Drunk Driving: Criminal vs. Civil Cases

Drunk Driving: Criminal vs. Civil Cases
Consequences of drinking

Drunk driving and the resulting car accidents are a huge problem in our country. Every day 28 Americans die in alcohol-related vehicle accidents, according to the Center for Disease Control. That is an astounding 1 death every 53 minutes.

Drunk Driving Facts

If you’ve been the victim of a drunk driving accident, knowing that so many other people have endured similar hardships does not make your ordeal any easier. The physical discomfort, medical expenses, property damage and stress you are facing can be truly overwhelming. The good news is that the law is on your side and you can be compensated for your suffering.
There are two types of law relevant to drunk driving cases: criminal and civil.

We’ll review each type and how pursuing either may benefit the victim.

The Fundamentals

Criminal Law is when the government, usually a local district attorney, prosecutes the drunk driver for violating the law and endangering the public. If found guilty, the accused may face hefty fines and jail time.
The drunk driving victim may be relieved in knowing that the person who caused them so much pain is found guilty in the eyes of the law and must pay for it. The victim stands to gain little else though – and no compensation for their losses.
Civil law is when the victim sues the perpetrator for the injuries and property damage endured due to the drunk driver’s negligence or carelessness. A drunk driver found liable will be made to pay a sum of money to the victim.
In other words, a civil case is the legal process by which victims have the opportunity to be compensated for the property damages, health care expenses, lost wages and other costs associated with their accident.

A Closer Look at Civil Cases

When you file a civil case against the drunk driver, you are seeking a financial sum, known as damages, as compensation for your injuries. You may seek what are called compensatory damages as follows:

  • Special damages are available to compensate for current and future out-of-pocket expenses like medical costs, lost income, and other economic losses.
  • General damages can help you recover from the more subjective effects of the accident, such as physical and mental pain and suffering.

Finally, you may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are intended to punish the perpetrator for reckless behavior and discourage similar acts in the future.

Dram Shop Laws

Besides suing the individual who crashed their vehicle into you or your loved one, you may also be able to sue the business or person who sold the drunk driver alcohol.
Connecticut’s Dram Shop laws state that the vendor that sells or gives alcohol to an intoxicated person may be held liable, if the intoxicated person then injures someone else. Essentially, Dram Shop laws are intended to keep establishments and individuals from serving alcohol to people who have already had too much to drink.
What’s significant is that this statute does not differentiate between selling or giving alcohol, nor if the intoxicated person is old enough to legally drink (21 years or older). A person hosting a party at their home and serving alcohol to minors can stand to be sued for their actions, in the same way a bar could be sued for selling shots to an already drunk adult.

Exercise Extreme Caution When Settling on Your Own

After your accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely offer you compensation. It is so important to keep in mind that an insurance company’s goal is to pay you out as little as possible and as quickly as possible.
Insurance companies are in business to make money off of claims, not by paying them out. They try to minimize what they have to pay out to anyone. What’s more, when they resolve a claim quickly, they are off the hook for future medical expenses.
For these reasons, drunk driving accident victims should seriously consider legal representation. An experienced car accident attorney can negotiate with insurance carriers and should be familiar with the tactics insurance companies use to undervalue your claim.
With the right car accident attorney fighting for you, you stand a far better chance of getting all the money you are due for the losses, pain and suffering connected to the accident.
The Flood Law Firm has been successfully handling car accidents related to drunk driving for victims for decades and look forward to using their expertise to secure a favorable outcome for you. If you or a loved one have been a victim of a drunk driving accident, do not hesitate to reach out to them today for a free case evaluation.

Brian Flood


Brian has dedicated his entire legal career to helping accident victims. By choice, he has never represented the interests of an insurance company.

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