DUI – A Tragic Cause of Passenger Car Crashes

Attorney Michael Ehline

Attorney Michael Ehline

One of the most tragic causes of accidents on the road today is drunk or influenced driving. Despite all of the warnings and research, people still get behind the wheel of a car under the influence every single day. These accidents represent a large portion of the crashes across the country every year and represent both civil and criminal offenses. Unfortunately, it is still a reality and one that hopefully most drivers never have to face.

Violating the Law

If someone is drinking and driving, they’re violating California law. The California Vehicle Code Sec 23152 states: (a) It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.

The law is also clear about what represents vehicles driven under the influence. According to the California Vehicle Code, even a bicycle is a vehicle that can be included as a crime. California Vehicle Code Sec 670 states: A “vehicle” is a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks. There are many vehicles that drivers can be cited for in a DUI case- all the more reason to drive sober.

Sobering Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012 over 10,000 drivers were killed due to drunk driving across the country. The rate of death in the state of California is about 0.28- lower than the national average but still high in overall traffic fatality rates. Unfortunately, it is sometimes a dangerous road out there for drivers.

In higher traffic areas, such as the Greater Los Angeles Area, there is a higher than average rate of DUI accidents. Unfortunately, this could include multiple cars and possibly pile ups. DWIs cost far too many lives, especially for vulnerable car and motorcycle motorists. Due to high rates of speed and poor control, often there are severe issues commonly caused by such accidents.

Acting After an Accident

After such an accident, it is important to act quickly. Seek immediate medical care and make sure to document as much as you can at the crash site. The drunk driver should also be held to account. The driver may be facing criminal charges for a DUI or DWI, but there should be a civil punishment for their actions as well. If it can be proven that the other driver was under the influence, making sure that they are held responsible can be your contribution to society. Your actions could prevent another accident down the line and save another family heartbreak.

Making sure that you have an experienced legal advocate by your side is one of your first steps. A legal expert, such as one from the Ehline Law Firm PC that is also specialized in car accidents and DWIs will be able to point you in the right directions. We’ve handled hundreds of similar cases, winning results for our clients. Feel free to call us any time day or night at 888-400-9721.

DMV Penalties

The driver under the influence can be faced with civil penalties if the victim decides to proceed, criminal charges from a prosecutor for their actions, or the revocation of their license by the DMV.

Watch below to see an example of a DMV administrative hearing:

Drivers that were under the influence has ten business days to request an administrative hearing with the DMV. If they do not, they face a permanent suspension of their driver’s license through automatic suspension. Facing a DMV hearing, normal court rules of evidence do not apply. The accused is not allowed to plead the 5th Amendment and could be coerced by a prosecutor to accidentally imply guilt. The hearing officer just needs to verify that the arresting agency had a reasonable belief that the rider was intoxicated or under the influence, that the accused committed the offense, and that the arrest was made pursuant to the law.

The last thing the hearing will determine is if the driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher, as seen in CVC Section 23152. The accused that are not represented by a legal eye often lose these hearings and have to pay significant penalties, both financial and otherwise.

Criminal Prosecution

Many accused drunk drivers are accused of their alleged crime in court. They face DUI accusation for their actions and face a potential bias by possible jurors, other drivers, and the police. Many accused of such a crime feel as though they have nowhere to turn and can face up to a three year probation, AA meetings, fines, MADD classes, trash pick up, or other penalties for a first offense causing no injuries.

If the accident caused injury or death, the alleged can face severe penalties. Drinking and driving is such a severe issue on the road that any sympathy is not to be expected.

Civil Claims

Even after facing the DMV and the criminal court, the accused may also face a claim in civil court. Those injured by the drunk driver could be brought up in court for liability questions. They could be sued for negligence for not having insurance or not having enough coverage. The victim is likely to ask for their pain and suffering, medical bills, and therapy to be covered by the other driver.

Avoiding Drunk Driving Accidents

By no means a foolproof process, there are some manners to avoid such an accident in the future. Keeping an eye out for drivers making wide turns, going into both lanes, sudden braking, driving very fast or slow, driving the wrong way, or other actions can be considered telltale signs of drunk driving.

But remember not to drink at all. If you do, make sure to have a designated driver or call a taxi, limo, or bus.

Contact a Legal Professional

Skilled attorneys have seen it all and are ready to help. If you have been injured in a severe car accident caused by alcohol or accused of such a crime, Ehline Law can help. Our experience in hundreds of similar cases have gotten results. We stand ready to hear your case 24/7 and to assist. For more information, please fill out the email form to the right or call us at 888-400-9721.

Common Causes of Car Accidents

Attorney Michael Ehline

Attorney Michael Ehline

Since most drivers are out on the road nearly every day, it is important to be cognizant of the risk of an accident. Accidents are rare for individual drivers, but statistically are very frequent. Being able to determine some of the common features between such accidents and how to prevent future accidents. You won’t be able to avoid all of them, but tips like these sure help.

Not Driving Defensively

Many accidents happen when other drivers are driving aggressively, causing issues on the road. Many try to dominate lanes or tailgate other drivers. Making sure to de-escalate the situation by driving defensively can help. You can receive low cost classes on how to do so and also reduce your insurance rate.

Low Speed Crashes are Common

While many of the most severe crashes happen at high speed, many are at 30 miles per hour or lower. Some are simply unavoidable or the result of factors such as weather or faulty parts or manufacture. Driving a little under the speed limit or as circumstances allow can further reduce the risk of crash.

Drunk and Impaired Drivers

Drunk and impaired drivers make the roadways much less safe. A NHTSA report indicated that over 8% of drivers at any time could have alcohol in their systems. It’s hard to avoid those driving under the influence, but they are a common sight, unfortunately and a common source of accidents.

Using Proper Safety Gear

Make sure that your airbags are properly functioning and that you and your passengers buckle up for every single ride. Make sure that your lights are properly working and not causing issues on the road.

Solo Accidents

Many car accidents are as the result of a driver falling asleep, losing control of the wheel, or facing other issues. Keep aware of your surroundings at all time.

Experience

The more time on the road, often the safer the driver is behind the wheel. Facing many types of situations over years makes a driver much less likely to get into a crash and avoid issues with other drivers.

Elements Out of Your Control

There are many factors that a driver cannot always control. Some include obvious ones, including weather. However, in other cases, faulty parts or maintenance can cause severe accidents when they are least expected. There could also be road or signage defects that spark crashes (Read More.)

Skilled Attorneys Can Answer Questions

Often one of the most potent tools for both preventing and responding to accidents is the word of an experienced attorney. A lawyer that has seen it all before could explain how different accidents occur and the cases they’ve seen in the past. Ehline Law’s skilled team is available for advice or to review any possible claims you may have. Please email us using the form on the right or call us at 888-400-9721 any time of the day.

What Should I Do After an Auto Accident?

auto accident, attorney, car crash, lawyerQuestion: What should I do after an auto accident?

Answer: This is probably something no one ever wants to think about but, something that must be thought out.  According to the United States Census statistics, there are an average of over 10 Million traffic collisions every year in the U.S.  The chances of being involved in an auto accident increase exponentially if you live in an urban environment such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or any other large metropolitan area.  Taking L.A. as an example, statistics show there are upwards of 100,000 traffic collisions every year in Los Angeles County with about 55-60 percent of these resulting in some type of bodily injury and about 3-5 percent involving a fatality.

With these stark statistics in mind, it is important to “plan ahead”!

Question: What should I do right now?

Answer: This is an excellent place to start.  Planning for the unfortunate eventuality of a car crash begins before you are ever involved in such a calamity.  I would suggest two things as follows:

  1. Prepare Your Vehicle: Keeping up with the inspection and maintenance of your car, truck or SUV is critical to possibly avoiding an accident or minimizing the chance of injury if a crash occurs.  This means making sure you have good working brakes, tires with good tread, functioning seat belts and air bags and an overall sound mechanical motor vehicle.   It also means storing some safety equipment in your ride including a First Aid Kit, flares or safety cones, extra oil or coolant, a flashlight, and a fully charged cell phone with an in car charger if the battery is depleted.
  2. Verify Insurance Coverage: You have auto insurance for one reason and one reason only: To insure against the risks involved with an accident.  It is perplexing to me as an attorney who represents auto accident victims, how many times my clients have no idea what their exact coverage is or have been “penny wise and pound foolish” when it comes to coverage.  Unless you have a terrible driving record, the difference between comprehensive coverage that provides good protection for you and your family and a “fly by night” minimal coverage policy can be in the hundreds of dollars per year.  Here are the things that you should make sure you have: (a) Liability coverage at the highest limits possible.  Umbrella coverage that would protect you above the basic auto policy limits is also advisable; (b) Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage.  These usually go hand in hand and, in California, they are mandatory in every policy unless waived, in writing. UM protects you if you are hit by a driver with no insurance and UIM is coverage for being involved in a crash with a vehicle owner driving with minimal or low policy limits; (c) Medical Payments (Medpay) coverage adds supplement insurance that pays for basic medical expenses in the event of an accident causing personal injury.

Question: What are the Top Five Things You Must Do Following A Car Crash?

Answer: As a lawyer who has successfully represented many auto accident victims and their families, my top five things to do immediately after a traffic collision would be as follows:

  1. Stop and Assess: Come to a complete stop.  Assess whether you, as the driver, are injured and whether any passengers in your vehicle have sustained injury.  If anyone has been injured to any significant extent, immediately dial 911 and request both police and an ambulance.
  2. Get Out of Harm’s Way If Possible: If there are no injuries or only minor injuries and the vehicle is operable, it is best to move the car to the side of the roadway or in an emergency lane of a freeway.  This minimizes the chances of being struck a second time in traffic.  If it is not possible to move the vehicle, it is usually best to “stay put”.  You never want to exit a vehicle on a busy freeway and risk being involved in an auto v. pedestrian collision.  On a smaller surface street, it may be possible to exit the vehicle and get out of traffic but, use extreme caution when doing so.
  3. Obtain as Much Information As Possible From People at The Scene: At a bare minimum, you need to obtain the driver’s license and insurance information for any driver who was operating any vehicle that was involved in any way in the incident.  Verify that the address on their driver’s license is current.  If possible, also get the name, address and phone number for any other occupants in the vehicle and anyone who witnessed what happened.
  4. Document the Scene of The Accident: Unfortunately, memories fade and stories sometimes change as to how a motor vehicle collision occurred.  Take photographs of all visible property damage to any vehicle involved in the incident, where the vehicles came to rest, and any physical evidence such as skid marks or debris on the roadway.  Also get a overall view photo of the area including traffic signals (if the accident happened at an intersection).  These may all be useful later on in reconstructing events for purposes of proving legal liability or fault.
  5. Seek Out Prompt Medical Attention and Consult With An Attorney: First and foremost, any person who has sustained injury or begins to feel pain either at the scene or in the hours or days following the accident should immediately be examined by a medical professional.  Do not hesitate to accept an offer to be transported from the scene via ambulance if you are experiencing any physical pain or discomfort.  Follow up after any emergency trauma care with additional consultations with either your primary care physician and/or any medical specialist recommended by your primary doctor or the ER physicians.  If no one was hurt, consulting an attorney is probably not necessary.  However, if anyone sustained personal injury, a lawyer should be consulted prior to anyone making statements to any insurance representatives as this could affect the ability to fully recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Additional Resources:

How to Document An Auto Accident Scene Using Your Smartphone, Author: Steven Sweat, Los Angeles Injury Attorney Blog

Author Bio: Steven Sweat is the principal attorney at Steven M. Sweat, APC, a Los Angeles based personal injury law firm serving all of California.  Mr. Sweat has an emphasis in representing auto accident victims and their families.

How Much Is My Car Accident Claim Worth?

Auto Accident Case ValueHow much is my car accident claim worth?  This is probably one of the most common questions consumers have after they have been involved in a motor vehicle collision which results in bodily injury.  The simple answer is that it depends on various factors, which can be broken down into three, basic categories as follows:

ONE: Liability Issues That Affect The Value of A Motor Vehicle Collision Claim

  • Negligence Defined: In every jurisdiction in the United States, the liability of a person for “negligence” in the operation of a motor vehicle requires the following: (a) A legal duty to act or not act in a reasonable manner; (b) a breach of that duty; (c) causation between the breach and the damages suffered by the person claiming injury; and (d) verifiable damages.  When analyzing the value of an auto crash claim, the first question, then, is was someone negligent (i.e. did they do something unreasonable, that would be deemed a breach of their duty to operate a motor vehicle with due diligence and prudence, which caused harm to another person)?  If the answer is no, there is no claim. If the answer is yes, further analysis must be done.
  • Definition of Contributory or Comparative Fault: In most U.S. states that do not have “no fault” provisions, a determination must be made as to whether any other person (including the person claiming injury) may have contributed to causing the incident or to sustaining injury above what would normally be expected due to some “negligence” on their own part.  There area few states (e.g. Alabama, the District of Colombia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia) that negate the entire claim upon proof that the person bringing the claim was at fault to any degree (so-called “Pure Contributory Negligence”) with certain exceptions.  Other states allow recovery so long as the plaintiff (injured party) is not found to be 50 percent or more [51 percent in some states] at fault for their own injuries (“Pure Comparative Fault”).  Still other jurisdictions allow for recovery no matter what the percentage of fault may be but, require reduction of the award by the percentage of fault.  (e.g. if a plaintiff is 90 % at fault, they may still recover but, only 10% of the total award will go to them).

TWO: Damages That Can Be Claimed Due to Motor Vehicle Negligence

  • “Economic Damages”: These are all of the “out of pocket” costs incurred by the injured party.  They include the “reasonable value” of present and future medical expenses, the amount that can be documented as sustained wage loss, the value of the loss of earning capacity in the case of permanent full or partial disability, rental fees or compensation for “loss of use” of a vehicle, and the cost of repair or replacement of damaged property including the automobile, motorcycle or other motor vehicle involved in the collision.
  • “Non-Economic Damages”: When most people think of “non-economic” damages, the term “pain and suffering” is most commonly used.  However, damages not related to an “economic”  or “pecuniary” loss are much broader than this simple phrase would imply.  For example, California personal injury law defines non-economic damages to include both past, present and future values for the following: (1) Physical Pain; (2) Mental Suffering; (3) Loss of Enjoyment of Life; (4) Disfigurement; (5) Physical Impairment; (6) Inconvenience; (7) Anxiety; (8) Grief; (9) Humiliation; and (10) Emotional Distress . Therefore, valuation of this component of damages should include a wide variety of compensation for the physical and emotional toll caused by the car crash.

NOTE: In cases where death occurs, damages are calculated slightly differently (see related post here).

THREE: Source of Recovery

The final aspect of the value of a auto crash claim is the total amount available for the recovery of damages by way of settlement or judgment.  Most of the time, this source is automobile insurance which, unfortunately, is not infinite.  Every state has certain minimum policy limits in for auto insurance.  Thankfully, many people carry more than minimal coverage and some even have supplemental or so-called “umbrella” policies that kick in if damages exceed the limit of the basic auto policy.  Unfortunately, far too many drivers are operating contrary to law and don’t have insurance coverage at all.  If this is the case, an uninsured motorist claim could be made with the injured victim’s own insurance carrier assuming they have this protection. Underinsured motorist coverage is similar in that it would cover up to the policy limit amount in the case of a person injured by a driver with low or minimal policy limits.

WHY IT IS BEST TO CONSULT WITH A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER TO DETERMINE VALUE AND TO ADVOCATE FOR MAXIMUM RECOVERY IN AN CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM:  

Liability is rarely without dispute.  Certain factual scenarios like rear end collision claims are most often deemed 100% the fault of the one party.   However, most cases involve arguments that the injury victim claimant may have had some fault in causing the incident or may have sustained injury at a higher level than normal due to some fault of their own (e.g. failure to wear a seat belt, failure to avoid the collision, etc.)  When more than two parties are involved, the “blame game” becomes even more complex.  Liability issues like these require legal analysis and garnering and presenting evidence to advocate for as close to 100% responsibility on the defendant(s) as possible.

Damages are only worth what can be proven in a court of law.  Proper treatment, diagnosis of present and future physical and emotional harm and proper presentation of this evidence is key to full recovery.  The same holds true for wage loss and property damage claims.  In addition, there is not set formula for calculating “non-economic” damages and the categories for which these may be based are myriad.

For all these reasons, a quality and zealous legal advocate for the injury victim is the best intermediary to present the claim and obtain full and complete indemnity and reimbursement for all losses sustained.  Having a great lawyer in your corner is the key to not only reducing the stress of trying to “prove your case” on your own but, in determining all possible pockets fro which to collect and collecting the largest amount to which an injured party is legally entitled from each and every responsible person.