DUI Victim Lawyer Jeffry Dougan fights for victims hurt or killed by drunk drivers.
A former DUI defense attorney turned DUI victim lawyer.
Before he was a DUI victim lawyer, Attorney Jeffry Dougan was a trial deputy for the Colorado State Public Defender and a private criminal defense attorney. DUI victim lawyer Jeffry Dougan has defended a countless number of DUI’s. In fact, in his former life as a defense attorney, Mr. Dougan took a substantial number of drunk driving cases to jury trial and won the majority of them.
Therefore, when you are looking for a Denver victim lawyer to manage your personal injury claim, you really need an attorney who can combine his prior experience as a Denver DUI defense attorney with his current knowledge as a Denver personal injury attorney.
As a DUI victim lawyer, experience counts.
Having won most of his DUI trials, Mr. Dougan knows not only how to defend a DUI case, but how to successfully prosecute drunk driving personal injury cases.
Mr. Dougan has seen firsthand how a junior Denver district attorney or a district attorney from another jurisdiction can lose his or her DUI case. Oftentimes, it’s due to the person’s lack of experience or his or her heavy caseload that is overwhelming. Other times, that person has just been outgunned by a defense attorney who knows his facts and his law better or, frankly, is just a better trial attorney.
Therefore, it’s helpful to have a DUI victim attorney with prior DUI defense experience to go to the defendant’s court dates and make sure that the D.A. is doing his/her job. Another attorney can rarely tell a district attorney what to do, but he can sure tell him/her what they ought to do.
How Criminal Charges Impact Your Personal Injury Case
A drunk driver who causes an accident that results in injury faces substantial criminal penalties. If the injuries involved caused bone fractures, second or third-degree burns or a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement or the loss or impairment of a body part or organ, the driver will be charged with vehicular assault. If convicted, he or she could face up to six years in a state prison and a fine that could range anywhere from $2000 up to $500,000.
From a criminal viewpoint, some would say that justice was served. However, the criminal sentence imposed upon the driver does nothing to alleviate the damage caused to the victim by his or her reckless behavior. In order for the victim to be compensated for their damages, they must sue the driver, or any other liable party, in civil court.
At one level, a personal injury lawsuit against a drunk driver is much the same as any other personal injury lawsuit. The injured party, as a plaintiff, has the burden of proving:
- The drunk driver had a duty to avoid operating a motor vehicle in a reckless or negligent manner;
- The drunk driver breached this duty;
- This breach of duty proximately caused the accident that injured the plaintiff; and
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
As such, the plaintiff should prevail if they can show that the driver, more likely than not:
- Had a duty to operate a motor vehicle safely;
- The driver breached that duty when they drove under the influence;
- Driving drunk caused the accident; and
- As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered damages.
However, even though a personal injury lawsuit against a drunk driver is similar to other personal injury lawsuits, it differs from other suits in three major ways:
- The drunk driver’s conviction for vehicular assault may be admissible in the civil suit to quickly establish that drinking was the cause of the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries;
- There may be a potential dram shop action if the driver was served alcohol in a bar prior to the accident while visibly intoxicated; and
- Punitive damages may be available.
Admissibility Of A Criminal Conviction
As was stated above, a drunk driver who causes serious injury as a result of an accident can be charged with vehicular assault in Colorado. If this happens, and the driver is subsequently convicted, that conviction may be admissible in the civil trial to establish liability.
A prior criminal conviction will be admissible because of the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Collateral estoppel prevents a party from contesting any decision of fact or law that was fully tried in a court of law on a previous occasion.
In order to utilize collateral estoppel, the plaintiff in the civil trial must show:
- They were the victim of a prosecuted crime committed by the driver, in this case, vehicular assault;
- The driver was convicted of this crime;
- The crime is one where the victim of the crime is eligible for restitution; and
- The civil case is using essentially the same allegations as the criminal case.
So, if a drunk driver was convicted of vehicular assault, the injured plaintiff in the underlying civil suit does not need to prove that the driver was drunk, caused the accident or the injuries. These facts have likely already been established beyond a reasonable doubt at the criminal trial.
Colorado’s Dram Shop Law
Under Colorado law, a vendor of alcoholic beverages, like a bar, can be held liable in a civil suit for damages if they willfully or knowingly sold alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated. If a drunk driver, prior to causing an accident that resulted in injuries, was served drinks in a bar while slurring words, stumbling, or exhibiting other symptoms that indicate intoxication, the owner of the bar can be held liable for the injuries subsequently caused by that driver.
It should be noted that damages under a dram shop action are limited to $150,000. The suit must also be brought within one year of the date of injury. Finally, any person who serves drinks to a visibly intoxicated individual in a social setting, such as a party, is not liable for any injuries that individual subsequently causes while intoxicated.
Under Colorado law, punitive damages may be available to the victim of a DUI accident if the jury finds that the driver acted in a “willful and wanton” manner. Under the statute, willful and wanton conduct is defined as “conduct purposefully committed which the actor must have realized as dangerous, done heedlessly and recklessly, without regard to consequences, or of the rights and safety of others, particularly the plaintiff.” The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the defendant, or others like them, from committing similar actions in the future.
The plaintiff is not initially allowed to ask for punitive damages. Following the initial disclosures in the lawsuit, they must establish the existence of a prima facie proof of a triable issue. Once this is done, they may amend their complaint to ask for punitive damages.
The amount of punitive damages awarded by the jury cannot exceed the amount of the actual damages awarded. The judge may also reduce or disallow any punitive damages a jury awards if they find:
- The deterrent effect of the punitive damages has already been accomplished;
- The conduct in question has already ceased; or
- The purpose of the punitive damages has otherwise been served.
You’re entitled to compensation if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver. You have medical bills that need to be paid, possibly ongoing treatments, time off work and lost wages, and the pain and suffering you’ve endured because of the accident. You’re also entitled to compensation for any property damage to your vehicle. The attorneys at Marathon Law are experts in DUI accident law. We can take the burden of seeking fair and just compensation off your shoulders so that you can devote your energy to healing.
Let an experienced Denver personal injury attorney with a DUI defense background assist you with your personal injury case today!
Drunk driving personal injury cases are some of the most devastating personal injury cases a person will ever experience and some of the most difficult cases a Denver personal injury attorney will ever litigate.
Therefore, if you or a loved one has been victimized by another person’s reckless drunk driving actions, Denver personal injury attorney Jeffry Dougan has the experience and knowledge from both sides to maximize the value of your claim. If you or a loved one has been in injured in a DUI accident, call DUI victim lawyer Jeffry Dougan today at 303-704-1222 and set up your FREE consultation.