Drivers who operate their vehicles while intoxicated are a danger to everyone else on the road. Accidents that result from driving under the influence (DUI) often leave accident victims with serious injuries and medical expenses. Fortunately, DUI accident victims can sue the responsible driver in a negligence lawsuit to recover compensation for their harm. In addition to criminal penalties, an intoxicated driver may therefore be liable to an accident victim for civil damages.
For example, a recent news article reported on a possible DUI accident in Indianapolis, Indiana. Police arrived at the crash scene and learned a driver had left an exit and attempted to enter a southbound lane. When leaving the exit, the driver crashed into two other vehicles. Multiple people suffered serious injuries. Police officers suspected drugs and alcohol to be factors in the crash.
What Are the Burdens of Proof for Civil and Criminal DUI Cases?
The burden of proof for a criminal prosecution is much higher than a civil negligence lawsuit. To convict the defendant of a crime, all twelve jury members must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Any shred of doubt about the defendant’s guilt requires the jury to find the defendant not guilty. If even one juror is not absolutely sure that the defendant is guilty, the jury cannot convict the defendant of a crime. If the jury cannot agree, the prosecution may re-try the case against the defendant. The burden of proof is high because the defendant may serve time in prison if they are convicted. By contrast, the burden of proof to impose civil damages is a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. To hold the defendant liable for negligence in a civil lawsuit, the judge or jury must find it is more likely than not that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s harm. Under this lower burden of proof, the defendant is liable even if it is only 51% likely that their negligent behavior resulted in harm.
Can You Seek Punitive Damages for Indiana DUI Accidents?
In Indiana, plaintiffs can seek punitive damages when the responsible driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. Whereas compensatory damages restore plaintiffs to their position before the accident, punitive damages serve to punish the defendant for wrongdoing. While punitive damages often require intent to inflict harm, Indiana law recognizes that intoxicated drivers intended to operate their vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As a result, the law recognizes DUI accidents as a special case for punitive damages even when the driver did not plan to cause a crash. A skilled Indiana DUI accident attorney can work with you to develop the strongest possible case theory for compensatory and punitive damages liability.
Have You Been Hurt in an Indiana DUI Accident?
If you or someone you love has been recently injured in an Indiana car accident involving an intoxicated driver, contact Padove Law for assistance. Indiana personal injury attorney Burton A. Padove has successfully represented clients in many different accident claims, including DUI accidents. Through Attorney Padove’s skills and hands-on experience, he can help you pursue a claim for compensatory and punitive damages against the responsible driver. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at 877-446-5294.