Drunk driving is a menace to society. Each year it causes more deaths and injuries than any other accident or crime. States have promulgated statutes that impose criminal and administrative sanction to quell this dangerous trend. In addition, victims of drunk driving are allowed to file civil suits to recover damages arising from such accidents.
State prosecutors handle the criminal and administrative penalties arising from DUI’s. However, before the prosecution can proceed with the trial, there must be a complaint that will initiate the process. Either the private complainant, who was injured in the accident, or a law enforcement officer, who caught the accused committing the prohibited act, files this initiatory complaint. There is no need for a lawyer or filing fees to start the prosecution. Once the complaint is filed, the state prosecutor takes care of the case. Administrative sanctions include suspension or forfeiture of the driver's license, fines, and/or impoundment of the vehicle.
On the part of the injured party, they can file a civil suit demanding compensation for the injuries and property damage they have suffered as a result of the accident. Damage here includes compensation for death, medical expenses incurred due to injuries, unearned income, repair to the car, and other legal costs. To prove the actual or compensatory damages, or the damages incurred, the plaintiff must present sufficient evidence such as receipts for the funeral, repair of the car and medical bills. The court will only grant the amount duly proven by competent evidence. Unearned income, which is the income foregone because the plaintiff was not able to report for work due to the injury sustained, can also be demanded. Like the previous, it must be adequately proven with proper vouchers like the medical report, pay slip, and employment certificate. Moral damages, those that are based on psychological trauma, anguish, sleepless nights, mental pain and suffering and others can also be claimed. The award of moral damages is based on the Court's appreciation of the facts and allegation.
In an individual is killed in the car accident, the heirs of the deceased have legal standing to sue the drunk driver. They can claim compensatory damage and for unearned income. Compensatory damage is automatically granted by the court, the value of which depends on the law in force in each State. The award of unearned income, on the other hand, depends on different factors such as the annual income, life expectancy, and state of health of the deceased. In case there is gross negligence and bad faith on the part of the drunk driver, punitive damages may also be claimed by the heirs of the deceased.
In case the drunk driver is insolvent or does not have enough assets to satisfy the claim, the injured party or the heirs of the deceased can claim against the drunk driver's employer, provided that the accident occurred while in the performance of duty. In such case, the employer is vicariously liable for the negligence of his employee. This is based on the principle of respondeat superior whereby the negligence of the employee is imputed to his master. The legal basis for this is the degree of control and supervision exercised by the employer over his employee. The employer is duty bound by law to exercise due diligence in the hiring and supervision of his employees. An accident due to the negligence of the employee brings about a presumption that the employer did not exercise the required diligence in the supervision of his/her employees.
Filing a personal injury claim against a drunk driver will not bring back a deceased loved one. However, it will help to help you deal with the financial worries such an incident can place on an individual and ensure that the guilty person is brought to justice. In order to have a claim handled in the most sensitive and least stressful way, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer in your area who has experience and a good track record of handling similar claims.
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