As a driver, you have a responsibility to adhere to the laws of the road. One of these laws is not operating your vehicle while under the influence. If you’re involved in an accident while under the influence, you can be sued for the DUI accident.
Colorado is an at-fault state, meaning that the motorist that caused the accident is responsible for the accident and can be held legally accountable for their actions.
While you’re not legally allowed to operate a vehicle if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% (0.05% for a DWAI), you may still not be responsible for the accident. For example, if the opposing driver didn’t stop at a red light and hit your vehicle, you can sue the other party because you’re at no fault for the accident.
Colorado is an At-Fault State – What That Means for You
In the State of Colorado, an at-fault system is in place that requires the at-fault driver to pay for damages that were sustained in the accident. The driver’s insurance company will pay out these damages up to the policyholder’s limit.
Compensation for injuries can be sought in multiple ways:
- File a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- File a claim against your insurance
- File a personal injury claim against the opposing party
Even if you’re not at fault for the accident, the fact that you were driving under the influence may work against you. The opposing party, if injured, has a right to file a claim against you in a personal injury lawsuit.
Sued for a DUI Accident? What You Need to Know
If injuries are involved and you were drunk driving, it’s very likely that you’ll be sued in civil court. A civil suit is how the opposing driver will try and seek damages for the injuries that they sustained.
You may also face charges outside of civil court, which can include:
- Jail time
- Criminal charges
Criminal and civil proceedings may take place. The criminal proceedings aim to protect the public, while the civil suit is where a victim of drunk driving will seek damages for the injuries that you caused in the accident.
Passengers Can Seek Damages
Negligence is the root of most personal injury claims, and an injured passenger will be able to seek damages if they’re able to prove that:
- You owed a “duty of care” to them
- You breached that duty
- The accident harmed or injured the passenger
- The breach of duty led to the harm or injury
A driver must exercise a certain level of caution when operating a motor vehicle. While drinking and driving is a serious violation, it’s not enough to be an immediate breach of duty. The term “under the influence” can also be vague.
Perhaps the driver wasn’t drinking but took a new medication that led to their sleepiness and issues driving. A jury may be sympathetic to the driver in this circumstance. However, if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the plaintiff will likely have the support of the jury.
While you may be sued for a DUI accident, the lawsuit doesn’t mean that the plaintiff will automatically win the suit. The plaintiff still needs to provide proof that your intoxication is what ultimately led to their injuries.
There needs to be causation, or a direct link between your DUI and the injuries that the person sustained. Causation must exist whether you’re being sued by passengers or the driver of the other vehicle.
You Will Receive A Formal Notification
A formal notification will be “served” to you, which means that you’re notified that you’re a defendant in a lawsuit. Once you’re notified of the suit, you will then need to act quickly. Notification of the lawsuit can occur in as short as thirty days of the suit being filed, or it can take three or more months after the filing to be notified.
If there are issues locating you, as a defendant, an extension may be granted that allows for more time to pass to locate and notify you of the lawsuit.
Once notified, you need to file a response, which is often called an “answer.” Your answer must be given by the court deadline, or you risk a default judgment against you. It’s important to notify your car insurance company immediately about the lawsuit.
Insurers should hire an attorney and help defend you in court, but they may also try to deny your coverage because of the DUI connection that exists.
Discussing your case with a personal injury lawyer is your best option because it helps you have a second source of information that can be vital to your case. Insurers will often pay out compensatory damages on your behalf, but punitive damages may need to be paid out-of-pocket.
Your lawsuit can take weeks or years to complete. Working with an attorney will help you move the suit along and, hopefully, keep your liabilities as low as possible.
Reach Out To A DUI Attorney As Soon As Possible
DUI is a very serious charge, as a conviction can result in a number of serious consequences, including financial penalties, loss of driving privileges, loss of freedom, and a felony record that can create difficulties in other aspects of your life, including impacting your ability to get a job or to attend college. Adding the possibility of a personal injury lawsuit, and it is easy to see how your DUI can quickly cause serious long-term financial and emotional challenges. A DUI attorney can help.
Contact us right away to schedule a FREE consultation.