Drunk drivers cause fatal car accidents every day. They also bring about thousands of car crashes that result in injuries every year. When a drunk driver causes a collision that injures you or a loved one, you may have legal options to recover damages for your injuries. You may also want to talk to a Los Angeles car accident attorney about the possibility of bringing a wrongful death claim if a loved one is killed because of a drunk driver.
Negligence Per Se Under California Law
To win a legal case in a car accident, you must show that the other driver was negligent in some way. “Negligence” is a legal expression that generally means the same thing as being careless or reckless. You must also show that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries or damage. This concept is commonly referred to as fault.
In California, a drunk driver is often considered “negligent per se.” That means that the drunk driver is virtually automatically regarded as negligent simply because he or she was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Victims in drunk driving cases can show negligence per se in one of three ways:
- The driver violated Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), which means they were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The other driver refused to take a DUI chemical test.
- The driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the legal limit as set out in Vehicle Code Section 23152(b).
Many people assume that being under the influence of alcohol and being above the legal BAC limit is the same thing. While they are similar, you can have one without the other in rare situations. For example, your BAC may be below the limit of 0.08, but the alcohol may still have a profound effect on your ability to drive, such as where someone does not drink often, and their body is not used to the substance, or where they have an adverse reaction with other medication.
How Driving Drunk Affects a Personal Injury Case
If you can show that a driver was drunk at the time of the accident, then your personal injury case will likely be easier to prove to an insurance company or at trial. This because you can skip over the first few requirements of the average personal injury case due to California’s negligence per se laws.
You will still need to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident. However, this is usually easy to do because driving while drunk affects virtually every vital ability that you need to drive, including reaction time, vision, problem-solving, and concentration.
The Connection Between Civil Cases and Criminal Cases
Some victims make the mistake of assuming if the other driver is convicted of drunk driving they will get some kind of compensation from that criminal proceeding. This is not the case. The only way that you can get money for your losses is by settling with an insurance company or starting a lawsuit. The Compass Law Group can help you with either option.