A criminal penalty is the automatic consequence of a DUI offense. These penalties include a suspended license; installation of an interlock device; alcohol education courses; and even jail time. DUI offenders often do not think about the civil penalties that may flow from the offense in the form of a personal injury or property damage lawsuit. If there is physical harm or damage to the vehicle, it is more likely that a civil action may follow.
Causes of Action in a Civil Suit
One of the most common reasons for a civil suit involves medical insurance claims. Again, civil suits are more common when the offender has caused bodily injury or damage to property. These kinds of suits can manifest in a number of ways. For one, the injured can use their health insurance to cover their medical bills to an extent where they no longer qualify for coverage. At this point, the injured will pay out of pocket and sue the defendant for the difference. In another scenario, the defendant's auto insurance will pay for the injured party's injuries. Subsequently, the insurance company can turn around and sue the defendant for the entire bill. This legal mechanism is called subrogation. Other plaintiffs may seek compensatory damages for pain and suffering stemming from a DUI-caused injury or collision. These compensatory damages may include a request for lost income from the plaintiff's inability to attend work. Suits related to the destruction of vehicles are also a norm. Similar to the medical payments, insurance companies can stand in for the victim and demand payment for proceeds paid out to cover damage to the victim's car.
There are a few important things to consider if you are planning to sue for damage or injury stemming from a DUI-related collision. First and foremost, you must become informed of the civil statute of limitations governing suits for personal injury and property damage. In Mississippi, the statute of limitations for personal injury and property damage is three years for each cause of action. This means that the plaintiff must file the civil lawsuit before three years to the date the injury or the damage occurred. It is important to note that there are some special rules governing the definition of what constitutes the date on which the injury or damage occurred. It is a wise choice to consult an attorney to assist interpreting the law.
Another consideration is whether the civil court will consider the outcome of the criminal court to arrive at a decision. The conviction (or lack thereof) of a DUI offender is a separate matter from the civil liability the defendant may owe to the victim of a traffic collision. Therefore, a plaintiff does not need to wait for the outcome of criminal case in order to file the civil case. Each obligation is separate, although the evidence may remain the same.
Your DUI Attorney
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is a DUI attorney with years of experience defending DUI cases. Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime. If you have been charged with DUI, you need an experienced attorney. Attorney Ferguson understands that the stakes are high and the importance of putting the charge behind you. Call us now for a consultation.