Will a Drunk Driver’s Conviction Help Your Car Accident Case?
By Lynn Fugaro, Staff Writer
There really is no easy answer to the question of whether or not a drunk driver’s conviction will help your personal injury claim following a car accident with injuries. If a drunk driver is criminally charged and convicted of drunk driving following the car accident in which you were injured, the conviction certainly will not hurt your case and could, in fact, help it.
In a civil case, a drunk driver’s conviction will help to prove that the drunk driver was negligent by getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. If your car accident attorney proves that negligence directly resulted in the injuries and losses you sustained in the car accident, then, yes, a drunk driving conviction will help your personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Civil vs. Criminal Court
It’s important to know that a criminal case is much different than a civil case. Criminal courts serve to punish those who have a committed a crime, like driving under the influence of alcohol whereas civil courts serve those seeking justice and financial compensation for any wrongs they’ve suffered at the hands of others.
Personal Injury Claim vs. Personal Injury Lawsuit
As you think about your car accident injuries and legal options, it’s important to understand the difference between a personal injury claim and a personal injury lawsuit. You may be wondering what your best legal option is following a car accident with injury caused by a drunk driver. Should you pursue a personal injury claim with the insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit?
Although those terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. If you choose to hire a personal injury attorney, the differences between the two will be explained to you. Then, your lawyer will discuss what the best course of action in your case would be to maximize the financial compensation you receive for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
A personal injury claim involves you and the “at fault party” or the at-fault party’s insurance company as you negotiate a dollar amount for your losses. In many cases, a personal injury claim may be resolved without involving the court system through negotiations between the plaintiff’s lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer or insurance company.
A personal injury lawsuit only occurs when an injured party takes the at-faulty party to court because the negotiations didn’t result in a fair settlement (or because the circumstances were too egregious to be settled through negotiations with the insurance company). In many cases in which a drunk driver causes serious bodily injury in a car accident, a lawyer will represent the plaintiff, and a lawyer will represent the defendant.
The outcome of the civil case will have no bearing on the criminal case against the drunk driver, but as explained earlier, a drunk driving conviction may be used as evidence to prove the drunk driver breached the duty of care owed to the victim and was the cause of the accident and injuries.
Negligence in Car Accident Cases
Negligence is an abstract and in legalese, it has two elements: “Duty of care” and a “breach” of that duty of care. Alllaw.com explains the elements of negligence as follows: “’Duty of care’ is a legal term that refers to the responsibility one person has to avoid causing harm to another…The first step in proving that another person was negligent (in a personal injury claim) is to establish that he or she had a duty of care in the situation that gave rise to the injury.”
Once it’s established that the person had a duty of care to the injured party, the plaintiff must show how the defendant failed to meet that duty of care—how that duty of care was breached. Once breach of duty is shown, the plaintiff must then prove the injuries were a direct result of that breach of duty.
Your personal injury attorney will work to make sure you receive monetary compensation known as “damages” to help make you whole again and to cover the expenses incurred after a car accident caused by a drunk driver.