Can I get sued for a DUI?
Can I get sued for a DUI?
This is an important question with a simple answer. Yes. For purposes of this article the term dui, or driving under the influence, includes driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. All states have both civil and criminal laws addressing the consequences of being caught driving a motor vehicle under the influence.
There are as a rule in these types of cases two possible lawsuits. The first is a criminal prosecution brought by the government for violating state driving laws; the second is a civil lawsuit brought by a private party who may have been injured as a result of the dui. The consequences of each are significant, and if the dui also involves an accident with injuries the dui driver will in all likelihood face both a criminal lawsuit brought by the prosecutor, and a civil lawsuit for damages brought by the injured party.
The dui laws nationwide are becoming increasingly more complicated, and, if a criminal prosecution is brought, the punishment increasingly more severe. Colorado, for example, requires the court to impose mandatory jail time on a 2nd lifetime conviction for dui, or any lesser alcohol or drug conviction, even if the time lapse between a first and second conviction is 25 years! A 3rd such conviction requires a mandatory 60-day jail sentence, and a 4th lifetime conviction is a felony with the possibility of up to 4 years in prison. Also, it does not matter in Colorado if the prior dui was in Colorado, Virginia or California. All prior convictions count.
Similarly, if someone has caused an accident because of a dui in which other people have been injured, there will most certainly be a civil lawsuit for damages filed. These suits are also complicated and can be expensive to defend. Most states require that as a condition of the right to have a driver’s license you also have some form of minimum liability insurance. The insurance policy usually requires the insurance company to defend you if there is a lawsuit. However, the obligation only goes as far as the limits of the policy.
Again, in Colorado, to comply with the insurance provisions of the law you only need to have minimum liability coverage of $25,000.00. After that amount has been exhausted you are on your own. It is possible that a judgment could be entered against you for many times the amount of your policy. The injured parties to collect on the amount owed could expose you to a variety of unpleasant legal efforts, including having your wages garnished and other assets (including your home) seized.
To return to the question, “can I get sued for a DUI?” the answer from a Denver DUI lawyer is a resounding yes. If you find yourself involved in a dui situation you should immediately seek advice from a competent and skilled attorney who is knowledgeable about dui law in your state.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Office of Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into DUI related suits.