Drunk driving accident and arrest statistics
A review of statistical data by Smart Advocate from 2009 to 2018 compared drunk driving arrests in large cities across the U.S. In Los Angeles, there was an average of 1,804 drunk driving arrests per 100,000 people each year during the 10 years. Los Angeles has experienced a steady decline in the number of drunk driving arrests since 2009. In 2018, the total number of DUI arrests in the city was 4,755. By contrast, the total number of DUI arrests in 2009 was 9,020. While this is a substantial improvement, Los Angeles still ranked number 16 among the cities with the greatest number of DUI arrests in the U.S.
A study by Insurify found that Los Angeles has a drunk driving rate that is 8% higher than the national average. The percentage of drivers in L.A. with a prior DUI is 1.71%. Among adults in Los Angeles County, 17% reported that they drink excessively. Drunk driving accidents also account for a sizeable percentage of the fatal traffic accidents that happen in the county. Out of all of the fatal traffic accidents in Los Angeles County, Insurify found that 26% were drunk driving accidents.
The Insurance Information Institute reports that 36,560 people were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2018. Out of these fatal crashes, 10,511 were alcohol-related. This means that nearly a third of the traffic deaths in the U.S. were caused by drunk driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 10,327 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in California from 2003 to 2012, which was a fatality rate of 2 people per 100,000 residents.
These statistics demonstrate that while improvements have occurred, more needs to be done to prevent drunk driving. Unfortunately, when people choose to drive after drinking, they can cause accidents that injure or kill others. People who are seriously injured in collisions with drunk drivers and the families of people who are killed might hold the drivers accountable for their actions and recover damages by filing civil lawsuits against them.
Legal rights to pursue claims against drunk drivers
California allows people who have been seriously injured by drunk drivers or who have lost loved ones to file civil lawsuits against the people who caused their accidents and losses. Civil lawsuits may be filed against drunk drivers even when criminal cases are pending against them. This is allowed because civil personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits fall under the civil law while criminal cases fall under criminal law. Since these types of cases fall under two different bodies of law, they can be filed and proceed simultaneously.
It is a good idea for people to file lawsuits against drunk drivers even though they may have criminal charges pending against them for a couple of reasons. Criminal cases require prosecutors to meet higher burdens of proof than plaintiffs in civil lawsuits. In a criminal case, a prosecutor is required to prove all of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. By contrast, in a civil lawsuit, plaintiffs must prove their claims by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that it is more likely than not to have occurred in the way the plaintiffs argue. This means that a plaintiff can prevail in a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver even when the driver is found not guilty in the corresponding criminal case. The ability to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver means that the plaintiff may be able to hold the defendant accountable for his or her actions and recover damages for the plaintiff’s losses.
Wrongful death lawsuits
While injured victims of drunk driving accidents can file personal injury lawsuits against at-fault drivers, only certain people are allowed to file wrongful death lawsuits. The ability to file wrongful death lawsuits in California depends on the relationship that the plaintiff had with the deceased person. Under CCP § 377.60, the following people can file wrongful death lawsuits:
- Surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, or people who would stand to inherit by intestate succession
- Putative spouse, the putative spouse’s children, stepchildren, and parents if they were dependents of the deceased person
- Minors who have lived with the deceased person for at least 180 days before the accident and received 50% or more of their support from the deceased person
Filing a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit can allow people to recover damages for their losses.
Types of recoverable damages in a drunk driving accident lawsuit
People who have been injured in accidents caused by drunk drivers may be entitled to recover compensatory and punitive damages. As we have previously noted, the California Supreme Court has previously held that plaintiffs can recover punitive damages from drunk drivers because the drivers made a conscious choice to drive while impaired.
Compensatory damages are monetary amounts that are designed to compensate people for their economic and noneconomic losses. Punitive damages may be awarded in particularly egregious cases to punish the defendants. These are monetary amounts that are on top of the compensatory damages that plaintiffs might recover.
Some of the types of compensatory damages that might be recoverable in a drunk driving injury lawsuit include the following:
- Past and future medical losses
- Past and future income losses
- Property losses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
In a wrongful death lawsuit, plaintiffs might recover the medical expenses that were incurred to treat the deceased person from the time of the injury until he or she succumbed. They might also recover damages for the lost inheritance rights of the deceased person, their funeral and burial costs, and losses of consortium and guidance.
Get help from an experienced attorney
Being seriously injured or losing a loved one because of the actions of a drunk driver can be devastating. By filing a civil lawsuit, you may be able to hold the driver accountable for his or her actions and recover compensation for your losses. Contact an experienced lawyer at the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers today by calling us at 866.966.5240.