Drunk driving is a serious problem that affects thousands of individuals every year – despite the dangers and consequences, some people still choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leading to tragic accidents and injuries. In cases where drunk driving does result in accidents, it is essential to understand the legal distinctions between civil and criminal liability. In this guide, we’ll be breaking down these key concepts to help you understand the differences.  

The Basics Of Civil Liability

Civil liability refers to an individual’s responsibility to pay for the damages that they caused in an accident. This type of liability is typically determined through a civil lawsuit, which is brought by the victim or the victim’s family whilst the case is still within the statute of limitations. In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent, meaning that they failed to exercise reasonable care in their actions. If negligence is established, the plaintiff can recover damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.

So, What Is Criminal Liability?

Criminal liability, on the other hand, refers to an individual’s responsibility to face criminal charges for their actions. In drunk driving accidents, this liability can result in charges like DUI (driving under the influence), reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter. Criminal charges are brought by the government, and the burden of proof is higher than in civil cases. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, which can result in penalties like fines, probation, license suspension, and even incarceration. While liability is easier to prove in some cases compared to others, such as a motorcycle or car accident involving a drunk driver, it is still worth contacting an experienced lawyer if you’ve been involved in an incident to see where you stand legally.

Liability In Drunk Driving Accidents

When it comes to drunk driving accidents, both civil and criminal liability can apply, and in some cases the offender may even face both types of liability. For example, if a drunk driver causes an accident that results in the death of another person, they may face criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter, as well as a civil lawsuit brought by the victim’s family.

The penalties for drunk driving accidents can be severe, regardless of whether the liability is civil or criminal. In civil cases, the defendant may be required to pay significant damages, including medical expenses and lost wages, especially if the extent of liability is clear. In criminal cases, the penalties can be even more severe.

It is important to note that criminal charges do not automatically result in civil liability, and vice versa. In some cases, a defendant may be found not guilty in criminal court but still be held liable in a civil lawsuit. Similarly, a defendant may be found guilty in criminal court but not liable in a civil lawsuit. This is because the burden of proof is different in each type of case, and the standards for liability are not always the same.

Drunk driving accidents can have serious and far-reaching consequences, both in terms of civil and criminal liability. If you or a family member have been affected by drunk driving, then we can help!

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