Posted in Atlanta DUI Law on April 21, 2020
Driving under the influence continues to be a serious problem in the United States. Each year, thousands of people are injured or killed in car accidents due to DUI. About one person dies in a DUI accident every 50 minutes in the United States.
Drunk driving has serious consequences. A driver impaired by alcohol can face criminal and civil penalties for causing a car accident.
Criminal Charges for an Accident Caused by Driving Under the Influence
A driver may be arrested for drunk driving at an accident scene regardless of whether or not the driver caused the accident. If an officer has probable cause to believe that a driver is intoxicated, the officer can arrest the driver for DUI. The police officer may conduct field sobriety tests or breath testing.
A driver who causes an accident while intoxicated can face serious criminal charges. Under GA Code § 40-6-394 (2018), if a driver is drunk and causes an accident that results in a serious injury, that driver can be charged with a felony. The penalty for causing serious injury by a vehicle while driving under the influence if a prison sentence of one to fifteen years.
If someone dies because an impaired driver causes an accident, the criminal charge could be homicide by vehicle.
Civil Penalties for a DUI Accident
A driver who causes an accident while intoxicated may also face civil penalties. Drunk driving accidents can cause serious bodily injury and financial losses. A drunk driver may be held liable for those damages and losses in a civil claim.
The accident victim must prove that the drunk driver caused the car accident to recover compensation for damages. Proving that the driver was drunk is not sufficient. The drunk driver had to be at fault for the cause of the crash to be liable for civil claims.
If a driver is held liable for damages caused by a DUI accident, the driver may be responsible for compensating the accident victim for damages including:
- Medical expenses and personal care costs
- Loss of income, including loss of future earning and diminished earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
- Disfigurement and scarring
A judge may award punitive damages in a DUI accident case. Punitive damages punish a defendant for reckless and grossly negligent behavior. While punitive damages are rare in civil cases, causing a serious car accident while drunk could be a reason for a judge to consider a punitive damage award.
When you do not have sufficient insurance to cover the award of civil damages after a DUI accident, you are personally liable for any amount not covered by insurance. The accident victim could pursue additional legal action to collect a personal judgment.
Depending on your financial situation, your personal property could be at risk after a DUI accident.
A civil claim and a criminal charge are independent. You do not have to be charged with a crime to be liable for civil damages after a drunk driving accident. Even if the court dismisses your DUI charges or the court finds you innocent of the DUI charges, you could still be held liable in a civil claim for damages caused by a DUI accident.
What Should You Do After a DUI Accident?
Do not panic if charged with DUI after a car accident. Being charged with a drunk driving offense is not a guilty verdict.
Write down everything you can remember about the accident. If the other driver said anything about the cause of the accident, try to remember the exact words. For instance, if the driver said he was sorry or is not sure what happened, that could be used as evidence against the driver when disputing fault for the cause of the crash.
Immediately set all social media accounts to private. Stop using social media until you speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.
Social media posts can be used against you in court. Anything you say or post could become evidence used to damage your reputation with a jury.
Try to remember if there were any witnesses at the accident scene. Even if you did not get their names or contact information, anything you can remember about the witnesses might help your attorney locate them to obtain a statement.
Do not provide a statement or talk to an insurance provider. Conversations with insurance adjusters and insurance companies are often recorded. Any statement you make could be evidence against you in a criminal or civil case.
Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. It is critical to obtain experienced legal advice regarding your DUI charges and any civil penalties that might be possible because of a drunk driving accident.