Driving under the influence of alcohol is a problem in California and across the U.S. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 28 people die in drunk-driving crashes every day. In 2019, 10,142 people in the U.S. died in alcohol-related crashes. Countless others are injured, often seriously, in these types of preventable crashes.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk driver in California, contact Scott Carr Law. We are dedicated to helping victims of drunk driving accidents get fair compensation from the liable party. Call our San Francisco office at 415-799-2229 to tell your story and learn about the legal options that are available to you.
How Common Is Drunk Driving in California?
Unfortunately, drunk driving occurs frequently in San Francisco and throughout California. In fact, 2019 data from the NHTSA indicates that California is the state with the second-highest number of drunk driving fatalities (after Texas). In 2019, there were 949 drunk driving fatalities in California, which accounted for 26 percent of all driving fatalities in California that year.
What Are the Criminal Consequences for Drunk Drivers?
In California, it’s against the law to drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol (or drugs). The California Department of Motor Vehicles provides details on the penalties for DUI. Drivers convicted of their first DUI may have to serve up to six months in jail and pay fines up to $1,000. They also have their license suspended for six months and have to complete a DUI educational program. Subsequent DUI convictions have harsher penalties.
While these DUI laws are carried out in California’s criminal court system, the penalties don’t help victims who have been injured or killed by drunk drivers. The only way for a victim of a drunk driving crash to pursue justice and compensation is through the civil court system via a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Pursuing Compensation for Drunk Driving Accident Victims
If you choose to seek compensation from a drunk driver through California’s civil court system, you can sue for two types of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are funds designed to cover the costs you have incurred from the crash:
- Repair or replacement costs for your vehicle
- Medical bills
- Lost income during recovery
- Reduced earning potential in your ongoing career
The amount of economic damages you can receive is directly related to how much you have spent in these areas. However, you can also pursue non-economic damages. These funds are designed to address other serious consequences of the crash:
- Loss of physical/sexual affection
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
There isn’t an objective financial value tied to these things, so a judge decides how much to award you in non-economic damages.
It’s important to understand that California’s “pure comparative negligence” laws affect your pursuit of compensation. In motor vehicle crashes, even those involving drunk drivers, all involved parties are assigned a percentage of fault. For example, if you were speeding when you were hit by a drunk driver, you may be considered partly at fault.
Your percentage of fault reduces the amount of non-economic damages you can collect. If the judge awards $40,000 of non-economic damages in your case but you were 10 percent liable, you can only collect 90 percent of the money ($36,000). When you hire a personal injury attorney, they can help you understand how much you can realistically expect to collect in damages.
Is It Necessary to Hire an Attorney?
In California, you are not required to hire a lawyer to initiate a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit. However, it can be challenging and overwhelming to try to navigate the civil court system on your own, especially when you consider the two-year statute of limitations the state places on these types of lawsuits. An attorney can help you build a strong case and handle all the negotiations for you, which may enable your case to be resolved faster.
Scott Carr Advocates for Victims of Drunk Drivers
When someone chooses to drink before getting behind the wheel, they knowingly endanger everyone else on the road. The vast majority of drunk driving “accidents” are preventable, which makes it even more tragic when crashes occur and injure or kill innocent victims.
In many cases, the liable party’s insurance provider doesn’t offer enough to cover medical bills and other expenses, especially for severe cases like broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Victims may need to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit to get a fair settlement.
At the Scott Carr Law Firm, we are passionate about helping drunk driving victims get the resources they need to recover. We can help you understand whether the initial insurance offer is fair and explain your legal options for pursuing compensation. To schedule a free consultation, call our San Francisco office at 415-799-2229.