glasses filled with alcoholic drinks and a car key inside

Can You Sue if You Get Hit By a Drunk Driver?

Civil Suits in Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk drivers who are arrested for causing a car crash will face criminal penalties. However, many victims injured by drunk drivers may not fully understand their right to pursue a civil claim. If you or a loved one were involved in a drunk driving accident, read on to learn your options.

Criminal Proceedings vs. Civil Suits in Drunk Driving Injury Cases

Criminal Proceedings

A drunk driver will face criminal proceedings for their bad decision to drive while intoxicated. Criminal proceedings are in place to punish the drunk driver for his or her careless behavior and protect the public from future harm by serving as a deterrent to drinking and driving. Even if a drunk driver has not caused an accident or injury, they can still face criminal charges for driving while intoxicated.

Drunk Driving Injury Cases

In California, if you are hurt by a drunk driver, you have the right to sue for compensation for your injuries. The driver does not need to have a DUI conviction to begin a civil lawsuit. Potential plaintiffs in a drunk driving accident who were injured include:

  • Passengers in the driver’s vehicle.
  • Occupants of other vehicles.
  • Pedestrians.
  • Bicyclists.

Proving The Driver Negligent

If you are a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver, you must prove driver negligence under California law. A driver is considered negligent if:

  • They fail to use reasonable care to prevent harm to others.
  • They are negligent “per se,” meaning that they are presumed to have acted negligently by violating a statute such as driving under the influence and refusing to take a DUI breath test.

Plaintiffs must also prove that the driver was operating their vehicle above California’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limits. The legal limit varies depending on your age and what type of vehicle you’re driving:

  • BAC of 0.08 or higher - adult - non-commercial vehicles.
  • BAC of 0.04 or higher - commercial vehicle.
  • AC of 0.04 or higher - rideshare drivers (Uber or Lyft), taxi drivers.

BAC Limits for Drivers Under 21

For people under 21 who drink and drive, California has two laws. Violation of either may be considered negligence “per se.” However, the plaintiff will still have to prove that the defendant’s drinking and driving caused the accident. It may be easier to establish if the defendant had a BAC of .05% or higher rather than violating California’s zero-tolerance law for underage drinking and driving.

California’s Zero tolerance states that drivers under 21 violate the law if they drive with a BAC of 0.01% or greater. Essentially, this means that any underage drivers are not permitted to have even the slightest amount of alcohol in their system while driving. The legal BAC limits for under 21 drivers are as follows:

  • BAC of 0.05% for drivers under 21 - DUI “per se.”
  • BAC of 0.01% for drivers under 21 - zero tolerance

When You Need Help After A Drunk Driving Accident, We Are Here For You

Being involved in a drunk driving accident is a devastating event, often resulting in catastrophic injuries. Not only do victims face recovery challenges, but they also face medical bills and other costs related to therapy and treatments.

At Del Rio & Caraway, P.C. we are in your corner to help you receive compensation after another party’s actions caused you harm. We offer free consultations to all new clients. We’ll answer any questions you may have about your rights and the legal process. Our firm accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, so if we do not win your case, you will not be charged any legal fees.

Contact Del Rio & Caraway, P.C. today at (916) 229-6755 or send us a message to discuss your case.