DUI Accidents & Wrongful Death Claims

by ShelbyW on April 6, 2013

It’s a sad fact that right around one-third of all fatal accidents in America are related to alcohol consumption. The toll that drunk driving takes on society as a whole is staggering, with reports showing an economic cost of $132 billion each year, but the human toll is, unfortunately, even more disheartening. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that 27 people die due to drinking and driving every day in America. These accidents will often lead to wrongful death claims, so it’s important for everyone, from each side, to fully understand these tort cases.

Victim Families

The families of drunk driving accident victims are the most affected by these tragic accidents. Simply knowing that a loved one is gone forever due to another person’s neglectful actions is enough to eat anyone up on the inside. Although it does nothing to ease the pain related to such an event, family members will often need to bring forth wrongful death lawsuits in order to survive financially and hold a person liable after causing a drunk driving death.

People ranging from immediate family members to life partners can sue for damages if their loved one is killed in an accident. Additionally there are several types of damages that can be recovered. Financially related damages can include funeral costs, expected earnings and even loss of inheritance. On top of this, survivors can also sue for mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of care and several other non-financial damages. In fact, the court may even award strictly punitive damages to punish the defendant in the case.

The Defendant

Though a victim’s family has already lost much in these situations, those charged with causing a death due to negligent DUI face serious issues as well. Understandably, the justice system is particularly harsh on drivers that it thinks caused the death of an innocent person due to drinking and driving. It’s important to never forget, though, that every person in America is entitled to a defense, and this applies to both criminal and civil proceedings.

Drunk driving cases are rarely open and shut; most people just think they are because of the perceived infallibility of breathalyzer devices. In actuality, these devices, and additionally, other field sobriety tests, can produce inaccurate results based on improper administration, police officer neglectfulness and other technical issues. As the website of a respected DUI lawyer in Arlington VA points out, “Police officers do not always understand the scientific basis of their sobriety testing methods, and come up with false positives.” Criminally, a person who causes a death while allegedly drunk driving could face certain types of manslaughter charges, but even if not convicted, they can still face serious civil penalties.

As previously mentioned, a victim’s surviving family members can sue for an abundance of damages. Unfortunately for the defendant in these wrongful death cases, awarded damages related to this type of incident have reached into the millions of dollars. The truth is, however, that if a driver wasn’t legally inebriated or didn’t actually cause the accident, then it wouldn’t be just for them to pay these types of rewards. Sadly, without an attorney by their side, many people accused of this negligent action end up financially ruined.

The toll that DUIs take on America is massive, but no one feels it quite as much as victims’ families and those charged with the offense. There’s no doubt that both sides will need an attorney since each specific case is different. There are times when a victim’s family will emerge, for lack of a better word, victorious after these cases, but there’s no doubt that some of those charged are innocent when it comes to these wrongful death suits. Only when both sides have legal help on their side will a just outcome for the case come to light.

Legal researcher Shelby Warden posts articles to help raise awareness of serious legal issues in our communities. At The Wilson Law Firm, a highly experienced DUI lawyer in Arlington VA is available to help individuals charged with DUI take the appropriate steps toward an effective defense. The firm’s lawyers have over twenty years of combined experience defending those accused of DUI in Virginia.

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