Can a Criminal Case Affect Your Personal Injury Claim?

In some cases, a personal injury claim may involve a criminal charge against the person who caused the injury.  A common example of this situation is a car accident involving a drunk driver. DUI accidents can result in criminal charges and civil claims against the intoxicated driver.

Regardless of whether a person is charged with DUI after an accident, if that person caused the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. However, the criminal charges and any civil claim you may have are separate. The cases are handled by different courts and require different evidence to prove the allegations against the driver.

How Is A Criminal Prosecution Different From A Civil Case?

In a criminal prosecution, the state must prove the elements of the crime for the court to find the person guilty. In a drunk driving case, evidence may include testimony from the arresting officer, results of chemical testing, and evidence gathered during field sobriety tests. The prosecution has the burden of proving that the driver broke the law.

If a person is guilty of a crime, the judge imposes punishments. The punishments may include prison sentences and fines. In drunk driving accident cases, the DUI penalties may also include alcohol treatment, probation, ignition interlock device, probation, license suspension, and other penalties.

When a drunk driver causes an accident, the driver can be liable for any injuries or losses caused by the accident. Drunk driving accidents result in traumatic injuries and fatalities. The victims of those accidents can file a civil claim against the driver seeking compensation for a variety of damages.

Damages included in DUI car accident claims include:

  • Cost of medical care;
  • Loss of income and benefits;
  • Physical pain and suffering;
  • Cost of personal care;
  • Emotional suffering and distress;
  • Mental anguish;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life;
  • Scarring and disfigurement;
  • Loss of quality of life; and,
  • Permanent disability and impairment.

However, the accident victim has the burden of proving that the drunk driver caused the accident. Being guilty of drunk driving is not the same as being guilty of causing an accident. The victim cannot rely upon the DUI charges as the sole proof of fault for the accident.

Can a Criminal Conviction Help My Personal Injury Claim?

Car accidents and other personal injury claims in New York are fault-based claims. You must prove that a party’s negligence, error, or wrongdoing was the direct and proximate cause of your injury. You must also prove that the party owed you a duty of care and that you sustained damages because of a breach of that duty.

It is important to note that the outcome of a criminal case does not dictate the outcome of a civil case. The person who caused your injury could be innocent in criminal court, or the charges against the person could be dismissed. However, you may still prevail in the civil claim.

Evidence used to convict a person in criminal court can be used in civil matters to help establish fault. In the case of a car accident, being intoxicated is not proof of causing a crash. While it is likely that a drunk driver contributed to the cause of an accident, a situation could exist in which the drunk driver was the accident victim.

Will Insurance Pay for a DUI Accident?

If a drunk driver causes an accident, the driver’s insurance company is liable for damages. Once the victim proves that the drunk driver caused the accident, the insurance company should pay the injury claim.

However, as with other car accident claims, insurance companies attempt to minimize their liability for car crashes. The company may deny liability, dispute injuries, and damages, or attempt to blame the victim for contributing to the cause of the crash. The goal is to pay as little as possible for your injury claim.

Building a strong case with evidence proving fault is the best way to fight for a fair settlement for a DUI accident claim. An attorney helps you build that case by gathering evidence and documenting damages. After gathering all evidence and information, the attorney prepares a demand package for the insurance company.

If negotiations do not result in a fair settlement, you can proceed with a civil lawsuit.

How Can an Attorney Help Me With My Claim?

A car accident lawyer conducts an independent investigation of the DUI accident. The purpose of an investigation is to determine how the accident occurred and gather evidence. Once the attorney determines how the accident occurred, the evidence is used to prove that the drunk driver caused the crash.

For instance, a vehicle turns left in front of a drunk driver causing a collision. At first appearance, the drunk driver is the victim because the other driver failed to yield the right of way.

However, an investigation reveals that the person turning left had a green turning arrow.  The drunk driver should have stopped for a red light. Running the red light was the cause of the accident; therefore, the drunk driver is responsible for causing the accident.

Mirman, Markovits & Landau, P.C.
291 Broadway 6th Floor
New York, NY 10007
(212) 227-4000