There are many ways to be harmed by the misconduct of a driver who gets behind the wheel despite being drunk or high on drugs. Whether you were the drunk driver’s passenger or were in a separate vehicle driven by a completely sober driver, your circumstance potentially may present an opportunity to sue and collect significant compensation. To make sure you’re presenting the strongest possible case to get the fullest possible recovery, it is best to have a skilled San Mateo injury attorney on your side.
Many times, the harm caused by these accidents is catastrophic. For example, a terrible accident in Stanislaus County, reported by the East Bay Times, brought a young life to a needlessly premature end. In the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 2, a woman from Ceres was traveling eastbound on Highway 120, a 2-lane road “with dips and curves.” The California Highway Patrol indicated that, despite a double-yellow line prohibiting any passing, the woman crossed the center line and attempted to pass the semi-truck in front of her.
The woman sideswiped a westbound Honda Civic then slammed head-on into a utility truck. The impact threw the woman’s 25-year-old male passenger from the vehicle. That man was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the report.
The CHP, suspecting the woman of driving drunk, arrested her. She now faces charges of felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter, according to the Times.
We all know that consuming alcohol and/or drugs impairs your judgment. It is, therefore, no surprise that accidents in which drugs and/or alcohol were a factor often involve an at-fault driver who made a serious error in judgment, such as running a stop sign or red light, making an unsafe lane change or attempting to pass a vehicle on a 2-lane road in the middle of a “no passing” zone.
You can obtain damages even if the driver was never convicted of DUI
If you have proof that the defendant had a blood alcohol content in excess of the legal limit, that may help your case. If the defendant was cited or arrested and pled guilty, then that may entitle you to seek damages on a legal theory known as “negligence per se,” which is something that can simplify and streamline the proof you need to obtain a judgment of liability.
A DUI conviction against the defendant can help you in other ways, too. One of these ways is in the damages phase of your case, where such a conviction may open the door for you to request and obtain punitive damages, which is an (often substantial) additional sum tacked on top of the compensatory damages you receive.
However, even without a criminal conviction, you may still be able to succeed in a civil case for damages. If your case presents sufficiently compelling evidence that the defendant driver consumed some quantity of alcohol then, even if there was no criminal liability, you can, through testimony from the right set of expert witnesses (such as accident reconstructionists, toxicologists and others,) still prove that the defendant’s drinking caused your injuries.
Were you partly at fault? Don’t let that stop you from suing
Even if you have facts that work against you, don’t let those dissuade you from pursuing your case. For example, in the Oakdale crash, the victim was the passenger of the allegedly drunk driver. If you’re injured in a crash like that, you may bear some legal blame if the evidence showed that you knew your driver was drunk but got in the car anyway.
Just because you bear some blame does not, however, mean that you are not entitled to recover anything. California law uses a “pure comparative” system when it comes to civil negligence. So, even if you were partly to blame, the law says you’re still entitled to a fraction of your damages equal to whatever portion of blame the defendant held. So, say, for example, that your total damages were $500,000, that you were 20% at fault and that the drunk driver 80% at fault. In California, you can still recover $400,000 from the driver in a case like that.
Even if, say, you were 75% to blame, you would still be entitled to recover one-quarter of that $500,000 sum, or $125,000. While that’s well below $500,000, it’s also much, much better than recovering compensation of $0.
Being hurt in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver is a potentially scary and frustrating time. The legal system may provide you with valuable opportunities to get much-needed compensation for the harm you suffered. To be sure you’re getting everything out of your case that you should, rely on the knowledgeable San Mateo injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. Our attorneys have many years of experience helping people achieve positive results in their legal actions against drunk drivers, drugged drivers, distracted drivers and other negligent people behind the wheel. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.