Late last month, members of the Missouri House Appropriations Committee
voted for the second consecutive year to strip funding for drunk driving
checkpoints across the state. Instead, lawmakers allocated roughly $20
million to the Missouri Department of Transportation to fund other drunk
driving prevention efforts, including saturation patrols and public awareness
campaigns. Some advocates have voiced their opposition to Missouri’s
lack of funding for DUI checkpoints, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving
(MADD). These organizations say that checkpoints are critical deterrents
to drunk driving, and that they are vital to public safety.
As statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA),
organizations like MADD are certainly warranted in voicing concerns about
drunk driving. According to NHTSA, more than 10,000 victims died in alcohol-related
car accidents nationwide in 2016 – which equates to roughly 1 drunk driving death
every 50 minutes. Nearly 300,000 victims were injured in U.S. drunk driving
crashes the same year.
Although there are laws in place that prohibit motorists from driving under
the influence of alcohol or drugs, consistently high numbers of
drunk driving accidents, injuries, and deaths, show that numerous drivers disregard these laws.
As such, it often becomes the responsibility to victims and their loved
ones to take legal action after suffering losses in preventable DUI accidents,
and to make their voices heard in our civil justice system.
Holding Drunk Drivers Accountable
All motorists have a legal responsibility to safely operate their vehicles.
This means they owe a duty of care to their passengers and others on the
road, including the legal duty to take reasonable steps in reducing risks
of preventable wrecks. Driving after consuming alcohol, especially above
the .08 legal limit, is an explicit breach of this legal duty, and grounds
for drivers to be not only criminally charged and penalized, but also
held accountable in civil court.
While many drunk driving accidents result in criminal charges against an
at-fault driver, any victims and families impacted by those wrecks must
understand some crucial points about the laws and how these cases work.
- Criminal proceedings and civil lawsuits (including personal injury and
wrongful death lawsuits) are separate legal matters. While criminal cases
focus on whether a motorist is guilty of a crime and determines their
punishment upon conviction, civil lawsuits focus on whether that driver
is civilly and financially responsible for harm and damages they caused
through their negligence.
Even if no criminal charges are filed in connection to a drunk driving
case, or if at-fault drivers are later found not guilty of a DUI-offense,
victims and families still have the right to pursue civil lawsuits and
win those cases. That’s because criminal and civil cases use have
different burdens of proof. The standard of “beyond a reasonable
doubt” is a much higher standard than a “preponderance of
the evidence” used in civil cases, which essentially means
more likely than not.
- Criminal cases are not a viable source of compensation for victims, even
if there are victims’ services available through criminal courts
and options for court-ordered restitution. In order to recover their full
scope of damages, victims should seek legal remedy in civil court, where
they can be awarded financial compensation for their economic and non-economic
damages (and in some cases punitive damages). These would include damages
such as medical expenses, lost income or future earnings, and pain and
suffering, among others.
Every accident and
personal injury or
wrongful death case is unique, but they all focus on proving negligence, fault, and liability.
At Montee Law Firm, P.C., our Kansas City car accident lawyers have decades
of collective experience fighting for the rights of victims harmed by
negligence, including negligent motorists who chose to drive intoxicated
or under the influence of drugs. We know the standards to be met in these
cases, as well as the strategies to ensure insurance companies play by
the rules and fairly compensate victims and families – and we’re
available to help residents throughout Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas
protect their rights after a drunk driving accident.
If you wish to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer from our firm,
contact us today for a FREE consultation. Our firm is readily available to help victims
throughout Missouri, Kansas, and beyond, and we offer weekend, evening,
hospital, and in-home appointments for those who can’t come to us.