f you were injured in a DUI-related accident in California you may be able to pursue damages from the intoxicated driver through a personal injury lawsuit. Most DUI-related personal injury claims are filed on the basis of the negligence of the intoxicated driver. The claim, however, will depend on whether the intoxicated driver was charged with Driving Under the Influence.
Negligence Per Se. If the driver that caused your accident was arrested for and/or charged with driving under the influence, your lawsuit for damages will be based on negligence per se. Negligence per se means:

  • The driver violated a statute, ordinance, or public regulation;
  • The violation was the proximate cause of the injury or death in question; and
  • The injury or death resulted from behavior that the statute, ordinance, or public regulation was designed to prevent.

An arrest for and/or charge of DUI in California does most of the groundwork for a civil suit for damages. The first prong of the required elements is taken care of by the arrest and/or DUI charges. The victim must prove that the injuries sustained – or live(s) lost – are a direct result of the driver getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Damages in DUI Personal Injury Cases

Victims of drunk driving accident cases can file a personal injury claim to recover damages for their injuries. Additionally, families of victims who were killed in drunk driving accidents may file wrongful death lawsuits to recover compensation for the loss of their loved one. Damages are generally broken down into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are those awarded for calculable, verifiable out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the victim and/or his or her family. These often include medical expenses, surgery, rehabilitation, hospital bills, lost wages, lost earning potential, and funeral costs.
Non-economic damages are those awarded for injuries that are hard to value. Non-economic damages may include mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

Punitive Damages for Driving Under the Influence in California

Punitive damages are generally not available in California personal injury cases. However, the state has carved out an exception for drunk driving personal injury lawsuits. In a 1979 cause, the California Supreme Court heldthat punitive damages may be “recoverable from an intoxicated automobile driver, because the person who voluntarily drinks and does drugs knowing they will drive demonstrates a conscious and deliberate disregard of the safety of other persons.”