Chico sees many DIU accidents every year. A wide range of causes contributes to collisions in the area. One reason why an accident happens is alcohol consumption before driving. Despite warnings, some people get behind the wheel while under the influence.
If a motorist has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08, they likely will be guilty of a DUI—a charge of illegally driving under the influence. They face an arrest and possible criminal charges if they are guilty of a DUI.
A DUI accident often leaves the other driver and passengers with substantial injuries, with victims struggling financially over bills. The law allows these victims to sue the intoxicated driver to recover damages. After a collision with an impaired driver, speak with a personal injury lawyer for help.
DUI Accident Statistics in Chico
Alcohol is a prevalent factor in traffic accidents in California. Fatalities have decreased over the years, but many still suffer from injuries due to intoxicated driving. In Chico alone, over 50 people have experienced fatal or severe injuries in alcohol-related collisions in one recent year. One reason for these untimely deaths is that the city is densely populated.
When DUI Crashes Are Likely to Occur
The risk of a DUI accident increases during the weekend. Many more people have additional free time and might attend one of the many bars and restaurants around the city. Therefore, people are more likely to obtain a high blood alcohol (BAC) level and get behind the wheel.
In addition to the weekend, the alcohol-related traffic incident rate is higher at night. Specifically, around 48.2 percent of severe injuries and fatalities happen between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. The night’s reduced visibility makes an impaired driver less likely to notice objects, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers.
Where DUI Crashes Are Likely to Occur
A drunk driver could get into an accident anywhere. However, a majority of crashes occur in urban areas. The nearby highways and intersections around the city have a high accident potential for traffic incidents.
However, high-capacity non-highway roadways can be more dangerous than other streets. For example, roughly 44.4 percent of DUI accidents occur annually on arterial roads.
How to Determine Driver Intoxication
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are three tests an officer directs a suspected impaired driver to perform. One of them is the Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. HGN refers to the involuntary jerking of the eyes when they look to either side. A drunk motorist’s HGN appears more prominent at lesser angles.
The walk-and-turn test focuses on the individual’s ability to concentrate on mental and physical tasks at the same time. A person walks in a straight line for a specific number of steps with the heel-to-toe method. Then, they turn around and repeat the process.
Lastly, the one-leg stand test requires the individual to lift one foot off the ground and maintain the position. Then, they must count numerically. Hopping or using arms to balance may indicate a high BAC level.
While the NHTSA deems the field sobriety tests reliable, false results happen. The HGN test is only 77 percent accurate by itself. Meanwhile, all three tasks have a success rate of over 80 percent. However, an officer may inaccurately determine an impaired driver does not have a BAC over 0.08.
Furthermore, California does not legally require drivers to take field sobriety tests. Someone can refuse the officer’s request. As a result, you may need a DUI accident lawyer’s assistance to hold the other motorist liable for your injuries.
Usually, the officer conducts a chemical test after they arrest the driver. They may have the individual submit a breath, blood, or urine sample.
If the results indicate a high level of alcohol, you can use these results as evidence in favor of your claim for damages. An attorney can get a copy to build your case against the at-fault motorist.
Legal Defenses in a DUI Accident Case
Different factors affect a driver’s performance during field sobriety tests. As a result, the defendant may use the circumstances to disprove the results.
Some defensive strategies include:
- Weather. If rain makes the ground wet or muddy, a person is less likely to do well. Strong winds and cold weather might make balancing more difficult. If the weather was abnormal, the defense could use this fact to their advantage.
- Inadequate surface conditions. In addition to slippery roads, uneven ground may affect the results. The intoxicated driver could argue the surface was insufficient for accurate testing.
- Poor lighting. Darkness may make even sober people struggle to step in a straight line. Poor lighting makes it more likely to misjudge walking a straight line.
- Physical and mental capabilities. The at-fault driver could use their age or weight as to why they could not balance or coordinate well. You might fight an uphill battle if the defendant shows they had an illness or pre-existing physical condition at the time.
- Other reasons for poor performance. The defendant may prove they experienced exhaustion, dehydration, or effects from a medication. As a result, they could not complete the tests correctly.
The intoxicated driver may claim the results are unreliable based on an alleged mistake in the testing procedure. Furthermore, the at-fault motorist may challenge the officer’s observations or how they handled the arrest procedures.
No matter what strategy the defense uses, an attorney may be able to counter them. Your lawyer will search for evidence to disprove the other side’s defense.
Why You Need a Chico DUI Accident Lawyer
After a collision with an impaired driver, speak with a DUI accident lawyer for help. An attorney’s services can immensely benefit your case. Your lawsuit will more likely end in your favor with a law firm by your side.
You can expect a lawyer to investigate the accident thoroughly to gather all the facts. When they look into the case, they see if the other motorist has a history of DUI incidents. Repeated behavior could sway the court in your favor.
The defendant could have been drinking in one of the bars in the city. Your lawyer can uncover footage and other evidence to prove the person was drinking before the accident. They can get a copy of chemical test results as additional proof of consumption.
A person does have a long time to file a lawsuit for drunk driving. Once the statute of limitation expires, they lose their legal right to seek compensation. A law firm manages most of the legal work for you, so you won’t have to worry about missing deadlines and losing possible reimbursement.
The right DUI accident lawyer has the knowledge and skills to represent you if you decide to go to trial. They understand court procedures and what likely will convince the jurors. Your attorney ensures the court hears your voice.
Damages in a Drunk Driving Lawsuit
Like any other car accident, an alcohol-related collision may entitle someone to compensatory damages. The injured party’s compensation usually covers crash-related healthcare expenses. In addition to past bills, a settlement includes expected future medical costs.
Someone’s injuries could leave them out of work for a while to recover. Moreover, some people can no longer work in the same capacity after a DUI accident. In a lawsuit, victims may recover missed wages and expected lost income.
DUI collisions generally lead to expensive bills for vehicle repairs. Additionally, the crash could have caused damage to personal items like phones. The other party owes you compensation for fixing or replacing ruined property.
You may suffer from emotional distress in addition to physical bodily harm. Settlements usually include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and PTSD. The value of your damages depends on how the lawyer calculates them and the various factors in the case.
If the accident was fatal, living family members could receive compensatory damages. The defendant must reimburse them for burial expenses and other costs, including loss of companionship and lost benefits.
Punitive or exemplary damages may apply to a DUI collision lawsuit. They punish the defendant for engaging in reckless or intentional conduct. The judge may award punitive damages to deter the at-fault driver, and others, from repeating the offense.
Each year, only a handful of cases include punitive damages. The court usually adds the punishment if compensatory damages appear inadequate for the situation. The amount the defendant must pay varies from case to case.
A Criminal DUI Case and Civil DUI Accident Case
Most car crash lawsuits go through the civil court system. However, the law prohibits people from driving while they are intoxicated. Therefore, a DUI can result in a criminal offense. The intoxicated driver could face additional criminal charges if a victim dies after an accident.
In a criminal case, the impaired driver faces arrest and must appear before a judge. The standard of proof for criminal cases is stricter than in civil trials. The prosecution must prove the defendant is guilty of a DUI incident beyond a reasonable doubt. If a verdict is against the driver, the punishment could involve fines, a license suspension, and jail time.
The liable motorist may also face a civil lawsuit against them. In a civil case, the burden of proof is not as strict. The plaintiff must only prove the driver breached their duty of care and caused the injuries.
If the injured person is successful in their claim, the defendant must reimburse them for their losses. Additionally, most civil cases settle before a trial becomes necessary.
How the Criminal Case Affects the Civil Lawsuit
A drunk driver may go through the criminal court system before they negotiate a settlement in a civil lawsuit. Usually, the two cases do not have any bearing on each other. However, a criminal conviction could support your argument against the motorist for negligence.
The criminal court system requires a greater burden of proof. Therefore, you can use the guilty verdict as evidence in your claim. Nevertheless, you can still sue them without a criminal conviction.
What if the Impaired Driver Is a Minor?
California is a zero-tolerance state, so people under 21 deal with consequences for drunk driving. The court may suspend a teenager’s license for at least one year for even minimal presence of alcohol in the bloodstream. The situation is more complex if the minor causes an accident while intoxicated.
Like any motor vehicle crash, you can file a lawsuit despite the at-fault driver being underage. If your lawyers discover an adult supplied the teenager with alcohol, you could hold that person accountable, too.
In a lawsuit, the negligent party can include the driver’s parents. In California, parents are responsible for accidents caused by their children. The liability remains until the minor turns 18 or if the parent withdraws consent for the child to drive. They can take back their permission by filing a request to cancel the license.
Parental negligence exists under the concept of vicarious liability. The doctrine makes the vehicle owner liable for any accident the minor causes using their vehicle. Additionally, you could sue the underaged driver and parent using joint and several liability.
You must still prove the parent and child are responsible for damages. A lawyer can assist with the investigation and gather evidence.
If a DUI accident injures you, contact an experienced attorney for assistance navigating your compensation claim.