What Is the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case Related to Drunk Driving Accidents?

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Car keys and handcuffs resting on a sound block, surrounded by a gavel, a filled shot glass, and a statue of lady justice.Civil and criminal cases involve two different types of courts.

Cases that go to civil courts are typically victims seeking monetary compensation for damages they suffered. The victims have to prove that the defendant is liable for the damages by proving negligence.

On the other hand, criminal court is where the government presses criminal charges against the defendant, and the prosecution has to prove that the defendant is guilty. The defendant faces jail time and fines if convicted in a criminal court.

Is a DUI/DWI a Civil or Criminal Charge?

Drunk drivers can go to both civil court and criminal court. Driving under the influence of alcohol or while intoxicated is illegal, according to The Department of Public Safety, and therefore the defendant will go to criminal court to determine whether they are innocent or guilty of the charge.

Victims are able to work with prosecutors and law enforcement to strengthen the case against the defendant. A conviction is not guaranteed because the fact must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of drunk driving.

The defendant may also have to go to civil court if the victim has filed a lawsuit for damages. The purpose of civil law is to compensate victims for damages they have suffered because of the defendant’s negligent actions. Civil law does not involve jail time for the defendant.

Can I Sue a Drunk Driver if They Are Not Convicted of Drunk Driving?

Victims can still take a defendant to court for compensation for damages if they were not convicted of driving while intoxicated. Civil court is separate from criminal court, and according to the Legal Information Institute, the burden of proof is under the preponderance standard.

This standard means that the victim only has to prove to the court that there is a greater than 50% chance that their claim is true. This standard is much easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in criminal court.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

Personal injury lawyers are civil attorneys and work in civil cases. They help victims navigate the complicated legal process and make sure victims get compensation for all the damages they have suffered.

To do this, they need to prove:

  • Duty of care: The defendant had to owe the victim a duty of care. When it comes to driving, it is assumed that all drivers sharing a public roadway owe the other drivers a duty of care.
  • Breach of duty of care: The defendant must have broken the duty of care that they owed to the victim by acting in a reckless, criminal, or intentional way.
  • Causation: The damages must have been caused by the negligence of the defendant.
  • Damages: There must have been actual injuries or property damage caused by the defendant’s actions that require financial compensation.

What Are Damages That Can Be Claimed?

Attorneys help victims recover their losses from:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Estimated Loss of Future Earnings
  • Rehabilitation Costs
  • Prescription Medication
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Property Damage
  • Wrongful Death

Medical Expenses

You will be fully compensated for all accumulated medical bills along with future medical expenses that you may receive to treat any accident-related injuries.

Lost Wages

The time you spend unable to work while recovering from your injuries is time that you are not earning your regular income.

You may be using up your allotted sick time or disability, but these often pay a reduced rate and might not last long enough for your recovery. You may lose your job entirely.

You should be compensated for these financial losses.

Estimated Loss of Future Earnings

If you have to work at a reduced capacity due to injuries caused by the accident, you can claim your loss of future earnings.

Rehabilitation Costs

Depending on the nature of your injuries, there is a strong possibility that you will require some type of rehabilitation. Physical therapy, chiropractic care, pain management, and psychotherapy are some examples of rehabilitation.

Prescription Medication

The cost of medicines that your doctors prescribe for you because of your accident will be reimbursed. This amount includes the cost of medication you will be required to take long-term as long as it directly results from the accident.

Pain and Suffering

Common injuries, such as brain and spinal damage, are debilitating and permanent. All pain, the reduction of your enjoyment of life, and emotional damage will receive a value for your compensation.

Property Damage

Your vehicle and whatever property you had with you that were damaged during the accident will be added up for the cost of repair, replacement, or any reduction in value.

The same applies to damage to your property that the defendant caused if they were in a single-car accident and damaged your home.

Wrongful Death

The family of victims who were killed by a drunk driver can file a claim for wrongful death, according to North Carolina statute. If convicted, the defendant will have to pay monetary compensation to the family or dependents. The defendant will likely face homicide charges in criminal court as well.

Do I Have To Go To Court?

Many cases settle out of court. Insurance companies are usually honest, and with some negotiations from your personal injury lawyer, they will typically offer you a fair offer without having to take your case to trial.

Insurance companies have to be tough in order to protect their assets as they are, after all, businesses with their own expenses to pay.

Trying to threaten an insurance adjuster with taking your claims to court is not effective. Dealing with insurance claims is what the adjuster does all day, every day, and having a case go to trial just shifts the workload from the adjuster to one of the company’s lawyers.

The most effective way to deal with a tough insurance adjuster is to overwhelm them with evidence, so they cannot find any reason to deny your claim. It is when you do not have this evidence that you may have to go to court.

Contact a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today

It is unwise to try to navigate the legal system alone. Personal injury lawyers have the experience you need to be successful in court.

With legal knowledge and skill, you can rest assured that you will get everything you are entitled to receive with as little stress as possible. Call Tatum & Atkinson at (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation regarding your case.

We know how difficult being in an accident with a drunk driver can be for the victims. We give all of our clients personalized care and attention to make sure your needs are met.