While you’re always entitled to seek compensation when you’ve been hurt in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, being hit by a drunk driver is a special circumstance that warrants some extra explanations for victims. Drug or alcohol-related crashes tend to be a little legally different due to the extra complicating factors involved. Here’s what you should be aware of if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver.
Criminal Law Versus Civil Law
One of the biggest sources of confusion after a driving under the influence (DUI) accident involves the difference between civil and criminal cases. It’s true that driving under the influence is a crime, and civil authorities will pursue drunk drivers in order to carry out the law. However, the criminal case does not address financial compensation for victims. For that, you need to file a personal injury lawsuit, which is a matter for the civil courts.
It’s a common misperception that you can’t sue someone who is facing criminal charges. Nothing could be further from the truth. The civil and criminal justice systems function independently of one another, and you absolutely can press a civil lawsuit against someone who is being prosecuted criminally. Being convicted and in jail affords no protection from a civil suit, either, and may actually help your attorney prove your civil case. However, a conviction isn’t necessary to begin your civil case, as the standards of evidence in civil court are different than criminal court, too.
Punitive Damages in DUI Cases
After an auto accident, you may seek compensation for expenses such as hospital bills, physical therapy and rehabilitation, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, repair or replacement of your property, pain and suffering, and more. However, after a severe DUI accident, you may also seek punitive damages against the drunk driver. Punitive damages are designed to punish particularly bad behavior, as well as provide a warning to anyone in the future who may commit similar acts. Punitive damages may be awarded to victims when the accident was caused by gross negligence or recklessness, though they must be proven to a higher standard of evidence than other damage awards.
Help for DUI Accident Victims
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by a drunk driver here in South Carolina, the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger is here for you. We represent those who have been hurt, not drunk drivers, and we can help you navigate the complex world of insurance companies, personal injury lawsuits, damage awards, and more. To schedule a free initial consultation with us, please call our office, use the contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page. Our office is conveniently located in Columbia, and we serve a wide area across the entire state, including the Lexington, Sumter, Florence, and Myrtle Beach areas.
For answers to questions you have about car accidents and DUI issues right now, please download our book, “Safety First, Justice Always: Your Guide to South Carolina Auto Accident Law.” It’s completely free and can help you understand your rights as a victim after a crash.