Being involved in a car accident is a serious situation, especially when serious injuries are involved. Negligence is the general theory involved in filing a claim for damages in a car accident case. As any car accident lawyer knows, these claims become more serious when a drunk driver is involved. When a drunk driver causes an accident that injuries someone, there can be civil claims as well as criminal penalties. If you or someone you know has been injured by a drunk driver, your car accident lawyer can guide you through the process of obtaining compensation.
Court proceedings: criminal vs. civil suits
In DUI (Driving Under the Influence) cases, criminal proceedings are meant to not only punish the drunk driver for his or her recklessness but also to deter drunk driving in general. That’s why a drunk driver can be prosecuted in criminal court, even when there was no accident. A civil lawsuit based on a car accident caused by a drunk driver is a separate proceeding. The purpose of the civil suit is to recover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, damaged property or other losses resulting from the accident. Civil suits, depending upon the law of your jurisdiction, also may offer the opportunity to recover non-economic damages, i.e. money for pain and suffering. Depending on the state where the accident occurred, you may also be able to recover for pain and suffering or other types of emotional damages.
States with “comparative fault” legal systems
Fault is determined by evaluating many factors, like weather and road conditions, how fast the vehicles were going, and whether the drivers were impaired or distracted in any way. In states that recognize a “comparative fault” system, there are three possible legal theories: pure comparative fault, modified comparative fault, and pure contributory fault. Missouri is a “pure comparative fault” state, whereas Arkansas is a “modified comparative fault” state.
Missouri’s pure comparative fault system
In a pure comparative fault state, each driver will only be compensated for the percentage of damages they were NOT responsible for causing. In other words, each driver remains responsible for the portion of the damages they caused. For example, if John and Mary are involved in a car accident resulting in $10,000 worth of damage and injuries, and John is 80% at fault, then John can only recover $2,000, which represents the 20% of the damages for which John was NOT responsible. Likewise, Mary would be entitled to the other $8,000.
Arkansas’s modified comparative fault system
Under the modified comparative fault system followed in Arkansas, a driver can only recovery for injuries or damages resulting from the accident if that driver is less than 50% at fault. So, if John and Mary had an accident in Arkansas, John would not be able to recover anything because he was not less than 50% at fault. If these theories seem confusing, your car accident lawyer can help you sort it all out.
Wrongful death caused by a drunk driver
If a loved one is killed by a drunk driver, a civil suit for wrongful death can be filed on behalf of the deceased’s estate. A wrongful death suit is the most common way that family members who survive the deceased can obtain compensation for their loss. In most cases, both economic and non-economic damages are available, while some states allow punitive damages as well.
What are the penalties for a DUI in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, to be charged with DUI the driver must have a Blood Alcohol level of .08% for every driver over the age of 21. If the driver is under 21, then the Blood Alcohol level is lower (.02%). Drivers of commercial vehicles fall in between, with a Blood Alcohol level of .04% being actionable. Following are the penalties for DUI, based on the number of prior offenses the driver has within the last five years:
|Jail Time||Fines and Penalties||License Suspension|
|1st Offense||24 hours to 1 year||$150 to $1,000||6 months|
|2nd Offense||7 days to 1 year||$400 to $3,000||2 years|
|3rd Offense||90 days to 1 year||$900 to $5,000||30 months|
|4th Offense||1 to 6 years||$900 to $5,000||4 years|
The DUI Penalties in Missouri
The required Blood Alcohol levels are the same in Missouri as they are in Arkansas. However, the possible penalties are somewhat different.
|JAIL||Fines and Penalties||License Suspension|
|1st Offense||Up to 6 months||Up to $500||30 days|
|2nd Offense||Up to 1 year||Up to $1,000||1 year|
|3rd Offense||Up to 4 years||Up to $5,000||10 years|
If you have questions regarding car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, contact us online or call the Cottrell Law Office at (800) 364-8305.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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