Drunk Driver Accident Lawyers in Los Angeles
Drunk Driver Accidents
Every day, Californians are put in danger by those who choose to drink and drive on our public roads. It is important to discourage this deadly behavior by holding drunk drivers accountable for the injuries they cause. If you or a loved one has been injured by an impaired driver, you need a drunk driving accident lawyer in Los Angeles to fight for your right to compensation.
Injury victims have the legal right to be compensated for all injuries and losses caused by a negligent driver. While a drunk driver can also be charged in criminal court, that case is not designed to get compensation for an injury victim. You need a drunk driving accident lawyer in California who can file a civil claim on your behalf.
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What should I do after being hit by a drunk driver?
A car accident is a frightening experience for everyone involved. You will probably feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. The first step should be to get medical attention for anyone on the scene who is injured. Call 9-1-1 and let the dispatcher know how many people are hurt. The dispatcher will send law enforcement and medical personnel to the scene to deal with the situation. The police officers can determine whether the other driver should be charged with DUI. They will also facilitate the exchange of insurance information.
Even if you do not need an ambulance, you should still see a medical professional as soon as possible after being involved in an accident. Some injuries are difficult to initially detect. A doctor may need to monitor your blood pressure to detect internal bleeding or get an x-ray to determine if your bones are broken. The longer you wait to do this, the more difficult it will be to recover from your injuries. It will also require more time and money to treat them. If you cannot see your primary care doctor, visit an urgent care center or emergency department. Only a qualified medical professional can give you a clean bill of health after a car accident.
Once you have addressed your medical needs, you can consult with a drunk driver accident attorney in Los Angeles in order to address your case.
Do I need a lawyer if I am hit by a drunk driver?
Some injury victims might think they do not need a personal injury lawyer after a drunk driving accident. They mistakenly assume that the drunk driver’s insurance company will have to accept responsibility and pay for the accident. This is not always the case. Sometimes, insurance companies will dispute what happened in an accident—especially if a prosecutor declines to file DUI charges against the drunk driver, or if a jury finds the driver not guilty. Your personal injury attorney will help prove what happened to ensure that the negligent driver’s insurance company accepts responsibility for the accident.
Even if the drunk driver’s insurance company agrees to pay your claim, this does not necessarily mean that they will offer a fair amount of compensation. Insurance companies spend huge sums of money training their claims adjusters to pay as little as possible on as few claims as possible. If a claims adjuster knows that the drunk driver bears responsibility for causing an accident, he or she will try to settle the claim as quickly as possible.
In many cases, the insurance company will try to get you to settle the claim before you have had a chance to consult with your own personal injury attorney. This is not right. Only your own lawyer can advise you on what a fair settlement offer would be. If the insurance company will not make a fair settlement offer, your personal injury lawyer can take your case to trial to let a jury determine the fair amount of compensation you deserve.
Recovering damages if you have suffered an injury from a drunk driver in Los Angeles
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident in California, you may be able to recover damages, including:
- Compensatory Damages: Includes medical expenses, lost job earnings, and property damages, along with compensation for your pain and suffering.
- Punitive Damages: These damages financially punish the negligent behavior of the drunk driver. For these damages to be awarded, your claim must prove that the other drunk driver consciously disregarded your rights and safety.
- Wrongful Death: The closest surviving relative of the victim may file a wrongful death lawsuit if the injured driver passes away at the time or after the accident has occurred. This allows for the recovery damages for any outstanding medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages and more.
What happens if the drunk driver is not arrested or prosecuted?
A criminal case for DUI is completely separate from a civil claim for injury compensation. They occur in two separate courts with two separate judges. There are many reasons why a prosecutor might decline to file DUI charges, or dismiss charges after they filed. Here are two possible scenarios:
- The police might have committed a constitutional violation, such as searching the defendant's vehicle without a warrant.
- The defendant's blood tests might come back below .08 percent, which may be too low for criminal prosecution in some cases, but can still establish negligence in civil court.
Regardless of what happens in the criminal court, you have the right to pursue a personal injury claim. In the criminal court, a prosecutor must prove impairment beyond a reasonable doubt. In the civil court, an injured plaintiff needs to only prove negligence by “a preponderance of the evidence," which simply means more likely than not. This means that it is easier to prove impairment in the civil court than it is in the criminal court.
Even if you cannot prove the drunk driver was at or above an .08 blood alcohol level, he or she could still be found negligent, since driving with any alcohol in your system meets the threshold for negligence. Negligent drivers have a legal obligation to compensate accident victims for the injuries and financial losses they cause. This is why California—like many other states—requires every driver to carry auto insurance or proof of financial responsibility.
Regardless of what happens in the criminal court, it is important to report suspected drunk driving to the authorities. Be sure to call 9-1-1 after your accident and cooperate with filing a police report. If the driver attempts to flee the scene, try to get a license plate or description of the vehicle or driver. These things can help police apprehend the drunk driver and prove negligence to that driver’s insurance company.