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How a Criminal DUI Verdict can Impact a Victim's Personal Injury Lawsuit

When a drunk driver in Georgia causes a car accident in which a victim is injured, the intoxicated driver may end up facing both criminal and civil charges. This is because the state may choose to prosecute the individual for the criminal offense of driving under the influence (DUI) and the injured victim(s) may decide to file a separate civil lawsuit against the individual seeking compensation for the harm caused by the impaired driving. It is important to note that these two cases are separate from each other, meaning that one can be filed without the other and that the outcome of one case does not dictate the outcome of the other. Therefore, if a drunk driver is found not guilty in a criminal DUI case, this verdict does not necessarily preclude the victim from winning a personal injury lawsuit. However, if a criminal court does find a defendant guilty of driving under the influence this verdict can greatly help a victim win the civil lawsuit.

In personal injury lawsuits the injured party (referred to as the plaintiff) bears the burden of proving the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

  • That the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff,
  • That the defendant breached that duty,
  • That the plaintiff suffered an injury, and
  • That the defendant's breach of duty caused that injury.

If a criminal court has already convicted a defendant of driving under the influence in connection with the same car crash that injured a personal injury plaintiff, then the injured party will have a much easier time proving the elements listed above. Whenever a driver gets behind the wheel he or she owes a duty of care to others on the road to act reasonably. Drunk driving is inherently not reasonable, and if a court has found that a driver operated their vehicle while intoxicated the plaintiff in a subsequent civil case will have a much easier time showing that the defendant breached their duty of care.

Proving the Defendant Was Intoxicated Without a Criminal Conviction

Even if the state decides not to prosecute the defendant in criminal court for driving under the influence, or even if a criminal court finds the defendant not guilty, the victim can still use evidence that the defendant had been drinking to prove a civil case. For example, the victim can show that the defendant was issued an open container citation after the accident, submit a police report indicating the defendant’s BAC level at the time of the accident, or statements from witnesses who observed the defendant exhibiting signs of intoxication before or after the crash. In other words, there are numerous ways in which a plaintiff can show that a defendant was intoxicated, apart from a criminal DUI conviction.

Need Legal Advice?

At The Angell Law Firm, LLC our personal injury lawyers sue drunk drivers in civil court on behalf of the victims that they injure. If you or a loved one were hurt in a DUI accident in Georgia and are interested in filing a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering contact our Atlanta office today at (770) 217-4954. Our experienced lawyers are standing by and would be happy to meet with you during a free initial consultation.

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