Accidents caused by intoxicated drivers occur far too often. Injuries from a drunk driving accident can be severe, long-lasting, or even permanent. You likely face incredible financial difficulties, the inability to work, or even the prospect of bankruptcy.
With the help of an experienced Washington personal injury attorney, you can effectively prove that another driver's choice to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol caused your injuries. When your injuries are another person's fault, you deserve financial compensation.
Proving Intoxication in Your Personal Injury Case
An impaired driver can cause serious injury. As part of your personal injury case, you must prove that the driver was intoxicated and that the intoxication was the cause of your injuries. Proving your case can be done in a number of different ways.
Using a Criminal DUI Conviction
If the driver who caused you injury was charged and successfully convicted of a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol that caused your injuries, you can use that conviction as conclusive evidence of the driver's intoxication.
A Washington DUI case requires a jury to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver was intoxicated while behind the wheel. If the jury finds this to be true, you can bring in the guilty verdict, or guilty plea, to prove that the driver was intoxicated when they caused your injuries. This doctrine is called "collateral estoppel" in the law.
As a result of collateral estoppel, you will not be required to re-prove that the driver was intoxicated at the time of your accident. This can save you a great deal of time and expense in proving your personal injury claim. Collateral estoppel will not apply if the driver is found not guilty of DUI.
Can I File My Lawsuit if the Driver is Found Not Guilty?
Yes. Civil cases and criminal cases use different burdens of proof. Criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard. Civil cases must only be proven by "a preponderance of the evidence," which means "more likely than not," a fact is true.
Because the civil burden is lower, you can still file a personal injury case based on the driver's intoxication.
Proving Intoxication Without a Criminal Conviction
Even if the other driver is found not guilty, or never charged with a crime, you can prove the driver was intoxicated by:
- using police reports;
- proving that a breathalyzer test showed intoxication (even if the result was under the "legal" limit);
- demonstrating the driver's performance on field sobriety tests (walk and turn test, alphabet backward, balance test, etc.); or
- using witness testimony about driver's behavior (slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, disorientation, imbalance).
Consult a Washington Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been in an accident with an impaired driver, you need an experienced attorney who understands the personal injury process and how to effectively prove that another person caused you harm. You can into the process with confidence that your case will be handled correctly.
Experienced personal injury attorney Quinn Posner represents clients in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, and the rest of Clark County. Contact Quinn Posner today to schedule a free consultation.