When a person drives drunk, they can face both criminal and civil penalties. In addition to being charged with a crime, a drunk driver can also be held liable for financial compensation if they injured others in an accident.
If you or a loved one were harmed in a drunk driving accident, you may be unsure of how criminal charges against the driver could impact your claim for damages. The relationship between your claim and any criminal proceedings will depend on the details of your case.
Civil Liability vs. Criminal Action
Although a civil lawsuit and a criminal case may focus on the same incident, the legal aspects of each case can proceed very differently.
Civil lawsuits focus on the consequences of the drunk driver’s actions. By driving under the influence, the person exhibited negligence and caused injury, financial expense, and emotional distress to another person. The drunk driver, either through their insurance company or a legal settlement, will be required to provide compensation for the damages their negligence caused. Rarely, civil lawsuits will also require the payment of punitive damages which serve as a consequence for the defendant’s negligence.
Criminal cases may focus only on the act of drunk driving, but may focus on the results of that criminal act as well. In addition to the charge of drunk driving, the driver may be charged with reckless endangerment, manslaughter, property damage, and other crimes. As opposed to civil liability which is focused on compensating victims, criminal cases are focused on punishing the driver. The driver may be imprisoned, ordered to complete community service hours, ordered to pay fines, or face other penalties.
How a Criminal Case Could Impact Your Drunk Driving Accident Claim
The civil litigation and criminal proceedings related to the drunk driving accident you were involved in will operate as two totally separate cases. It is possible that the outcome of either case will not impact the other one at all. If the drunk driver is charged with a crime before your civil claim is resolved, this could serve as further evidence of the driver’s liability for your injuries.
Please contact Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. today if you or a loved one was injured in a collision with a drunk driver. We will fight to get you the care you need and the compensation you deserve.
To schedule a free consultation with our lawyers, complete our contact form or call (603) 288-1403.