One of the known, but perhaps under-discussed dangers of American roadways is found in the risks posed by impaired drivers. DWI or DUI related accidents account for over 10,000 fatalities annually on American roadways, with a staggering number of 1.3 million arrests for DUI or DWI annually, which authorities feel captures perhaps less than one (1%) of the actual number of drivers that are impaired at any given moment on the road. In sum, the federal government reports that alcohol-related roadway collisions and DUI single car accidents cause a total damages value in excess of $37 billion dollars each year.
Grounds for Filing a DWI Lawsuit
In practice, any automobile accident leading to a collision that later is found to be alcohol related will be subject to a criminal investigation, in which the basics of the discovery required determining grounds to file in civil courts will be done. Specifically, should a single driver from the accident be charged criminally, especially as it relates to driver impairment and accidents causing bodily injury, the seriousness of the criminal charges alone indicates strongly the degree of fault for causing an accident in the overwhelming majority of cases. Plaintiffs in DWI lawsuits may find cause of action and grounds to file in the criminal proceedings alone, however, determining grounds for substantiated damages claims will require plaintiffs to consider and document all past, current, and expected future financial losses related to the DUI accident, with egregious cases resulting permanent bodily injury or damages resulting in large punitive damage awards in cast-specific contexts as well.
DWI Lawsuit and Related Articles of Law Are Changing Due to State Legalization of Marijuana
Recent changes to marijuana laws in several states have led to changes in impaired driving legislation in those states as well, with Colorado formally initiating a testing procedure and definitive limit that a driver under the influence of cannabis is legally permitted to have while operating a motor vehicle. While permissible under Colorado state law, defenses against DWI crimes relating to the impairment of marijuana at the federal level would not incur any mitigation of liability due to permitted levels of cannabinoids in the driver’s system, should a DWI lawsuit be filed under federal jurisdiction, if possible in light of the case specifics.
State-Specific Considerations Greatly Impact DWI Lawsuit Filings
More than likely, a DWI lawsuit will occur in the jurisdiction of which the original DWI incident occurred. In short, state laws begin to vary widely in terms of procedures and legal obligations of all parties once it is determined that a driver is most likely above the legal limit or otherwise impaired.
For example, the criminal penalties will vary from state to state with the state of Texas imposing a minimum period of three (3) days incarceration, fines up to $2,000 for the offense alone, additional court costs, and a license suspension of minimally ninety (90) days. While the feasibility of recovery is a legitimate question given the massive expenses related to facing a DUI charge, a judgment in civil courts may still be enforceable well into the future, but again, is subject to state statutes.
In terms of civil litigation from a DWI lawsuit, individuals filing personal injury claims in the state of Texas must adhere to a two (2) year statute of limitation to prevent barring of recovery, and any recovery action related to car accident lawsuits in Texas would be subject to the state’s modified comparative negligence doctrine, allowing for proportional distribution of fault and adjustment of damages liabilities.
For Defendants in DWI Lawsuits
Defendants in DWI lawsuits cannot count on their insurance companies to cover a given DWI-related accident, as insurers will seek to deny or limit claims coverage in cases of intentional misconduct, which would include criminal conduct such as driving under the influence per most policy plans. Defendants in DWI accident suits may require seeking legal counsel to litigate their policy with an insurer to maintain benefits coverage for the accident and ensuing damages. Moreover, DWI related accidents frequently cause significant damages, whether property or bodily, and in many cases, minimal coverage required by most states will be insufficient to cover all claims costs arising from a DWI case, forcing victims to file suit in civil courts to ensure recovery of damages from the defendant in the DWI lawsuit.