Under the Influence: DUI-Related Injuries and Legal Recourse for Victims

By Jon Lewis on Jun 15 in Lewis & Feldman Blog.

Under the Influence: DUI-Related Injuries and Legal Recourse for Victims

Intoxicated driving is a serious public safety hazard. For reference, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that an average of 37 people are killed in DUI crashes in the United States on a daily basis. That is more than 13,000 total DUI deaths nationwide each year. Many tens of thousands more people suffer terrible injuries in avoidable DUI accidents. 

Victims of drunk drivers deserve justice. They need compensation to pay their bills and support their family. At Lewis & Feldman, LLC, we have the skills and experience to hold drunk drivers and their insurance companies accountable. Our Birmingham drunk driving victim’s rights attorney provides an overview of victims’ rights in Alabama below. 

Know the Legal Process: Criminal and Civil

Drunk driving claims are often more complicated than other types of personal injury cases. Notably, there are often two different types of legal processes that will happen after a DUI crash in Alabama: 

  • Drunk Driver Will Likely Be Arrested (Criminal): When a person is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Alabama, they face criminal charges. These proceedings are aimed at penalizing the driver for breaking the law. A DUI arrest can lead to several legal consequences, including fines, license suspension, mandatory DUI education programs, and possibly jail time. A DUI crash that causes a serious bodily injury is often charged as a felony criminal offense in Alabama. 
  • Drunk Driving Can Be Held Financially Liable (Civil): Apart from criminal proceedings, a drunk driver can also be held civilly liable for any damages they cause. The victim of a DUI collision can file a lawsuit against the driver to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. In Alabama, there is no cap on the amount of compensatory damages a victim can claim. They have the right to see financial compensation for the full value of their economic and non-economic damages. 

A criminal DUI case and a civil DUI case are two separate legal proceedings. With that being said, the evidence from a criminal DUI case can be used to support your civil claim. 

Drunk Driving is Negligence: Intoxicated Driver and their Insurer Must Be Held Accountable 

Alabama is a fault-based motor vehicle crash state. The party deemed responsible for a collision should be held legally liable for the damages. Liability is based on the legal theory of negligence. Alabama defines negligence as the failure to take due care. Notably, driving under the influence is considered to be a per se form of negligence. When a driver chooses to operate a vehicle while impaired, they breach their duty of care to other road users. The breach establishes the legal basis for negligence. DUI accident victims can pursue claims against not only the driver but also their insurance provider. Indeed, most DUI accident claims are pursued against insurance companies. Every DUI crash in Alabama should be thoroughly investigated by an experienced attorney. A lawyer will help you gather and organize all of the evidence needed to bring a successful civil claim. 

A Commercial Establishment May Bear Liability as Well (Dram Shop Law)

In some limited cases, a third party may be legally liable for a DUI crash. Similar to many other states, Alabama has a “dram shop law” that holds commercial establishments responsible for DUI accidents that happen when they serve a visibly intoxicated person. The Alabama Dram Shop Act provides a potential path to additional financial compensation for victims and families. Under the law, a commercial establishment—bar, restaurant, etc— can be held liable if they illegally serve alcohol to a patron who then causes a DUI accident. Liability can arise from: 

  • Serving alcohol to an underage person; and/or
  • Serving alcohol to an obviously, visibly intoxicated person 

All commercial establishments in Alabama must exercise reasonable care when serving alcohol. The failure to do so can result in significant legal and financial consequences if their negligence contributes to a DUI accident. Dram shop liability claims are notoriously complex. If you are considering holding a bar, restaurant, or other party liable for a drunk driving crash on the basis of dram shop liability, an experienced Alabama DUI accident attorney can help.  

DUI Accident Victims in Alabama Deserve Full and Fair Financial Compensation

Drunk driving crashes can cause devastating, even life-altering harm. It is imperative that victims and families in Alabama are able to secure the full and fair financial compensation that they need to pay bills and cover costs. Unfortunately, even in DUI accident cases, insurance companies can be very challenging to work with. They fight hard to pay out less. Our Birmingham, AL DUI accident lawyers are committed to seeking compensation for: 

  • Property loss, such as vehicle repairs; 
  • Ambulance services and emergency room care; 
  • Hospital bills and other medical expenses; 
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitative care; 
  • Loss of wages and loss of earning capacity; 
  • Pain and suffering & mental distress; 
  • Disability or disfigurement; 
  • Wrongful death of a family member; and 
  • Punitive damages. 

Punitive damages are a form of “penalty” damages that may be awarded in a limited number of accident/injury claims in Alabama. These damages are designed to punish the especially egregious misconduct of the at-fault party. While not tied to any direct loss suffered by the victim or their family, they are still awarded to claimants. It is possible that punitive compensation will be granted in a DUI accident claim in Alabama. 

Contact Our Birmingham, AL, DUI Accident Injury Lawyer Today

At Lewis & Feldman, LLC, our Alabama auto accident lawyers have the skills and experience to handle DUI accident cases. It is our mission to help victims and families secure the absolute maximum financial compensation. If you or your loved one was hurt in a drunk driving collision, please do not hesitate to call us at 205-896-6410 or contact our firm online for a free consultation. With an office in Birmingham, we handle DUI accident injury claims throughout all of Alabama. 

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