Driving under the influence (“DUI”), also known as driving while intoxicated (“DWI”) or operating under the influence (“OUI”), is a crime that involves operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, illegal substances, or certain medications. While the majority of DUI incidents typically result in some sort of accident, a driver can still be charged with a DUI if they are pulled over while driving under the influence

Every state has enacted some form of DUI laws. Thus, both the factors to prove the offense as well as the legal remedies that a victim can recover will often vary by state. Generally speaking, however, most DUI laws will aim to prevent people from operating a motor vehicle under the influence and to protect innocent victims from DUI-related accidents. States enforce DUI laws by enforcing harsh penalties. 

For example, a driver who is convicted on DUI charges, may need to pay criminal fines to the state government and serve a prison sentence. A driver who causes injury to another person may also be sued by the victim in civil court. Depending on the extent of a victim’s injuries, the victim may be able to recover a large sum of monetary damages for any injuries they suffered as a result of the DUI crash. 

Courts will use a number of factors to determine the amount owed to a victim. Therefore, if you have been injured in a DUI-related collision, you should contact a local personal injury lawyer for further advice on DUI victim compensation factors in your state.  

Is This Compensation the Same as Crime Victims’ Compensation?

Despite the fact that DUI is considered a criminal offense, not every state will compensate a victim of a DUI-related crash. This will depend on state-specific DUI regulations as well as on the type of injuries received. 

For example, it is more likely that a victim’s family will be compensated by the state if the victim died in a motor vehicle collision that constituted the crime of DUI vehicular homicide. However, there are some instances wherein the compensation that a victim receives for injuries caused by a DUI collision will not be the same as the type of compensation allocated to victims of certain crimes.

In general, crime victims’ compensation stems from money that is held in a government fund or distributed through a state victims’ assistance program for the purposes of reimbursing victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, and hate crimes. 

The funds received from crime victims’ compensation programs can be used to cover expenses associated with the crime, including hospital bills, burial costs, lost wages, and therapy or counseling.  

As mentioned, some states will also compensate victims or a victim’s family for injuries caused by vehicular crimes like DUI. It is important to note that in the states where vehicular crimes are accounted for under crime victims’ compensation programs, the victim or their family will first need to exhaust all other forms of legal remedies before they can apply to collect money from their state’s crime victims’ compensation program. 

In other words, this remedy serves as a last resort and will not be approved by the state until all other resources have been expended. In fact, most of the compensation that a victim receives for injuries related to a DUI incident come from civil lawsuits filed by the victim themselves or by a family member on behalf of the victim.

In a civil DUI lawsuit, the victim will be paid directly by the defendant-driver, as opposed to being compensated by the state or a government program. 

How Will a Court Determine How Much I’ll Receive in Compensation?

As previously discussed, a court will use a number of different factors to determine how much compensation a victim should receive for injuries sustained in a DUI crash. The following is a list of some common factors that a court may use to calculate compensation for victims of a DUI crash. Such factors can include:

  • Driver negligence: Negligence is one of the most significant factors when deciding the amount of compensation to award in a DUI lawsuit. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise care in the same or under similar circumstances. For instance, in a DUI case, the driver would be considered negligent if they were driving drunk and their blood alcohol content was much higher than the legal limit in their state.
  • Long-term medical care: If a DUI victim requires long-term medical care due to the type of injuries they received in a DUI crash (e.g., permanent disabilities, chronic pain injuries, etc.), then the victim may be entitled to damages that cover past, present, and future medical expenses. 
    • It should be noted that the cost of medical expenses is calculated at the time of the trial. Thus, there is no guarantee that such payments will extend for the remainder of a victim’s life. This is especially true when it comes to calculating damages for future medical costs. Accordingly, if the money runs out, then the victim will not be allowed to ask the defendant for additional money.
  • Future lost earnings: A court may award greater damages if a DUI collision led to mental and/or physical injuries that diminished the victim’s ability to earn a living. This is not the same concept as lost wages, which may be lost when a victim is unable to work during a recovery period. Instead, future lost earnings refers to the loss of ability to generate future income because of an injury.
  • Dram shop laws: In many jurisdictions, dram shop laws can be cited to hold bar or restaurant establishments liable for the amount of alcohol that a patron was served. Thus, a victim may need to sue the establishment for some of the damages or may be prohibited from collecting some of the damages from the defendant themselves.
  • Pain and suffering: Some states will also allow extra monetary damages if the victim is experiencing a high degree of pain and suffering due to their injuries. These are known as general or noneconomic damages.
  • Severe recklessness or intentional injuries: A court may require a defendant-driver to pay punitive damages if the DUI incident was caused by serious recklessness or deliberate conduct like intentionally hitting the victim with their car. However, states differ in their laws regarding these types of damages and may place limits on the amount awarded by restrictions called, “damage caps.” 
  • Wrongful death: Finally, a court may also factor in other costs, such as funeral expenses, in cases where wrongful death or fatalities occurred as a result of a DUI accident.

Can DUI Victim Compensation be Reduced or Lowered?

There are some instances where the amount of compensation that a DUI victim receives can be reduced or lowered. This will depend on the facts of a specific case as well as on the discretion of the court hearing the matter. In some cases, a court can even prevent a plaintiff from recovering any form of monetary damages.

For example, if a plaintiff contributed to the injuries due to their own negligent actions, then the court may decide to reduce the amount of damages they recover. This type of scenario can arise when the defendant-driver can prove that the plaintiff was also driving recklessly or was drunk at the time of the accident. The defendant can request to have the amount of damages they have to pay reduced by claiming contributory negligence

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with DUI Crash Case?

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a DUI crash, then it may be in your best interest to hire a local car accident lawyer to help you recover damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer can determine the best way to proceed with your claim as well as can provide legal advice about the different types of legal remedies you can receive based on the circumstances. 

Your lawyer can also explain how the laws in your state may affect the outcome of your case and can ensure that your rights are protected. Additionally, your lawyer will be able to provide legal representation in court or at a settlement conference, depending on which method of legal recourse you decide to pursue.