Q: Should I pursue a claim for my vehicle accident injuries while the driver who caused the collision faces drunk driving charges?
When you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver, you have the right to pursue compensation regardless of whether criminal charges are filed.
If the driver who caused your collision is convicted before your civil trial begins, evidence from his criminal case may strengthen your civil claim.
Criminal vs. Civil Cases
Criminal cases are governed by a different set of laws and procedures than civil actions. Some of the most important differences include:
- Filing the case. In a criminal case, charges related to driving under the influence are filed by the government. In a civil action, a lawsuit is brought by a drunk driving victim to recover damages for his medical bills and lost income.
- Standard of proof. Criminal cases require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Winning a civil case only requires a preponderance of the evidence. This means there is more than a 50 percent chance the defendant is responsible for the drunk driving collision.
- Pleading the Fifth. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a criminal defendant by allowing him to refuse to answer questions. It also permits a drunk driver to refuse to answer questions in a civil case. However, in a criminal case, the jury cannot infer guilt when the defendant pleads the Fifth, whereas in a civil case they can.
Injured by a Drunk Driver
If you’ve been hurt due to the irresponsible actions of a drunk driver, you have the right to pursue compensation, regardless of whether any criminal charges were filed. When certain pieces of evidence lead to a conviction in a criminal drunk driving case, that same evidence will likely be persuasive in your civil claim. Even if the driver who caused your collision isn’t convicted, you may still recover damages for your injuries.
Your attorney can gather evidence, build a strong case, and help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by clicking the "Live Chat" button on this page.