The Impact of California’s DUI Laws on Accident Claims

by Staff Blogger | October 2nd, 2023

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a severe offense in California because it can result in catastrophic consequences, including injuries, fatalities, and property damage. California’s stringent DUI laws serve as a deterrent and influence accident claims, often complicating the path to compensation for victims.

A California car accident attorney can help you understand and navigate the DUI laws and help you receive maximum compensation after a DUI-related accident.

California’s DUI Laws

California takes a zero-tolerance approach to DUI, and the illegality of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is vigorously enforced. A DUI conviction can result in substantial fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense and whether it’s a first-time or repeat offense.

Section 23152 of California’s vehicle code states the following:

  • 23152(a)(e)(f) makes it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.
  • 23152(b) specifies that driving with a BAC over .08% is illegal.
  • 23152(c) makes driving while addicted to any drug illegal unless the driver is participating in an approved treatment program for narcotics.
  • 23152(d) states that it is illegal to drive a passenger-for-hire vehicle with a BAC of over .04%.

California Statute 23153 focuses on unlawful behavior related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the behavior causes bodily injury to someone other than the driver.

  • 23153(a)(e)(g). These sections make it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both while violating traffic laws or neglecting duty of care to other people on the road. It applies when these actions result in bodily injury to another person.
  • 23153(c). This section states that there is no need to prove a driver violated a specific section of the code to show negligence.

The penalties for breaking these DUI laws are severe. Under Section 23566(a)-(e), repeat offenders of DUI causing injury or great bodily harm face increasingly severe penalties. These can include:

  • A prison term of up to 4 years, fines up to $5,000, and revocation of their driver’s license and privileges if they have 2 or more violations in 10 years.
  • The same penalties apply if the person is convicted of four or more DUI violations in 10 years. However, they will receive an extra 3 years in state prison.
  • They will be designated as a habitual traffic offender for 3 years post-conviction.
  • If serving time in state prison, they must participate in a drug or alcohol program.

If a person is convicted of a DUI causing injury under Section 23153 and they have a separate conviction for specific driving offenses within the last 10 years, they face additional penalties. These include imprisonment in state prison or county jail for a minimum of 120 days to a maximum of one year and a fine ranging from $390 to $5,000.

The individual’s driving privileges will be revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The court will also require them to surrender their driver’s license.

Consequences of a DUI in California for Victims

DUI incidents in California can have grave consequences for victims, leaving behind a trail of devastating outcomes, such as:

  • Physical and emotional trauma. DUI accidents often cause severe physical injuries to victims, ranging from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries. These injuries can cause long-term pain, disability, and emotional trauma for victims and their families.
  • Fatalities. Impaired driving can lead to tragic fatalities. Innocent lives are lost because of the reckless actions of impaired drivers, leaving grieving families to cope with the loss.
  • Property damage. Vehicles and other property can be extensively damaged, adding financial stress to the emotional toll.
  • Financial burden. Victims of DUI accidents face substantial financial obligations. Medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and ongoing treatment expenses can quickly accumulate, burdening victims and their families.
  • Lost income. Injuries sustained in DUI accidents can lead to extended periods of work. Lost wages and reduced earning capacity further contribute to the financial strain experienced by victims.
  • Emotional distress. The emotional impact of a DUI accident can be overwhelming. Victims may suffer from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other emotional distress.

How DUI Laws Can Affect Your Accident Claim?

Navigating the aftermath of an accident with an impaired driver is complex. California’s DUI laws can affect the type of compensation you may be eligible for and how your attorney may approach your case.

  • Liability and Compensation

In California, a DUI is considered a form of negligence per se, automatically establishing liability on the part of the impaired driver. This can make it easier for victims to claim compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional suffering.

However, a DUI violation doesn’t necessarily guarantee full compensation, especially when dealing with insurance companies.

California is an at-fault state, which means the other driver’s insurance company is liable for covering your damages. Insurance companies may attempt to minimize payouts or find reasons to deny claims, so having evidence of the driver’s DUI conviction can support your case and improve your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.

  • Insurance Coverage

Insurance companies may be hesitant to fully compensate victims in DUI-related accidents, particularly if the at-fault driver’s insurance policy doesn’t adequately cover the damages. They may also attempt to reduce their liability by arguing contributory negligence on the victim’s part.

  • Punitive Damages

One unique aspect of DUI-related accident claims in California is the potential for punitive damages. These are above and beyond the compensatory damages and are designed to deter reckless behavior. Courts are more inclined to award punitive damages in DUI cases as a warning to society about the consequences of driving while impaired.

  • Legal Complexities

Navigating the legal aftermath of a DUI-related accident can be complex for victims. Factors like impaired driver’s blood alcohol level, the timing of chemical tests, and whether drugs were involved can all complicate establishing fault and seeking compensation.

If you’ve been a victim of a DUI-related accident, consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney experienced in DUI-related claims is crucial. They can help you understand your rights, the damages you can claim, and how to deal with insurance companies.

Seeking Justice After DUI-Related Accidents in California

California’s DUI laws are some of the strictest in the country, a reflection of the devastating impact DUI-related accidents can have. These laws determine criminal charges and influence accident claims, affecting liability, compensation, and insurance coverage.

Our experienced California car accident attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers will fight for your rights, communicate with insurers, and help you secure fair compensation. But don’t just take our word for it. Browse our client testimonials to get to know us and learn how we can help you.

Contact us at any time to arrange your free consultation. We can review your case and help you determine your next legal steps.