The Drunk Driver Who Injured You Is Charged ~ Now What?

Were you involved in a car accident that involved a drunk driver? If so, the driver is likely facing criminal charges for their negligent behavior, and you may wonder if you will get compensated for your injuries. The following information is designed with you in mind, and it will help you understand that driving drunk criminally may have little bearing on what you can do to get compensation from a drunk driver in a civil manner.

Court Distinctions

Your local jurisdiction can charge the person who injured you with several charges such as drunk driving or reckless driving, but you also have rights in many states that allow you to pursue the individual in civil court. The outcome of the criminal proceedings may strengthen your case. For example, if the drunk driver pleads guilty or is found guilty in criminal court, you may be able to use those findings as evidence in your civil court proceedings. 

Statutory Laws

Your state may be a "no-fault" state. This means that in order for you to sue civilly, your damages may need to exceed a certain amount. If your injuries and damages fall below the threshold in a no-fault state, you may be required to seek compensation from your own insurance company. 

There are also states that allow citizens to sue when they are injured. These states are referred to as pure liability states. You can pursue the person responsible for your injuries or damages almost relentlessly in these states. 

Actual and Punitive Damages

Perhaps your accident did not cause you much injury, but it may have cost you money to make repairs to property or ensure that you did not have physical injuries. Actual injuries fall into the category of actual losses. They can serve to ensure that you are not left owing or having spent any unnecessary money due to the accident. Punitive damages can be sought when there are matters that are grossly negligent that victims feel they should be compensated for. Think of punitive damages as "pain and suffering" or compensation for a severe inconvenience. Drunk driving may fall into the category of punitive damages in certain states. 

There are many exceptions to rules in states regarding drunk driving and personal injury liability. This is why a motor vehicle accident lawyer is the best resource to use to better understand your case and your legal rights. For example, some states with no-fault laws have exceptions and variations, which a lawyer may be able to recognize and build a solid case on your behalf.  

For more information, contact Shaevitz Shaevitz & Kotzamanis or a similar firm.