In New York, the legal term for drunk driving is driving while intoxicated or driving while ability impaired. It’s a serious criminal offense that can bring time in jail and harsh driver’s license sanctions. In cases where a victim suffers a severe injury or death because of someone else’s drunk driving, the offender may face serious time in prison.
If you’ve been hurt because of someone else’s drunk driving, you may wonder if you need an attorney. You may wonder if you can get the compensation that you deserve through the criminal justice system. You may think about whether you’ll receive fair payment for your injuries and personal suffering. There are several reasons why it’s advantageous to work with an personal injury attorney whether or not the state brings criminal charges against the drunk driver:
A different burden of proof
In criminal court, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a relatively high amount of proof that a jury needs in order to convict someone of drunk driving. In civil court, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. That means that you just have to prove that it’s more likely than not that your version of events is true.
Also, in criminal court, the defendant has the right to remain silent. They don’t have to testify about their own actions. In civil court, you have a right to call the drunk driver to the stand. This can make a difference when a jury enters a closed room in order to decide on a verdict in the case.
In a criminal case, the attorney for the state has a job to act in the best interests of society as a whole. Although they take the victim’s opinion into account, ultimately, they can handle the case as they see fit. They might allow a plea offer that you don’t think is fair. They might decline to file charges at all.
When you have your own personal injury attorneys, the attorney for the state doesn’t have the final say. In civil court, you resolve the case when you want to resolve the case. The decision of whether to accept a settlement offer or go to trial is in your hands alone. You and your attorney can continue to work together until you’re satisfied that you’ve achieved justice in your case.
Restitution and damages – significant differences
In a criminal case, you have a right to restitution for your losses. That is, you have a right to collect funds from the drunk driver in order to pay you back for the economic losses that you sustain because of your injuries and damages. It’s important to note that in the criminal law system, you can recover for only your economic losses. Non-economic damages aren’t available to you in criminal court.
In addition to economic damages, New York’s civil law allows you to recover for a wide range of non-economic damages. Your losses might include economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, but they can also include non-economic losses such as pain and suffering and mental anguish. You may even have a case to recover punitive damages. You may have a claim to recover even if you’re partially to blame for the traffic crash. This is a much more expansive and comprehensive recovery system than exists in New York’s criminal courts alone.
Maximizing your damages
In addition to retaining an personal injury attorney in order to bring a civil case, your attorney can help you pursue your case in a way that maximizes your recovery potential. A skilled attorney has years of training and experience. That means that they can utilize the Uniform Civil Rules to your advantage. They can skillfully prepare pleadings. They know when it’s best to conduct discovery and when it’s best to negotiate with the other side. They can help you evaluate any settlement offers to determine if you’re likely to do better at trial.
An attorney helps you conduct a thorough investigation of your case. Law enforcement might stop investigating once they have enough to prove the drunk driving case. The right attorney continues to dig deeper until you have a strong case to bring for the full extent of your losses.