Alcohol impaired drivers are a danger to themselves, as well as those sharing the road, and surrounding property. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a serious injury caused by a drunk driver you may consider taking civil action to recover damages for your losses.
DUI Accident Data*
Drunk drivers were responsible for more than 10% of all serious auto accident injuries and deaths in Baldwin and Escambia Counties, between 2010 and 2014. Of all DUI related serious accidents, 23% were fatal and 22% involved a collision with another vehicle.
Summertime also seems to play a significant role as Alabama and specifically southern coastal area of Alabama have a great deal of vacationers in the Gulf Shores, Mobile, and Orange Beach areas. Nearly a third of all serious DUI accidents in Mobile, Baldwin, and Escambia Counties occurred during June, July or August. The day of the week also plays a significant role as well, with the weekends (Fridays through Sundays) accounting for nearly two thirds of all serious DUI Accidents. Due to the severity of these injuries and the fact that many accidents involve out of state drivers who are responsible for your injuries, it’s important to know your rights and options for filing a claim or collecting compensation if you or a loved one has been the victim of a serious DUI accident.
Alabama’s Drunk Drivers Can Face Civil and Criminal Charges
Civil suits are independent of the criminal proceedings a drunk driver may face. Criminal prosecution can take place even without an accident or injuries occurring, and is meant to act as a deterrent to drunk driving, and to lessen the likelihood of a repeat offender. A DUI conviction is somewhat “matter of fact.” A drunk driver will receive the punishment that fits the crime.
Civil proceedings however are held so the victim or victim’s family may recover compensation if injured, killed, or property has been damaged or destroyed. These proceedings provide closure for the victim. These damages, also known as compensatory damages, can include recouping the cost of medical bills, lost wages, damaged property, etc.
In some cases non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, called punitive damages can be awarded as well. If you are a victim of a DUI accident, a civil case should always be considered so that you may recoup for damages. Civil suits also give you the opportunity to state your case and talk about how the drunk driver impacted your life and any setbacks they might have caused.
Alabama is a “fault” state in regards to insurance coverage and car accidents, meaning that how compensation is paid, is determined by which driver is at fault. You may also hear this referenced as “at-fault” or “tort system” in some instances. In a DUI civil suit, fault must be proven, which is why it’s important to hire an experience Alabama auto accident attorney who is familiar with civil litigation in DUI accident cases. You should expect with a high degree of certainty that the defendant will have their own legal representation, not to mention what role insurance companies may play in the proceedings with their own legal counsel. Therefore, hiring a seasoned accident attorney is critical to making sure your case is properly handled.
Many DUI defense attorneys are very skilled at what they do often calling the arresting officers character, judgement, or even the sobriety tests into question. Proving fault can be more difficult than it may seem even in a case that seems open and shut.
Punitive Damages in Alabama
Punitive damages are in addition to the conviction the drunk driver will face as well as the compensatory damages they must repay for damage done to property, medical care, lost wages, etc. These damages act as further punishment for the drunk driver, and are often based directly on how their actions caused serious injury, setbacks, and possibly life altering, debilitating pain and suffering. Punitive damage amounts are arbitrary and often based on the factors involved in the incident.
In Alabama punitive damages often cannot exceed three times what the total compensatory damages amount to. In the case of a loved one being killed by a drunk driver, a civil suit may be filed on their behalf for wrongful death. Punitive damages can then be pursued, along with compensatory damages mentioned above.
It is important to keep in mind that a drunk driver is not, by default, liable for punitive damages. It is up to the victim to prove the drunk driver was in fact engaged in behavior that justifies punitive damages. It is also important to note that a drunk driver can only be sued for punitive damages which they personally caused.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a serious alcohol related auto accident in Baldwin or Escambia Counties, and are facing life altering expenses including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering, take action. Foley attorney Noel B. Leonard works with auto accident victims in this very situation every day. And, hiring an experienced Alabama auto attorney before it is too late, will ensure you are compensated for any damages you have incurred due to a drunk driving careless and negligent behavior. Contact Noel today to discuss your case and to learn more about the compensatory and punitive damages you are eligible to receive.
*Accident Data procured from The CARE Project – Center for Advanced Public Safety, The University of Alabama, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, All Law http://caps.ua.edu/