Atlanta DUI Accidents Attorney
Though the ubiquity of ride-sharing applications — such as Uber and Lyft — has done much to reduce DUI accidents and related injuries and deaths across the country, intoxicated driving continues to be a serious issue.
In fact, drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in Louisiana are exposed to a heightened level of danger. According to a motor vehicle safety report conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 5.2 deaths (in crashes involving a drunk driver) per 100,000 people in Louisiana, compared to 3.3 deaths per 100,000 people nationwide. Despite these harrowing statistics, nearly 2.5 percent of drivers in Louisiana report that they drive after drinking to excess. Your chance of being involved in a DUI accident is therefore unnervingly high.
If you’ve been injured in a DUI accident in Louisiana or Georgia, or if your loved one has died due to a drunk driver, then you may be entitled to bring an action for significant damages. The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC can help. We encourage you to get in touch at your earliest convenience so that we can fully evaluate your claims and help you understand your litigation options.
What Qualifies as a DUI Accident?
Driving while under the influence (DUI) is illegal in Louisiana, as in other states. The defendant-driver will be deemed “under the influence” of alcohol or “intoxicated” for the purposes of a DUI if they:
- are at least 21 years old and have a BAC of 0.08 or more at the time of the accident;
- are below the age of 21 and have a BAC of 0.02 or more at the time of the accident; or
- were driving a commercial vehicle and had a BAC of 0.04 or more at the time of the accident.
It’s worth noting that intoxication does not require a minimum BAC level. If the driver consumes alcohol and has a low BAC level, but he is sufficiently impaired to the degree that he cannot safely operate a vehicle, he may have violated the law.
Those who are injured in DUI accidents my bring a claim against the defendant-driver for damages. If the driver violated the law by operating their vehicle while “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs, then he may be found negligent per se. In other words, you do not have the challenging burden to prove that the defendant violated the standard of care applicable to the circumstances. Instead, the defendant-driver will be found automatically negligent, so long as you can establish that he was “under the influence” and that his violation of the DUI law contributed to your injuries.
Why Drivers Leave the Accident Scene
Drivers commit hit and run accidents for different reasons. One of the most common occurrences with hit and run drivers is that their driver’s license is suspended. When this occurs, the hit and run driver often is driving a vehicle with the permission of another person, and that person is often a biological parent or close relative.
This in turn often gives rise to additional parties who may be added as defendants, under the theories of negligent entrustment and the family purpose doctrine.
Criminal Litigation and Civil Litigation Operate Independently
DUI accidents often give rise to both criminal and civil litigation. It’s important to understand that criminal litigation will not prevent you from bringing a civil injury claim against the defendant. In fact, many plaintiffs worry that the outcome of the criminal prosecution will somehow impact their civil case. Criminal litigation operates by a stricter standard, however, and so it’s not unlikely for a defendant to be found “innocent” due to a lack of certain evidence in the criminal context, but liable for damages in the civil context.
Because DUI defendants have the ability to remain silent, and this right applies to pending civil case, it is also important to hire an experienced attorney who is well aware of how to navigate deposing a defendant in a civil lawsuit who is facing charges in criminal court over the same motor vehicle collision.
Availability of Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are meant to punish defendants and prevent them from engaging in the same sort of dangerous conduct in the future. It is also meant to discourage others in society from engaging in similarly dangerous conduct. Punitive damages operate as “bonus” damages that multiply the compensatory damages total. For example, a $50,000 drunk driving accident claim might lead to $150,000 in punitive damages for a $200,000 total — a significant jump in value.
In Louisiana, as in most states, there is a general tendency against the provision of a punitive damages award in personal injury litigation. However, drunk driving accidents are a special exception to this rule. Article 2315.4 of the Louisiana Civil Code allows courts to award punitive damages if the plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the defendant driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and the defendant’s conduct showcased wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Not all DUI accidents will necessarily give rise to punitive damages. The conduct must be sufficiently egregious to justify them. For example, if the defendant-driver consumed a substantial excess of alcohol and refused to call a taxi to pick them up, then that might be enough for the court to award punitive damages.
Contact an Experienced Atlanta DUI Accident Attorney for a Free and Confidential Consultation
Here at the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC, we have extensive experience litigating a range of personal injury claims, including those that arise out of motor vehicle accident scenarios involving a drunk driving defendant.
Attorney Walter Gabriel has served in multiple capacities in the courtroom, as a prosecutor and a plaintiff’s-side attorney, giving him unique insight into the particular tactics employed by defendants. He understands how to secure a successful result in litigation, whether through settlement negotiation or at trial.
Find out if you have a case. Call 404-549-6742 or submit a case evaluation form online to request a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Atlanta personal injury lawyer at the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC today.