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Using Criminal Case Proof of DUI Civil Case Litigation

Drunk driving accidents are different than typical personal injury lawsuits in Boston because the police and prosecutors will be working separately to gather evidence and prove intoxication on behalf of the at-fault driver.  In a typical car accident case, where the driver is not suspected of impairment, police may respond to the scene and conduct a cursory evaluation. They will typically write up a brief vehicle crash report and get the parties to exchange contact information and insurance cards, but there will not likely be any follow up investigation, unless there are serious injuries or death.

Drunk driving accident cases more often result in serious injuries and fatalities, and furthermore, driving drunk is a crime. That means police and prosecutors will be more heavily involved, though this won’t have a direct bearing on the civil case.

This additional work done by the police is for the purpose of convicting the defendant in an OUI trial, but it can also be of great help in obtaining a full and appropriate financial settlement from defendant’s insurance company.  In some cases, the insurance company will realize there is no point in denying liability.  When a defendant is arrested with probable cause for suspicion of drunk driving, insurers are often much quicker to settle.  They will offer to pay to fix plaintiff’s vehicle and will make a settlement offer. This does not however, mean that it will be a good settlement offer as the insurance company may still be willing to fight the case on damages. When this happens, the jury is told that defendant was driving drunk and caused the accident, but it is up to them to decide how much money, if any, the defendant should be required to pay the plaintiff.  This is known as a fight on damages only civil case and they are quite common in drunk driving injury cases.

Boston Drunk Driving Accidents

Most Boston Drunk Driving Cases Settle Prior to Trial

As our Boston drunk driving accident lawyers can explain, the clear majority of cases will settle prior to trial.  This is true in any car accident lawsuit, but in the case of an accident in which it is alleged at-fault driver was also operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this is even more of the norm. One reason is that juries do not like drunk driving cases that resulted in an accident. While this seems like a simple statement, there is actually more to it than that. For example, many drunk driving defendants are able to win at their criminal trial by a jury finding they were not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the standard in any criminal trial, but the argument tends to work better in cases involving charges of drunk driving.

While we are primary concerned with drunk driving car accidents in Boston, which are civil cases, the criminal case can have an impact on the civil case that often comes later.  There are basically two arguments that can be made in the average criminal case.  The first argument is simply that the defendant did not do whatever he or she was accused of.  This type of case is often called the classic “who done it.”  In this case, the argument is that someone else was really guilty, even if that someone else wasn’t present at trial.  A drunk driving case is not a who done it because we always know who the defendant is and that he or she was at the scene of Boston drunk driving car accident. This means that it falls into the other general type of case, which is a “what was done case.”

In this type of case there is the question of whether the defendant, who we know was involved in the crash, was actually driving under the influence of alcohol,drugs, or both. A defense attorney could make the argument that his or her client was not drunk, and in fact, had nothing to drink the night of the accident. This argument however, is not so likely to work because the officer likely smelled the odor of alcoholic beverages, observed glassy eyes, bloodshot eyes, and saw many other signs of intoxication. This is why a reasonable doubt argument is more likely to be used. The lawyer is not saying defendant was not drunk, but rather the police and prosecutors have not successfully proven the case, so the jury should return a verdict of not guilty.

As discussed above, a lot will depend on whether there was a car accident that resulted in personal injury to one or more victims. In the case of an arrest without a crash, juries may not be so quick to convict, because sadly, most Americans have driven drunk at least one time in their lives if not many more. Time Magazine, reports, based upon data from a NHTSA study, no less than 20 percent of Americans admitted to driving drunk in the last year.  This was only in the year prior to be asked the question. If the question was related to the person’s entire life, the numbers would be much higher.  This lends itself to a defense argument that we’ve all done it so why convict the defendant.  This tactic actually works.  When there is a drunk driving accident in Boston in which one or more persons was seriously hurt or killed, all bets are off and juries are much more willing to convict. Since the standard of proof is much lower in a civil case than a criminal case, this is even a stronger argument and juries are even more likely to find a defendant liable in a Boston drunk driving car accident lawsuit.

According to a recent news article from CBS Boston Local, a man was arrested for on his seventh drunk driving offense. This occurred following a crash in Chelmsford, Massachusetts when he allegedly crashed his red Chevy Corvette into a mailbox, and then lost further control of the vehicle before slamming into a utility pole. Both the car and the utility pole were destroyed in the crash. This defendant allegedly refused to submit to chemical breath testing, but the arresting officer determined there was probable cause to arrest him despite the lack of chemical testing results. Even though the police have charged defendant with what they are alleging is his seventh offense, and suspended his driver’s license, he is presumed innocent unless and until he is found guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Man Facing 7th Drunk Driving Charge After Chelmsford Crash, December 3, 2017, CBS Local Boston

More Blog Entries:

Massachusetts Drugged Driving a Serious Problem, Police Say, March 28, 2017, DUI Injury Lawyer Blog