Restitution to Victims in California DUI Cases
Paying for Victim Injuries in a DUI Accident
There’s a presumption in the law that anybody who gets in a DUI accident is responsible for the accident and that presumption would have to be rebutted by good evidence that shows the person isn’t responsible for the accident.
A perfect example would be, I had a DUI case and my client was driving along intoxicated. He was over a .08 and somebody made an illegal left-hand turn in front of him and there was an accident. The police came to the scene. Asked my client whether he’d been drinking.
They gave the field sobriety test, tested his breath and he was over a .08, so he was arrested for a DUI, and of course, the greedy prosecutors were trying to hold him responsible for the restitution.
But, I was able to show that there’s a sign right in the middle of the street where the person turned left that you cannot make a left-hand turn there, so we were able to rebut the presumption in that case and my client did not have to pay restitution to the alleged victim in the case.
But, it’s not always that easy where you’ve got a sign right there clearly showing that the person drove right over where they’re not allowed to drive. So, in most cases the person’s going to have to pay restitution and what that means is, if the other party or parties is out any property damage or any other money out of their pocket, then the DUI driver will have to compensate the person.
A lot of times people have insurance and the insurance company pays money to the alleged victim. In that scenario, obviously you’d have a good argument that some or all of the restitution was paid.
Insurance and DUI Victim Restitution
The issue is going to be, is the person out any money that’s not covered by insurance. Let’s say that they get their car taken care of, but that they had a $500.00 deductible and they had to pay that out of their pocket. You as the DUI driver who was responsible for the accident would be responsible for paying that money.
Let’s say you or they didn’t have any insurance. Then you would be responsible for paying the money. Let’s say that you had no insurance but they had insurance and their insurance company took care of their restitution.
Then you would likely be responsible to still pay the restitution, but that restitution would just go to the insurance company because they lost money because of your negligent DUI driving.
Most of the law related to restitution and DUIs is all slanted towards the victims. The one thing though that the victims can’t get is they can’t get pain and suffering in a criminal case.
They could certainly sue you civilly and claim that not only did you claim property damage, you also caused them to suffer a great deal because of the injury, and in that case they could try to get the money civilly from you.
Civil Lawsuit By A DUI Victim
A lot of times criminal and civil are kind of paralleled, so we’ll get cases where it’s a DUI. Somebody gets hurt. Their car is damaged. They lose time from work and they get a personal injury attorney who is trying to get the money from either the defendant in the case or the defendant’s insurance company, and so a lot of times I have to deal with those attorneys.
It’s a real pain trying to deal with them because they’re trying to get as much money as they can. They’re trying to show that the person they’re representing is seriously hurt because they really want to drive that restitution up as high as they can, and that creates a big problem for the criminal defendant because prosecutors are usually listening to what the personal injury is saying, listening to what the victim in the DUI case is saying so sometimes they’re trying to get more restitution than the person is really entitled to.
So, obviously that’s where you’re going to need an attorney to fight them and challenge them at every step. A lot of times as part of any deal in a DUI case, you’re going to have to admit liability for purposes of restitution. But when it comes to actually paying the restitution and how much the restitution is, most of the time we try to get that locked in before you take a deal on a DUI case. Sometimes that’s not reasonably possible to do.
The one good thing is, you are entitled to a restitution hearing even after you plead guilty in a DUI case where the judge determines how much the restitution is and whether the victim has proved a certain amount of restitution.
So, that would mean the victim would have to get on the witness stand, would have to submit documents to the court and the prosecutor showing how much money came out of their pocket as a result of your DUI conduct.
So, if you have a case and it looks like there’s going to be a bunch of restitution owing, you definitely want your attorney to be there for you and try to do everything they can to limit your exposure and the damages related to your DUI criminal case.
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