If I was Under the Influence, Can I Make an Injury Claim?
California law states it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This article addresses the question of can you recover damages if you are injured while driving under the influence.
In California there are two kinds of damages. One kind is called “economic” damages. These damages include such things as past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, and property damage. The other kind is called “noneconomic” damages, commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.” These damages are things such as physical pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, physical impairment and loss of enjoyment of life. In a jury trial, a jury is asked to award both economic and noneconomic damages.
It used to be that if you were hurt by the negligence of another motorist you could recover both economic and noneconomic damages, even if you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That changed in 1996, when the voters passed Proposition 213, which became law. Proposition
213, called the Personal Responsibility Act, was submitted to California voters to limit the rights of drunk drivers. The law provides that an injured person driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not entitled to recover noneconomic damages. Thus, the law seeks to penalize a person who drinks and drives by preventing him or her from being awarded noneconomic damages.
HOW THE LAW WORKS
The law says a person can’t recover noneconomic damages if at the time of the accident the person is convicted of violating either Vehicle Code, Section 23152 or 23153. Both Sections essentially state that it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle, and that it is unlawful for a person who has .08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.
What this means is that if you are unable to operate a vehicle like a sober person, you shouldn’t be driving. Even if your blood alcohol is below .08, you can still be found guilty of a DUI if the evidence shows you were impaired while driving.
A person who is found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs cannot recover damages for pain and suffering. Guilty means “convicted” of a DUI. If you were arrested but not convicted, Proposition 213 does not apply. You are entitled to full compensation including pain and suffering damages.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
DOES THE LAW APPLY TO PASSENGERS WHO ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE?
No. The law only applies to drivers. A passenger can still recover economic and noneconomic damages.
DOES THE LAW APPLY TO DRUGS?
Yes, the law still applies if you are driving under the influence of drugs.
DOES THE LAW APPLY IF YOU ARE ARRESTED BUT NOT CONVICTED?
No. You can still recover economic and noneconomic damages if you are arrested but are never convicted.
WHAT TO DO
If you have been drinking and suffered serious injuries because of the fault of another driver, you should make sure you receive appropriate treatment for your injuries. You should seek immediate treatment for your injuries, as soon as possible. A delay in treatment can and will be used against you by the wrongdoer’s insurance company.
You should also find a criminal lawyer who will fight hard for you on the DUI charge. DUI defense can be extremely complicated and you should find an attorney who specializes in DUI law.
Knowing your rights after a car accident is critical. Schedule a free consultation with us today.