Everyone knows that impaired driving is illegal and dangerous. And while victims of DUI accidents can get justice through the criminal court system, the civil courts may also provide relief. That’s because drivers who get behind the wheel drunk and then cause accidents can be made to pay damages to their victims. DUI driving unnecessarily puts other people at risk. If you or a loved one were hurt because of an impaired driver, you deserve to learn more about your legal right to demand compensation. The Washington DC DUI accident attorneys of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP are here to help.
DUI Law in DC
The legal limit for a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% in Washington, D.C. Anyone caught driving at or above that level can be charged with a DUI. However, a driver doesn’t have to register a BAC of 0.08 to be charged with a DUI. If a police officer observes evidence of impairment from a field sobriety test or the driver’s behaviors (such as drifting in and out of lanes), the driver can be charged even at a lower BAC.
It’s important to note that DUI isn’t limited to alcohol impairment. Any drug that impairs the driver, including legal or prescription drugs, can also result in a DUI charge.
The Real Harm Of Impaired Driving
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol isn’t just dangerous because of the driver’s delayed reactions and inability to properly operate the vehicle. DUI accidents are often accompanied by other reckless behaviors such as excessive speeds, running red lights, crossing double yellow lines, and more. As a result, the impaired driver could potentially cause catastrophic injuries to a large number of people.
Washington DC DUI accident victims tend to suffer severe injuries, including the following:
- Broken bones
- Sprains and strains
- Lacerations and serious bleeding
- Internal bleeding
- Internal organ damage
- Brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
And, of course, a serious enough accident can be fatal. But even in non-fatal accidents, the victim is likely to suffer irreversible injuries and painful recovery.
How Does A Criminal DUI Conviction Affect The Civil Case?
As a general matter, a criminal conviction for impaired driving will help the victim recover compensation in a civil suit. Personal injury lawsuits in civil court are based around negligence, and drunk driving is certainly negligent behavior. However, even if the driver is not convicted in criminal court, the victim has the right to pursue a civil claim.
What Must Be Proven In A Civil Case?
DUI accidents are handled as personal injury lawsuits in Washington, D.C. As with other such claims, the injured driver must demonstrate the following:
- Duty. This means the impaired driver owed a duty to everyone else to drive responsibly. This element is not usually disputed because all drivers are expected to be safe on the road.
- Breach. A breach occurs when a driver violates the above duty through some act of negligence. Impaired driving is considered a breach, so evidence of it will go a long way in establishing negligence.
- Causation. It must be proved that the impaired driver’s actions caused injury to the victim. If another cause was present at the time of the accident, the victim will have a harder time showing this.
- Damages. Injured drivers have to establish that they suffered damages because of the drunk driver, and how much those damages are worth. This element is typically disputed in civil lawsuits.
What Damages Are Available In A Civil Lawsuit?
The victim’s ability to seek monetary damages from the impaired driver is the main advantage of a civil lawsuit. The victim can recover compensation for:
- Medical bills, including past, present, and future
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Adaptive medical equipment
- Prescription medications
- Lost wages due to time missed from work
- Lost earning capacity due to inability to work the same job as before
- Pain and suffering
Eligible survivors can also file suit if the victim dies from his or her injuries. These are known as wrongful death lawsuits and are similar to personal injury cases. Survivors can recover a number of different damages such as funeral and burial costs.
How Can A D.C. DUI Accident Attorney Help Me?
Assistance from a skilled Washington D.C. DUI accident attorney isn’t limited to knowledge of the law. The right attorney will know how to build a compelling case with strong evidence of the impaired driver’s liability. Your lawyer should also understand how to value your case by approximating a reasonable amount of damages to demand from the at-fault driver. Expert witness testimony may be relied upon to establish the elements of a civil suit, including calculating damages.
Your attorney can also handle communications with the driver’s insurance company. Insurers typically do not want accident claims going to court, especially where drunk driving is involved, and will therefore try to settle. But bear in mind that insurance companies are concerned primarily with saving money, not helping you. An attorney can make sure you get a fair value for your accident that accounts for past, present, and future damages.
Contact Our DC DUI Accident Attorney
Impaired driving is a serious criminal offense, and can result in substantial civil damages as well. Nonetheless, it’s the victim’s responsibility to pursue compensation and prove the driver’s fault. DUI Accident victims in Washington, D.C. have a trusted partner in Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP. Call us today to get started on your case.
Koonz McKenney Johnson & Depaolis serve residents of Washington DC including those living in Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights, Downtown District of Columbia, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, and Mount Vernon.