It is beyond dispute that drunk driving is dangerous, irresponsible behavior. According to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control, 28 percent of all fatal car crashes in the U.S. are attributable to alcohol-impaired driving. Unfortunately for drivers in Las Vegas, alcohol consumption is widely promoted as one of the pleasures that the city has to offer. Despite ongoing efforts to encourage those who drink not to get behind the wheel, intoxicated individuals do drive – with devastating results. If a drunk driver caused your injury or the death of a loved one, a dedicated Las Vegas drunk driving accident lawyer at Cogburn Law Offices will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
Not Just Another Accident
For your sake, as well as for the general good, it is a mistake to treat an accident involving a drunk driver as you would any other auto collision. On one hand, you have a greater possibility of achieving a settlement that is consistent with the harm that has resulted. In addition, a vigorous response to such an event helps enforce the efforts of public officials to send the message that drunk driving will not be tolerated.
A driver who has been established to have been alcohol-impaired at the time of an accident is on shakier ground than most who are accused of reckless behavior. In fact, according to Nevada law (NRS 41.133), if a driver who caused an accident has actually been convicted of drunk driving, “the judgment of conviction is conclusive evidence of all the facts necessary to impose civil liability” for an injury.
Shades of Grey?
It’s possible that your case may not be this clear-cut. Perhaps you only suspect intoxication, perhaps field testing was not performed, or improperly performed, and the driver was not convicted of DUI.
Wherever this aspect of your accident lies on the spectrum, you need the insight and guidance of an experienced Las Vegas drunk driving accident attorney on your side. The lawyers at Cogburn Law Offices have decades of experience with drunk driving cases and can evaluate the facts to determine how to move forward with a lawsuit or claim.
Las Vegas Drunk Driving Statistics
- Nevada consistently ranks among the states with the highest drunk driving rates, and Las Vegas and the rest of Clark County represent one of the most high-risk areas for drunk driving accidents.
- In just the first week of September in 2018 there were 16 fatal crashes in Nevada. Nine of those crashes occurred in Clark County and law enforcement investigators suspect drunk driving played a role in more than half of them.
- Drunk driving-related deaths have consistently risen in Nevada since 2009.
- The five-year average of drunken driving-related traffic fatalities was 87 between 2012 and 2016.
These statistics and the notorious party culture of Las Vegas should encourage residents and visitors to think twice about driving under the influence. All drivers should remember that alcohol affects everyone differently, and one drink may have a much more profound effect on one person compared to another. However, the legal limit for blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) remains the same for everyone. A driver who tests higher than .08% BAC during a legitimate traffic stop will receive a DUI charge.
Nevada Drunk Driving Laws
Nevada adheres to the national standard of .08% BAC as the legal limit for driving after consuming alcohol. It takes the human body about one to two hours to metabolize one alcoholic beverage, but individual factors may increase or decrease this window and all drivers should allow adequate time after consuming an alcoholic drink before getting behind the wheel.
Nevada upholds relatively strict penalties for DUI offenses:
- A first-time DUI conviction is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, fines of at least $400, and no less than 185 days of driver’s license suspension. The minimum jail time for a first-time offense is two days, and it is possible for the offender to receive a sentence of community service in lieu of longer jail time. Additionally, an individual whose BAC was below .18% will require an ignition interlock device (IID) for 185 days. If his or her BAC was .18% or more, he or she may require the IID for one to three years.
- A second DUI offense is punishable by a minimum of ten days in jail up to a 180-day maximum. Fines will be no less than $750, or the offender may receive a community service sentence in lieu of fines. The offender will face driver’s license suspension for at least one year and require an IID following the same statutes as a first offense.
- A third DUI offense is punishable by one to six years in prison, fines of no less than $2,000, driver’s license suspension for three years, and one to three years of mandatory IID use.
- Nevada also follows an implied consent law for chemical tests from police officers. Refusing a chemical test in Nevada results in an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension, and a second or subsequent offense results in a three-year license suspension.
- An individual charged with a DUI will also face several administrative penalties such as court filing fees, driver’s license-related fees, testing fees, and the cost of installing an IID.
An individual charged with a DUI has very few possible defenses. One of the only viable defenses is the “sleeping it off” defense, but the driver must be able to prove that he or she was legally parked, was not in direct control of the vehicle or in the driver’s seat, and the vehicle was not running and was parked in a place that the driver could not have reached under the influence. When a drunk driver causes a car accident and injures someone else, they have virtually no available defenses to choose from.
The Restitution You Deserve
If a drunk driver has caused you physical injury or damaged property belonging to you, you have every right to be fully compensated for the damages you have suffered. These can include any medical expenses, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. If your long-term health or quality of life has been impacted, damages must be pursued to reflect these impacts.
In fact, drunk driving is not merely irresponsible. It is criminal. Reflecting this, Nevada law (NRS 42.010) makes it possible for a plaintiff to pursue more than just compensation for injury or property damage. If it has been proven that a driver who caused an accident was under the influence of alcohol, a plaintiff can seek punitive damages.
Proving Negligence: The At-Fault Driver
Filing a lawsuit against a drunk driver will follow a similar framework to pursuing legal action in any other personal injury claim. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent or under the influence and directly responsible for the incident in question and the related damages. The plaintiff must prove several elements of negligence to succeed with a lawsuit against a drunk driver.
- The plaintiff’s attorney must prove that the defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff. In drunk driving lawsuits, this typically means proving the defendant was involved in the accident in question.
- The plaintiff’s attorney must then prove that the defendant breached this duty of care by driving under the influence. Typically, the plaintiff’s attorney will refer to the arresting officer’s police report and physical evidence gathered from the accident scene to prove breach of duty.
- Next, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove that the plaintiff suffered actual harm or tangible damages from the defendant’s breach of duty and offer proof of the extent of the claimed damages.
- Finally, the plaintiff’s attorney must be able to show that the claimed damages would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s driving under the influence.
It is possible for a civil lawsuit from a victim of a DUI accident to run in tandem with a criminal case against the drunk driver from the state, and the victim’s attorney may have the opportunity to refer to evidence used in the criminal case in the civil case.
Compensation Available From a Drunk Driving Claim
Nevada judges generally deem drunk driving as exceeding the scope of typical negligence; therefore, the civil penalties for a DUI accident can be substantial. If the drunk driver caused injuries to the plaintiff, the plaintiff can claim compensation for any and all medical expenses resulting from the crash. This could include hospital bills as well as long-term medical costs for physical therapy or other rehabilitative medical procedures in the future. Plaintiffs can also secure compensation for personal property damaged or destroyed by a drunk driver, such as the plaintiff’s vehicle.
If a plaintiff’s injuries forced him or her to miss work for an extended time during recovery, he or she may claim lost income as damages in the civil claim. Additionally, some plaintiffs may suffer permanent disabilities that prevent them from returning to the same job or working at all in the future. In these situations, plaintiffs’ attorneys will likely call on expert witnesses who can explain the plaintiff’s lost future earning potential to the court and help secure compensation for lost future earnings resulting from the DUI accident.
Nevada law also allows plaintiffs to recover pain and suffering compensation from DUI-related lawsuits. The jury reviewing the DUI case will listen to expert witnesses and review the facts of the case to determine an appropriate amount of pain and suffering compensation, and Nevada law does not cap or limit the amount of pain and suffering compensation available to a plaintiff in a DUI civil claim.
Since a DUI is a criminal offense, a plaintiff may also receive punitive damages. As the name implies, punitive damages exist to monetarily penalize defendants to discourage similar behavior in the future. Wealthier defendants generally pay more in punitive damages than those with limited funds.
Drunk Driving and Wrongful Death
When a DUI accident leads to a fatality, the victim’s family or a personal representative of the victim’s estate may have the option of filing a wrongful death claim in lieu of a personal injury claim. Essentially, a wrongful death claim is a personal injury claim filed on behalf of a victim who did not survive his or her injuries, but state laws place limits on who may file wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims, and the damages available in wrongful death claims.
Contact a Las Vegas Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
Even in the strongest cases, it takes time to assemble all necessary proof of causation and injury and to develop a case, along with the critical filings and court appearances involved in a civil lawsuit. The sooner you schedule a consultation at Cogburn Law Offices, the closer you will be to justice, peace of mind and closure after this tragic event.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a drunk driver, call the Las Vegas personal injury lawyers at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.