Drunk Driving

Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve recently been injured by a motor vehicle operator who was driving while intoxicated, you are likely processing mental and emotional trauma in addition to physical trauma. When someone drives while drunk or drugged, they not only endanger the physical safety of others, they breach the mutual trust that allows everyone to “share the road” on any given day.

Due to the trauma that you’ve experienced, you may – very understandably – be feeling truly overwhelmed. As a result, the idea of consulting with an attorney about your legal options could feel daunting at best. Yet, it remains important to connect with a lawyer as soon as you can. If that sentence makes you feel a little panicky, know that you have every right to bring along a trusted loved one or colleague to help you process whatever a lawyer has to say.

“Well,” you may be thinking, “I’m not even sure that I need a lawyer because the other driver has been arrested.” This is a common train of thought that occurs to many drunk driving injury victims. Yet, it isn’t quite grounded in the ways that it needs to be. The fact that the person who caused your harm has been arrested is important, as they will hopefully be deterred from hurting others and may even seek treatment as a result of being held accountable in this way. But, it’s also important to understand that criminal liability and civil liability aren’t the same.

Criminal Cases vs. Personal Injury Lawsuits

As an experienced personal injury lawyer can explain in greater detail at your request, the criminal justice and civil justice systems in the U.S. are almost always distinct. This means that the outcome of a criminal case related to a drunk driving generally has no bearing on the outcome of a civil case related to the same drunk driving incident and vice versa.

What does this mean, practically-speaking? Regardless of whether the drunk driver who hit you is held accountable in a criminal court of law, you remain empowered to seek financial damages from that individual in civil court. To achieve this goal successfully, you’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit that proves the following three basic concerns:

  • The drunk driver owed you a legal duty of care. This legal element is almost always easy to prove in a drunk driving case because operators of motor vehicles owe all fellow travelers a duty of care to operate their cars, trucks, etc. safely.
  • The drunk driver breached that duty of care by behaving in intentionally dangerous, reckless, or negligent ways. Lawyers usually prove this legal element in drunk driving cases by clearly illustrating that the driver in question was intoxicated at the time of the collision.
  • The drunk driver directly caused your injuries as a result of their conduct. You may still be able to prove this legal element successfully, even if you were partially to blame for your circumstances.

In a nutshell? Just because there is (or isn’t) a criminal case against the drunk driver who hit you in progress, doesn’t mean that you can’t seek financial justice in civil court.