What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Drunk Driving Case?

When a drunk driver gets behind the wheel of a vehicle and hits someone, they face criminal prosecution for driving while intoxicated. However, they could also face a civil case for compensation from the injured victim and their family.

The evidence needed to win in civil and criminal drunk driving cases is similar, but the penalties and damages differ. The Syracuse drunk driving injury lawyers at Catalano Law can explain how these two types of drunk driving cases differ so you can receive the maximum compensation possible when you’ve been injured.

How Do New York Criminal Drunk Driving Cases Work?

Criminal drunk driving cases seek to hold drunk drivers accountable for the danger they present to society. This type of case carries a heavier burden of proof since the district attorney must prove that the driver was drunk “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Those found guilty of causing an accident because of drunk driving face fines, jail time, or community service. The guilty verdict shows “negligence per se” since the other party has already broken the law and therefore is considered negligent. Although a criminal conviction doesn’t do anything to help the victim, a guilty conviction can help prove liability in a civil case.

What Does a Civil Case Look Like in New York State?

In New York, no-fault insurance should cover medical treatment, but if your injuries are severe, they may exceed your policy’s maximum limits. You can sue the other driver if your financial expenses amount to over $50,000 or more. A serious injury, such as disfigurement or the loss of a pregnancy, may also entitle you to sue the other driver.

Civil lawsuits do not result in jail or prison time for the drunk driver, unlike criminal cases. In a civil suit, you need to provide evidence that the intoxicated driver was liable for the accident and that the accident caused your injuries.

You can receive compensation to cover your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering if there is enough evidence that the defendant is liable.

How Do Criminal and Civil Drunk Driving Cases Overlap?

Even though civil and criminal drunk driving cases rarely intersect, evidence is often shared. Evidence from the criminal case, such as police reports, blood alcohol tests, and witness statements, may prove the other driver was under the influence. Your lawyer must provide this evidence since drunk driving is usually a risky and careless behavior that carries severe penalties under New York State law.

Civil cases may require further evidence such as medical records and testimonies from additional witnesses to your accident. This helps demonstrate the accident is responsible for your injuries, and how much you are owed in damages because of those injuries.

What Damages Can I Get in a Civil Drunk Driving Case?

The purpose of personal injury claims is primarily to compensate injured victims based on the evidence in court. Economic and non-economic damages are categorized as compensatory damages.

If you recover from your injury within a short time, you will receive compensation for economic losses such as your medical bills. A severe injury may qualify you for more significant non-economic damages, such as physical pain, emotional suffering, and a reduced quality of life.

The judge may also order punitive damages for a drunk driving accident. Punitive damages require the defendant to pay money as a punishment for their actions. They may only be recovered in cases involving willful or wanton negligence or reckless behavior.

There are several factors the jury considers in awarding damages, including the magnitude of the losses and the recklessness of the defendant’s conduct. The jury determines how much in punitive damages to give you to send a direct message to the at-fault driver and the public that drunk driving won’t be tolerated.

A lawyer at our law firm can help you determine if there is a possibility of punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages in your case.

Discuss Your Drunk Driving Case with a Syracuse Drunk Driving Lawyer

If you have been seriously injured in a drunk driving accident, contact one of the drunk driving lawyers at Catalano Law. We can review the evidence in your case and discuss your legal options so you understand the next steps.

Our attorneys have advocated for victims’ rights in New York State for more than two decades. We believe that victims of injuries due to negligence deserve the justice of financial recovery.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review to learn how we can help you with your case.

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