Drunk Driving Civil Lawyer
Public information campaigns have made drunk driving the single most talked about crime. For that reason, we are constantly bombarded with the criminal consequences of drinking and driving, but hardly ever hear about the civil penalties of the act. More than the potential jail sentence, drunk drivers open themselves up to lawsuits if they injure or kill someone.
If a driver or passenger is injured because of the actions of someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she may pursue civil action against the intoxicated party. Drunk driving crashes can be so severe that in addition to the physical injuries of a crash a person may experience, they will experience economic and emotional injuries as well.
What You Should Know
On an episode of The Verdict, The Carlson Law Firm’s Todd Kelly, a MADD Civil Attorney, explains what happens in the aftermath of a drunk driving crash.
- What to do in the aftermath of a car crash with a drunk driver.
- Who you should speak to after a crash.
- What Dram Shop laws are and who they can be applied to.
- Why victims sometimes suffer more serious injuries than the drunk driver.
If you are the victim of a drunk driving crash, a personal injury attorney may be able to help you. Contact The Carlson Law Firm for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys.
Why is Drunk Driving Still a Problem?
The answer to this is simple. Because people are still drinking and driving despite knowing the criminal consequences of drunk driving. Every day, nearly 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that one person every 48 minutes. While these drunk driving deaths have fallen in the last three decades thanks to new laws, drunk driving is still a serious problem. In 2017, drunk driving crashes claimed more than 10,000 lives. Just one life is too many.
In 2016, more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is no amount of money that can cover the cost of pain and suffering caused by a serious injury or losing a loved one to a drunk driver.
How Does Alcohol Impair Driving?
Driving requires significant alertness and the ability to make quick decisions. These decisions must be made in rapidly changing situations. Once alcohol runs its course, we immediately begin to feel pretty major cognitive impairment such as:
- Slurred speech
- Trouble walking
- Blurry vision
- Slower reaction times
- Difficulty with memory
Alcohol causes a driver’s attention and awareness to decrease and causes drowsiness to occur. In some cases, drunk drivers can blackout. When they awake, it may be to a police officer knocking on their car window after they’ve caused a crash.
What is Considered Legally Drunk?
Out of the 50 states, 49 of them have blood alcohol content levels of .08 for drivers of the legal drinking age. Utah is the only state with a .05 BAC limit. Reaching the BAC limits depends on a person’s height, weight, tolerance levels, and several other factors. But on average, two standard drinks within one hour can lead to a .05 BAC. Women do not have as much of a certain enzyme and as a result, two drinks can lead to a higher BAC with the same amount of drinks in the same time frame as a man.
Blood alcohol content is measured by police officers if they stop someone on suspicion of drunk driving. Officers do this through breath, urine and sometimes, with permission from a judge, a blood test.
How Many Drinks Does it Take for Alcohol to Affect Me?
Any amount of alcohol in your bloodstream impacts your ability to drive. While the effects of impairment depend on several factors, there are some general amounts that we know affect people across their personal differences.
One to two drinks raises the average person’s blood-alcohol level to .02 percent. At this level, a person’s judgment is affected in the following ways:
• Lack of judgment
• Increased relaxation
• Slightly raised body temperature
• Mood swings
• Decreased visual functionality
• Reduced multi-tasking abilities
For people with lower body weight, just one drink can raise the BAC to .05 percent. For other people, they reach this level after two drinks within one hour. At .05 percent, a person will experience:
• Increased lack of judgment
• Exaggerated behavior
• Lack of coordination
• Reduced ability to detect moving objects
• Lack of alertness
• Lack of inhibitions
• Decrease small-muscle control
• Reduced response rate
For most states, .08 is the legal limit. It takes anywhere from 3-4 drinks within one hour to meet this level of intoxication. Drivers who crash or get pulled over at the limit or higher will be criminally charged with drunk driving. A .08 level of intoxication affects driving skills by:
• Reduced muscle coordination
• Lack of judgment
• Lack of reasoning
• No impulse control
• Loss of short-term memory
• Reduced ability to concentrate
• Lack of speed control
• Reduced ability to process information
Depending on your body weight, 5-7 drinks within a one hour period can put your BAC way over the legal limit. At this level of intoxication, a person experiences:
• Poor coordination
• Slowed reaction times
• Reduced ability to control the vehicle
• Inability to keep a vehicle within its lanes
• Inability to brake at appropriate times
• Slurred speech
.15 and over
More than five drinks within an hour can put you into dangerous territory. At this level of intoxication, a person experiences:
• Extreme loss of balance
• Nearly zero muscle control
• Impaired sight and hearing information processing
• Significantly reduced attention to driving tasks
Drunk driving crashes can be life-altering events for innocent people who through no fault of their own are injured or killed by an impaired driver. Drunk drivers can be held criminally accountable responsible for their actions and the damages they case. In addition, drunk drivers face civil penalties as well.
Criminal v. Civil Penalties
Jail and prison are not part of the civil court process. Therefore, they are not part of the civil penalties a person may face. Civil lawsuits are separate and distinct from the criminal proceedings a drunk driver may face. In fact, criminal proceedings are designed to protect the public from future harm. Additionally, these laws usually punish a drunk driver with fines and jail time even if there is no accident or injury involved. Further, many states require the loss of driver’s license privileges for about six months to include a fine.
Civil courts, on the other hand, hold drunk drivers accountable when they cause damage. Victims may be entitled to damages for the following:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses (past, ongoing and future)
- Lost wages and/or future employment capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disability
- Wrongful death
DWI Punitive Damages
Victims can seek punitive damages for the dangerous conduct on the part of their civil lawsuit. The court assesses these fees a punishment to reform or deter the defendant or others from engaging in dangerous behavior.
Are DUI Arrests Necessary to Pursue a Civil Case?
Proving that the defendant was negligent is a critical part of any personal injury. While a DUI arrest can help in a civil lawsuit, they aren’t necessary. A personal injury attorney can still use the fact that the defendant was drunk to prove negligence.
The standards of proof in civil and criminal courts are considerably different. So even if a drunk driver is not held criminally liable, that does not mean he or she cannot be held civilly responsible to pay compensation to the drunk driving accident victim.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
Drunk driving crashes are some of the most horrific crashes that we see. The saddest part, is they are entirely preventable. Several of our offices across the state are extremely active in their local communities in the fight to end drunk driving. Our goal is to help our clients hold drunk drivers responsible for their actions.
Contact a Drunk Driving Civil Lawyer
The Carlson Law Firm has the tools and resources to help you through your situation while pursuing a maximum from a drunk driving crash. While the laws may seem complicated, a civil lawsuit can help you obtain damages for loss of income, permanent disabilities, physical and mental therapy and more. We can help you through your recovery.
Call The Carlson Law Firm now to see just how much we care and how we can help. We are available 24 hours, seven days a week.
There's a Carlson Law Firm Near You
With over a dozen locations throughout Texas, there’s a Carlson Law Firm near you. We have law offices located in Killeen, Temple, Waco, Round Rock, Austin, San Antonio, Kerrville, Laredo, Bryan, Lubbock, Midland, and Corpus Christi.