Wrongful Death or Civil Lawsuits for Drunk Driving

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This weekend as you prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll also want to take one more step in your preparations - know what to do if you are involved in a drunk driving accident.

Wrongful Death or Civil Lawsuits for Drunk Driving

A civil lawsuit is often the best chance for you or a loved one to recover damages from losses sustained in a drunk driving case.

A civil suit for drunk driving is a separate process from criminal proceedings a drunk driver may face. Criminal proceedings are meant to protect the public from future harm, while also punishing the drunk driver for his or her reckless behavior. A criminal suit can be brought against a drunk driver even if there was no accident or injury.

A separate civil suit can be brought in the form of a personal injury lawsuit that is filed by either the victim, or the family of a deceased victim in order to recover damages such as medical treatment, lost wages, or other economic damages. In cases where the victim is deceased, a civil suit can be brought as a way to recover non-economic damages such as money for pain and suffering.

Arizona’s Law

Arizona follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence.

If you live in a state that is a “pure negligence state,: you are free to sue a drunk driver for the injuries you or a deceased love one has sustained. Just like personal injury drunk driving suits, you will need to prove fault as you would in any other civil suit.

Wrongful Death Suit

A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought against someone who has caused another person’s death either through negligence or through intentional harm, and are a variation of a standard personal injury negligence suit. Typically, a “wrongful death” claim is brought by the estate of the deceased on behalf of surviving members and other affected parties. The suit is filed against the party they allege is liable for the death.

Two Forms of Wrongful Death Claim

There are two forms a wrongful death claim can take. Either the charge is negligence, or intention. This means either the victim died as the result of a negligent act of the defendant. Or the victim died as the result of the defendant’s intentions to kill the victim. Some examples of negligence include: victim’s death as a result of medical malpractice, drunk driving, or the victim dies as the result of a faulty engine in the car the victim was riding in. And example of intention is when the defendant is believed to have murdered the victim on purpose.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

For the defendant to be declared liable in a wrongful death claim, the claim brought must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet if the victim was alive. In the case of a negligence trial, plaintiffs must show the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, that the defendant breached this duty of care, and that the breach of this duty directly caused the death of the victim.

Jury Rulings on Wrongful Death Cases

A jury ruling on a wrongful death case is typically instructed to award damages to beneficiaries as it deems fair and just. And generally, a beneficiary will recover a monetary award. The amount recovered by a wrongful death is not subject to any debts or liabilities of the deceased, unless the action has been brought on behalf of the deceased’s estate.

Types of Damages

Various types of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death claim. What you file for will be dependent on the circumstances of the case. Here is a list of damages you can claim:

  • Punitive Damages
  • Loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection, and guidance since the death and in the future.
  • Pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, stress, shock, and mental suffering already experienced, and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future.
  • Income and services that have been lost as a result of the death, and that are reasonably probable to be experienced in the future.
  • Reasonable expenses of funeral and burial.
  • Reasonable expenses of necessary medical care and services for the injury that resulted in the death.

In order to legally recover damages in a wrongful death action, there are some general requirements that must be met. They are as follows: (1) The death must have been caused by another’s negligence, i.e., it must be showed that the negligent person was at fault for the death; (2) if the deceased was alive, he or she would have been entitled to recover damages from the at fault party; and (3) the party or beneficiaries must meet the legal requirements to be allowed recovery of damages in the Wrongful Death action.

Note: Wrongful death laws vary from state to state

Not every state follows the same guidelines, principles, or rules. And each state has its own set laws regarding wrongful death. A personal injury attorney can help advise you on if your wrongful death claim is valid and can help you are you pursue a claim against the responsible party or parties.

Not Wearing a Seat-Belt

If a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is sought for Diaz, his defense might be able to point to Perez’s own negligence of not wearing a seat-belt.

Though seat belt use has increased – averaging 88 percent nationally – there are still groups less likely to wear seat belts. These include teens, commercial driver and males in rural areas. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury. The act of wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent.

Common Car Accident Injuries

Brain injuries** **

A car accident can traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur as a result of a blow to the head or a piercing head injury. A TBI ranges in seriousness – mild, like a concussion that can heal on its own, or severe, such as an injury that impairs critical functions such as speech, vision, concentration, memory and emotional control.

Other forms of head injuries

This list or injuries include eye injuries resulting in partial vision loss or blindness; injuries to the ear resulting in loss of hearing; facial or jaw fractures; and dental injuries, including loss of teeth.

Neck and back

Whiplash occurs when the neck stretches and quickly snaps back into place as a result of either a sudden stop or acceleration. It is the most common injury suffered in car accidents. It can damage the vertebrae, ligaments or disks, or the spinal cord itself, in the neck and back, potentially causing paralysis or other loss of function in one or more limbs or larger portions of the body. A blow to the neck can also crush the trachea or larynx. A broken neck as a result of a car accident can result in instant death. Less severe neck and back injuries can occur causing chronic pain that can significantly reduce the quality of life.


Impact caused during a collision can break ribs and/or the sternum (breast bone). This often occurs if a driver or passenger was not wearing a seat belt. While the severity of chest injuries has been greatly reduced by airbags in dashboards and steering wheels, fractures and injuries to organs can still occur.

Diaphragm rupture

A diaphragm rupture is a tear of the muscle across the bottom of the rib cage, often caused by blunt or penetrating trauma to the trunk or lower chest. The diaphragm is crucial to respiration.


Compressive pelvic injuries / injury to abdominal organs.The liver, spleen, and kidneys are commonly injured in front- and side-impact collisions.

Leg and knee

Most leg and knee injuries occur as a result of smashing into a part of the car. This can result in a range of wounds ranging from contusions (bruises) to fractures. If knees are abruptly twisted or turned they can suffer meniscus tears (tearing of cartilage in the knee).

Often ankles, feet, and toes can easily be strained, sprained or broken (fractured), or in worst cases severed from the body.

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