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Can a DUI Accident Lead to a Civil Lawsuit?

Let’s take a look at driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol in California: DUI is a criminal offense, you can go to jail for DUI, you can lose your driver’s license, a DUI conviction means a criminal record, and a DUI can lead to a civil lawsuit. In other words, a drunk or drugged driver can go to jail for DUI and they can get sued.

Adults are generally aware that it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs; most licensed drivers across the United States know that if they’re convicted of DUI, they could go to jail. However, not everybody knows that a DUI can also lead to a civil lawsuit, in addition to criminal charges for DUI.

Why Would Somebody Want to Sue Me?

Suppose you hit the bar after work one Friday night. After having several drinks, you decided to climb in your vehicle and drive home. Even though you questioned your sobriety, you were only driving home two miles, so you thought it would be okay. After all, it was 1:00 am and barely anybody was on the road that night.

You’re driving your 4X4 down the road and about a half mile from the bar, you run a red light and T-bone a small Toyota. Since you were speeding, the damage to the Toyota was significant and the other driver was seriously injured. When the police arrive at the scene, they have you take a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registers at 0.15%, well above the .08% legal limit. You’re arrested for DUI on the spot.

You’re the Subject of a Civil Lawsuit

In the above scenario, your insurance company is going to have to settle the claim. Since the victim was seriously injured, there is a good chance that your auto insurance policy would not be enough to cover the victim’s damages.

As of this writing, California’s minimum liability coverage limits are 15,000/30,000/5,000; if you only had minimum liability, that means your policy would only pay a maximum of $15,000 for the other driver’s injuries, and a maximum of $5,000 for the damage of the other driver’s vehicle.

Suppose the victim’s medical bills were $150,000, and their car was totaled so it would cost $20,000 to replace it. Not only that, but we’re not taking into account the victim’s pain and suffering, and lost income. Before you know it, the victim’s damages are in the ballpark of $200,000 or more – well above your auto insurance policy’s coverage.

In this case, your auto insurance policy will likely offer up to your policy’s limits. If the victim has uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, the victim will probably draw from that too. As far as the difference, the victim may look to you for that, especially if an asset check uncovers that you have some assets that can be tapped into. The moral of the story is that if you accidentally injure or kill someone else in a DUI accident, just be aware that the victim could sue you for any damages not covered by insurance.

Are you facing DUI charges in the East Bay? If so, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an Oakland DUI attorney!

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