Driving under the influence, or DUI, involves a driver operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. In some instances, a driver under the influence of alcohol may cause a crash.

The crash may be fatal or cause serious or minor injuries. The victim of a DUI crash may receive compensation if they sue the driver. The victim compensation often takes the form of a monetary damages award, the purpose of which is to make the victim as whole as possible. Courts can use a variety of factors to calculate the amount owed to the injured party.

Is This Compensation the Same as Crime Victims’ Compensation?

No. Crime victims’ compensation is money a victim of crime receives because some kind of loss. That loss occurred because of the crime committed against the victim.

The money from this type of arrangement often comes from a state fund. In comparison, DUI crash compensation typically is the result of a lawsuit filed by the victim or on the victim’s behalf. Rather than the money coming from state funds, the defendant (the other party in the lawsuit) must pay the monetary amounts.

Crime victim compensation funds are often limited and will vary from state to state. Typically, the funds are used to pay for burial costs, medications, and anything else that might come up due to a serious injury or death.

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

The court uses several factors in order to determine how much money the defendant should pay the victim such as:

  • Driver Negligence: Negligence is the failure to exercise care in the same or similar circumstances. An example of negligence would be if a driver is speeding or otherwise disregards traffic rules.
  • Long-Term Medical Care: A victim with permanent disabilities or chronic injuries may require long-term care. Thus, the victim may be entitled to damages including past, present, and future medical costs.
    • Keep in mind that the medical costs, including future costs, are calculated at the time of the trial. There is no guarantee that the calculated amount will last for the rest of the victim’s life. If the money runs out, then the victim cannot ask the defendant to pay more money.
  • Inability to Work: The court may award more money if the crash led to mental and physical injuries that diminished the victim’s ability to earn a living (lost earning capacity). This is different from mere lost wages, which may be lost when the person is unable to work during recover. Instead, this refers to a lost ability to generate income in the future due to the injury.
  • Dram Shop Laws: In many jurisdictions, dram shop laws hold establishments responsible for the amount of alcohol an individual was served. These establishments include bars and restaurants.
  • Pain and Suffering: Some states may allow additional monetary compensation if the victim experienced a high degree of pain and suffering on account of the injury.
  • Severe Recklessness or Intentionally Caused Injuries: The court may require the defendant to pay additional damages if the accident was caused by their serious recklessness or intentional conduct (such as purposely striking a person with the car). 
    • These are known as punitive damages and are not intended to be compensation but rather aim to deter the defendant from repeating that type of conduct again in the future. States have different laws governing these types of damages, and may place limitations on them.
  • Wrongful Death: Courts may factor in additional costs (such as funeral expenses) in cases where wrongful death or fatalities occur as a result of the DUI accident.

Can DUI Victim Compensation be Reduced or Lowered?

Depending on the case, there are certain factors that can occur that will result in the court lowering the plaintiff’s damages award. In some cases, the courts can even prevent the plaintiff from recovering damages entirely.

For instance, if the plaintiff contributed to their own injuries due to their own negligence, they might have their damages reduced. This is known as “contributory negligence”; an example of this is where the plaintiff was also drunk or driving recklessly at the time of the accident.

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

Various factors are used to award a DUI crash victims compensation. However, it’s important to speak with a personal injury lawyer to determine how to proceed with the claim or settle it out-of-court. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice and representation, and will be able to explain how the compensation laws in your state may affect your case.