What To Do If You’re Hit by a Drunk Driver in California

You must contact 911 immediately following an accident involving a drunk driver. The police need to respond to the scene. If it appears the drunk driver is trying to leave the scene, get photos if possible, and take down their license plate number. 

If your injuries are severe, you might need emergency medical assistance at the scene. Do not downplay your injuries or refuse medical help. You might be injured worse than you realize. Internal injuries are common in severe collisions, and adrenaline can prevent you from immediately feeling pain. 

Cooperate with law enforcement when they arrive, but be cautious about what you say at the scene. Do not say anything that could lead the officer to conclude you are partially responsible for the accident. While the other driver might appear drunk, you won’t know they are intoxicated until tests confirm that.   

The other driver’s insurance company will try to convince you to give a recorded statement about the accident. You should not give a statement without legal representation. The insurance adjuster is looking for any statement or evidence they can use to deny your claim. Even if the insured driver was drunk, the insurance company wants to reduce or eliminate their financial liability. 

California Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in California can vary depending on the circumstances. Here’s a look at the various limits: 

  • Adult in a non-commercial vehicle—0.08% or higher;
  • Driver under 21—0.01% or higher;
  • Vehicle requiring a commercial driver’s license—0.04% or higher; 
  • A driver who is on DUI probation—0.01% or higher; and
  • Passenger for hire in the vehicle at the time—0.04% or higher.

Even someone whose BAC is under the legal limit can be impaired. People who consume alcohol and get behind the wheel can have impaired judgment and slower reaction times, even if they are legally allowed to drive.  

Can I Sue if I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver in California?

Yes, you can file a lawsuit against the drunk driver if their insurance company doesn’t adequately resolve your injury claim. In some instances, the drunk driver’s insurance company might deny coverage. If that happens, you can present a claim to your own insurance company, provided you have uninsured/underinsured coverage. 

Even if the state files criminal charges, you still have the right to pursue a civil claim. These are two separate actions in two different court systems with unique burdens of proof. A criminal case against the drunk driver involves a loss of freedom, while a civil case involves financial compensation. 

Like other types of personal injury cases, you only have a limited amount of time to file a drunk driving lawsuit in California. If you miss the deadline, the court will likely dismiss your entire case. That means you’ll collect no compensation for your injuries, no matter how solid your case is. In most cases, you only have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. Some situations can alter the filing deadline, but it’s not guaranteed you will have additional time. 

When you hire a lawyer to represent you, they will help you meet important filing deadlines. Your attorney at Beliz Law Firm will be the one calculating filing deadlines, not you. 

Types of Recoverable Compensation 

A car accident victim can recover compensation for economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages compensate you for financial losses such as medical bills or lost wages. Noneconomic damages compensate you for emotional or psychological harm caused by an accident. Every case is different, but there are a few types of injuries plaintiffs commonly seek compensation for in car accident claims, including: 

  • Medical expenses to date,
  • Future expected medical costs,
  • Lost wages,
  • Future loss of earning capacity,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Mental anguish,
  • Loss of consortium, and
  • Property damage. 

Cases involving a drunk driver may be eligible for a unique type of compensation called punitive damages. The law reserves punitive damages for only select cases that involve intentional acts or egregious behavior. Drunk driving can qualify as an intentional or egregious act. Punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer rather than compensate the victim for their injuries. An experienced attorney can help determine if you qualify for punitive damages. 

Contact Our California Car Accident Lawyers 

If you were hit by a drunk driver in California, you have rights. The legal team at Beliz Law Firm can help. We know how terrifying an accident with a drunk driver can be. You deserve to receive the maximum compensation possible. With nearly two decades of experience assisting injured car accident victims, we know how to build a strong case. We’ve helped numerous victims of drunk drivers get the justice they deserve. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact Beliz Law Firm today to schedule a free case review.

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

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