The personal injury attorneys at Kroll & Johnson, P.C. feel no pity for drunk drivers who injure innocent victims as a result of their decision to drink and then drive. We have no sympathy because it is a conscious decision that is made to drink and drive. If you, or someone you know has been injured by a drunk driver, our experienced Portland Personal Injury Attorneys stand willing and able to assist in holding the drunk driver accountable for their actions.
The Dangers of Drinking and Driving
Drinking and then choosing to drive imperils millions of innocent lives on our roads every year. In Oregon alone there were 86 alcohol impaired driving fatalities in 2012. During that same year, there were 13,592 arrests for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII). If you assume that law enforcement catches and cites only a small percentage of drunk drivers, then you can begin to comprehend how much of a menace and a threat drinking and driving is to the Portland metro community. Drunk drivers are such a clear and present danger to this community because of the causal connection between alcohol consumption and slowed and impaired judgment and reaction time. Drunk drivers are often involved in devastating auto crashes because of this combination of impaired judgment and slowed reaction time. Drunk drivers often speed, and then fail to break in a timely manner, which results in high speed collision with tremendous potential for serious or catastrophic injury.
Civil vs. Criminal
In Oregon, every drunk driver who injures someone else will be criminally prosecute for the crime(s) they committed. This is almost without exception. Most such drunk drivers in Oregon will be charged with DUII and Reckless Driving, both charges are class A Misdemeanors unless an enhancement (such as a past DUII conviction) is present or a death occurs, which lead to more serious charges. The criminal DUII process is our community’s opportunity to punish the defendant for drinking and driving. While the criminal process affords some opportunities for basic restitution for the victim, it does not provide a viable opportunity to recover any noneconomic monetary damages, which are commonly referred to as damages for pain and suffering. This is why it is necessary to bring a civil claim, and potentially file a civil suit, against the drunk driver and their insurance company. By filing a civil suit with a Portland Personal Injury Attorney, it is also possible to levy punitive damages against the drunk driver, which is also not available through the criminal process.
In summary, while a criminal conviction against the drunk driver may help your civil case, it is only the start of the civil process, and much more work needs to be done in order to hold the drunk driver accountable in a civil court of law. Importantly, a criminal conviction may not even be necessary in order to bring a civil claim against the drunk driver. This is because the civil evidentiary standard is much lower than the criminal standard, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. All a civil plaintiff must prove in order to recover monetary damages is that it is more likely than not that the drunk driver caused the crash and the victim’s injuries. This means the “scales of justice” can only be slightly tipped in favor of the drunk driving victim, and he or she should still prevail.
Civil Compromises in Criminal DUII Cases – Do Not Agree Without Consulting an Attorney
When our Portland Personal Injury Attorneys represent drunk driving victims, we are often approached by the drunk driver’s legal representative to enter into what is called a “civil compromise.” In a civil compromise, the defendant agrees to pay what he or she broke, and in exchange the victim agrees to not pursue criminal charges against the defendant. However, civil compromises, when poorly worded, can potentially extinguish any civil right of action you may have against the drunk driver. Because of this, please do not enter into a civil compromise without consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. Most personal injury attorneys, including those at Kroll & Johnson, P.C. offer free consultations for exactly this purpose. We want victims to be able to ask us basic question and we are happy to provide general answers.
Example of Drunk Driving Victims We Have Represented in Oregon
The identities (but not the case facts) of the following Kroll & Johnson, P.C. clients have been altered to maintain privacy and confidentiality:
Jack, a 20 year old student, was a passenger in a truck driven by a drunk driver. The drunk driver over-corrected around a corner, resulting in a catastrophic rollover crash. Thankfully, Jack was wearing his seatbelt, and because of this escaped certain death, but he still suffered a complex fracture of his forearm that required immobilization, along with other more minor injuries. As a result, Jack was forced to have a steel rod surgically installed to stabilize his fractured forearm. Jack then had to limit his major life activities for months so as not to jar the steel rod on the outside of his arm and interrupt the recovery process. With the help of his physicians, Jack was able recover with only minimal long-term impairment of his arm. This case resulted in a policy limits settlement.
Matt, a 23 year old outdoor enthusiast from the Oregon coast, was unfortunately involved in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. Matt, despite wearing his seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle and knocked unconscious. He awoke, bleeding from his ears, in the middle of the woods with no memory of what had occurred. Thankfully, a passerby had called paramedics who soon found Matt. Matt suffered from a traumatic brain injury as a result of the crash, and may never be the same person again.
Jane and her daughter, Sue, stopped to assist two vehicles that were involved in a bad car crash. Jane stopped and parked behind the vehicle that caused the crash. Little did Jane know that the car was driven by a drunk driver. The drunk driver, in an attempt to flee the scene of the crash, decided to reverse at a high rate of speed into Jane’s car, resulting in another car collision. Jane and her daughter had significant injuries and were forced to undergo months of medical treatment before they regained their pre-crash physical condition.
How the Kroll & Johnson Portland Personal Injury Attorneys can Help
When you are injured in a car crash, the last thing you want to be burdened with is preparing your legal claim and interacting with insurance companies, law enforcement, and the court. Unfortunately, these are the exact circumstances you are thrust into when you are injured by a drunk driver. That is why many victims of drunk driving seek out experienced legal counsel, such as the Portland Personal Injury Attorneys at Kroll & Johnson, P.C.
We immediately begin investigating the relevant facts of the incident, and then we use what is discovered to buttress the legal claim for bodily injury that will be asserted against the drunk driver’s insurance carrier.
Initially, our investigation is targeted at determining whether there are other legally culpable bad actors besides the drunk driver. This means we investigate whether:
- A bar or restaurant continued to serve the drunk driver despite obvious signs of intoxication;
- The drunk driver was potentially an employee driving in the course and scope of their employment; and
- Whether the drunk driver was previously arrested for other crimes like DUII, and whether they are still on probation for said crimes.
After the initial investigation is concluded, our attorneys begin aggressively advocating for your rights as an injured victim of a crime. This may include, but is not limited to, filing for restitution with the criminal court, issuing a demand to the drunk driver’s insurance company, attending a mediation, and filing a complaint in either state or federal court. It is important to remember that the Portland Personal Injury Attorneys at Kroll & Johnson, P.C. are only retained on a contingency fee basis. This means if we do not recover compensation from the drunk driver or other legally responsible entity, then we do not collect a fee.