Drunk driving is one of the strangest crimes, according to many judges who routinely weigh drunk driving criminal cases and civil lawsuits involving people who were injured. The reason they often comment during sentencing or verdict that it is a strange or unique crime is that is a crime that people don’t think about as a crime, even though it can, and often does, result in a death of an innocent person.
For example, most people who are living in Boston, fresh out of college, working as an intern or were fortunate to land a good job would never dream of stealing a candy bar from the corner store. This is understandable, as they have no reason to steal anything and are worried about the consequences if they did. If they were caught, they would be charged with a misdemeanor that would probably get dismissed, as it was a first offense under what the law in the Commonwealth, calls a CWOF. CWOF is short for continued without a finding. Basically, defendant pleads guilty, but the judge doesn’t enter a finding of guilty. If the person does community service and pays a fine, the case will be dismissed, and the defendant can truthfully say he or she was never convicted. This is could have serious consequences on jobs, however, because theft is considered a crime involving moral turpitude (extreme dishonesty). They would not even steal that candy bar if they were very drunk on their way home from the bar.
However, there is one crime that same person would probably commit while drunk, and that is getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. This could not only result in misdemeanor charges, but it could result in felony motor vehicle homicide if a person was killed in a Boston drunk driving accident. This is the reason it is a strange crime because even an otherwise law abiding citizen would not dream of stealing that candy bar would have no problem drunk driving on a regular basis.
What is even stranger, is that the average person, even someone who would never drive drunk, would have even less qualms about getting in the car and sitting next to a person who is so drunk they cannot safely or legally drive a vehicle and getting a ride home. The reason for this is clearer. The average prospective drunk driver is not afraid of getting into a serious or even fatal drunk driving accident. Instead, as we have discussed in other posts on this blog, they are afraid of being arrested, losing privileges to drive, and possibly going to jail. We know this because of the focus of most of the billboards, radio spots, and television commercials that are aimed at curbing drunk driving.
Passenger Liability in a Boston Drunk Car Crash
Even if you knowingly got into a car with a drunk driver and were seriously injured in a crash that was the fault of the drunk driver, there is a very slim chance you would be held liable for any personal injuries caused by the drunk driving crash. This means that if someone else tried to sue you or file a claim against you when you were a passenger in the alleged drunk driver’s vehicle, it would be very difficult for that person to file any type of lawsuit against you because you were not operating the car and you were not in physical control of the vehicle at the time of the crash.
However, the question often becomes what do you do if you were injured and your friend who was driving the car was at-fault in the accident as he or she was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. The answer is that in addition to having any other victims who were in other cars or pedestrians who were injured in the Boston drunk driving car vehicle collision, you will likely have to file a claim with your friend’s insurance company as well.
Filing a Claim as a Passenger of At-Fault Driver
We know that filing a personal injury claim against a friend of yours is properly not the first thing you want to do. However, you likely have a significant number of medical bills and may have also have been forced to miss work for a significant amount of time. In some cases, the injuries may be so severe that even though you were fortunate enough to survive the serious drunk driving accident, you may never be able to return to work again, and, if you are, it may be a much lower paying job than you have before.
While you may be able to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, that can take a long time and will not exactly compensate you for the pain and suffering and lost wages you suffered as a result of the crash. Therefore, the only real recourse you may have is to file a claim with your friend’s car insurance company.
The first thing to understand is that in the vast majority of cases, this does not mean you will be suing your friend. This is because the vast majority of cases do not go to trial. Much more likely, you will be filing a claim with his or her insurance company. If your friend was arrested for drunk driving following the accident, as is often the case, the car insurance will accept liability in this matter. At this point, once they have accepted liability (most Boston drunk accidents are what we call clear liability cases), they will respond to your attorney’s demand letter with an offer to settle the case. This may be a fair offer that your attorney will recommend that you promptly accept, or it may be a lowball offer.
This happens from time to time, but your attorney can likely get them to increase the offer. One thing that helps is if you have an experienced attorney whom they know will actually take the case to trial when necessary. If this is the case, they are more likely to make a better offer. The reason for this is because, in addition to the money they have to pay in claims, they will also have pay an attorney to defend the case and pay for costs, such as depositions.
This will all go into the calculation that the insurance company will make when deciding to make an offer, since all they really care about is what is best for their bottom line. They are very much a for-profit business, and insurance companies often care very little about whether car accident victims get the compensation they deserve. For that reason, you want someone on your side who is willing to fight for a full and appropriate financial compensation.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Criminal Procedure Rule 12: Pleas and Plea Agreements, Massachusetts Court System
More Blog Entries:
Former NFL Quarterback Vince Young Given Probation for Drunk Driving, Feb. 7, 2017, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog