitive damages for their clients.
In addition to the three basic steps we outlined above, there are some other important things that victims and family members need to do after serious and fatal drunk driving accidents in California. There are also some critical mistakes they need to avoid. Here are five important ways to protect your legal rights after a drunk driving accident in California:
- Don’t rely on the insurance companies for advice. Even if your insurance adjuster seems sympathetic to your situation, you should not rely on your adjuster for advice. Instead, you need to make your own informed decisions based on the advice of one of the many experienced California drunk driving accident lawyers near you.
- Don’t post about the accident on social media. Posting about the accident can be tempting, but it can also be a costly mistake. The insurance companies can use anything you post against you, and they will do so in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
- Don’t assume all hope is lost. After a DUI accident, it is easy to feel like all hope is lost. But, it isn’t. You have clear legal rights under California law, and you can assert those rights with the help of an experienced drunk driving accident attorney.
- Don’t sign any documents. For the time being, you need to be very careful about signing any documents related to the accident. To be safe, you should not sign anything unless advised to do so by your California drunk driving accident lawyer.
- Rely on the advice of an experienced California drunk driving accident attorney. Okay, so this is a repeat from our list above. But, that’s because this is absolutely the single most-important thing you can do to protect yourself after a DUI accident. Experienced California drunk driving accident attorneys know how to protect their clients’ rights, and hiring an attorney promptly will give you the best chance to recover the compensation you deserve.
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal drunk driving accident in California, you are facing an unimaginable situation. Your family has experienced a tragedy, and what the drunk drive did cannot be undone. Even if the drunk driver goes to prison, as he or she should, this does nothing to help your family cover the financial costs of the accident or cope with the day-to-day effects of living without your loved one in your lives.
To seek justice for your loved one’s death, you will need to hire a fatal drunk driving accident lawyer in California to pursue a wrongful death claim on your family’s behalf. These claims present some unique challenges, and they are subject to some unique rules and restrictions. As a result, it is important to hire an experienced attorney, and it is important that you do so as soon as possible.
Does Auto Insurance Cover Drunk Driving Accidents?
Yes, auto insurance covers drunk driving accidents. If the drunk driver has auto insurance, a local attorney can help you file a claim under his or her policy. This will involve proving that the other driver was drunk, proving the financial and non-financial costs of your injuries, and negotiating for a fair settlement on your behalf. If the drunk driver’s insurance company refuses to settle for just compensation, you will need an attorney to take your claim to court.
What if the Drunk Driver Doesn’t Have Auto Insurance?
If the drunk driver doesn’t have auto insurance, you may still have options available. For example, one option may be to seek coverage under your own insurance policy. If you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, now is the time to use it; and, if you have multiple vehicles in your household, you may be able to “stack” your coverage to seek additional compensation. These are difficult claims to file, so you will want to hire an experienced California drunk driving accident attorney to handle your claim for you.
How Much Do Attorneys Charge for Drunk Driving Accidents?
Attorneys generally charge the same fees for all types of California auto accident claims. These are “contingency” fees, which means you only pay if you win. Most attorneys charge contingency fees in the range of 33 percent, though fees can range from 25 percent to 40 percent. Even taking these fees into account, you can still expect to take home more with an experienced attorney representing you.
Regardless of whether you have been injured, your child or spouse has been injured, or you have lost a loved one, it costs nothing out-of-pocket to hire a lawyer. California drunk driving accident lawyers handle personal injury and wrongful death cases on contingency, which means you only pay if you win. To get started on the road to recovery, request a free consultation with a local lawyer today.