Colorado drivers who operate motor vehicles when they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol do so in violation of state law. Along with the risk of getting arrested and prosecuted, drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs also risk causing car accidents and injuring or killing other motorists or pedestrians.
The legal limits and impairment
Like every other state, a driver is deemed to be under the influence if he or she has a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher while operating a motor vehicle. Since recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado, it’s also against the law to operate a motor vehicle when you have 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood. In either case, a driver can have consumed alcohol or marijuana and be under legal limit, but his or her reaction time, depth perception and judgment might all be impaired.
Damages in DUI injury and wrongful death cases
As per the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 10,265 people were killed in 2015 in accidents involving drunk drivers, and an estimated 290,000 were injured. In addition to criminal penalties, the victims of drunk or high drivers have the right to file lawsuits in the civil courts and seek damages as compensation for their losses. Those damages can include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost earnings
- Any permanent disfigurement
- Any permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a normal life
- Funeral and burial expenses in the event of a wrongful death
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
The accident case is independent of the criminal case
You can actually file your lawsuit right away without needing to wait for disposition of the criminal case. That’s because the burden of proof in a civil case is different than that in a criminal case. You need only prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. That means your version of events is more likely true than not true. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the drunk or high driver is found not guilty in the criminal case, that doesn’t affect your civil case at all. If he or she pleads guilty to driving under the influence, that admission might be able to be used against the driver in the civil case.
Who else can be held liable?
In old England, a dram was a unit of measurement that was most often used in the context of alcoholic beverages. A place that sold alcoholic beverages was commonly known as a dram house or dram shop. The word “dram” carried over to the United States, and it’s most often used in the context of dram shop liability. States like Colorado and Illinois have specific dram shop liability statutes. States like Nevada and California have no such statutes although California offers punitive damages in DUI car accidents.
Colorado’s dram shop statute can be found at Colorado Revised Statutes section 12-47-801. As per the Colorado statute, a business owner who serves alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated person or a minor can be held liable for any injuries or deaths that the intoxicated person or minor causes to a third party. Dram shop liability is in addition to that of the intoxicated person or minor who caused the accident. The Colorado dram shop statute caps damages awards at $150,000.
The statute of limitations
There’s a deadline for bringing any personal injury lawsuit in Colorado. If injuries are caused by a motor vehicle accident, the statute of limitations deadline is three years from the date of the accident. If you’re going to file a dram shop count in a lawsuit for your own injuries or the death of a family member, you must act quickly though. The statute of limitations for any dram shop action is only one year.
Maximize your compensation
The laws involving personal injury, civil procedure and evidence are constantly evolving, and only an attorney who concentrates his or her practice on accidents can keep up with it all. Proving negligence and dram shop liability require two different sets of elements. If you’re planning on pursuing a negligence and dram shop liability case on your own, you’ll make an insurance company very happy. It has you right where it wants you. It knows that it won’t be paying out nearly as much as it would as if a quality Fort Collins personal injury lawyer is representing you. On the other hand, our goal is to maximize the compensation that you receive for your losses.
If you were injured in an accident that was caused by a drunk or high driver, or if you lost a family member through the fault of one in or around Fort Collins or anywhere else in Colorado, contact us right away here in Fort Collins for a free consultation and case evaluation. We’ll get started on your case right away after being retained. You don’t need a penny to hire us either. We take these cases on a contingency fee basis, so no legal fees are even due unless we obtain a settlement or verdict on your behalf. Insurance companies, their attorneys and judges all know us and respect us. They’re well aware of the fact that we’ll do whatever we can to maximize the compensation that you receive as the result of a crash that never should have happened.