If you were injured by a drunk driver, there is probably a criminal case for DUII or assault against that person. In this scenario where both the civil and criminal realms are involved, it is vital to hire a personal injury lawyer who is experienced enough to successfully represent you in both. Despite what a police officer or District Attorney might tell you, do not wait for the criminal case to resolve before seeking an attorney. Oftentimes, there are statutes of limitation that will expire in the meantime or notices that might need to be issued before the criminal prosecution is completed. In my experience, insurance companies will do almost anything to avoid a trial if their insured driver was convicted of injuring someone in a collision while they were intoxicated. I have worked in both the civil and criminal systems, and I know how to leverage the criminal case against the defendant to ensure you obtain the maximum compensation for your injuries.
A dram shop claim is a lawsuit against the business entity that provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or minor who then injured someone. Historically, a dram shop was an establishment that sold alcohol by the dram, a British unit of measure. Dram shop liability refers to the body of law governing the liability of taverns, liquor stores and other establishments that serve alcoholic beverages.
When a drunk driver injures or kills another driver, a cyclist or a pedestrian, they can, and should, be held liable for the damages. If a bartender or waiter served more alcohol to the drunk driver when they were visibly intoxicated, the bar or restaurant shares responsibility for the damages. These incidents often result in catastrophic injuries that exceed the limits of the typical driver’s auto insurance policy. Plus, drunk drivers might fail to maintain current insurance coverage or have minimal personal assets to pay for the damage they caused. Holding the bar or restaurant partially responsible for their negligence in serving a visibly intoxicated person who injures or kills someone may help ensure the victim is adequately compensated.
Under Oregon’s dram shop liability statutes, ORS 471.565, a party must file proper notice to the establishment within 180 days of the injury or one year of the death to preserve the right to sue the entity for serving a visibly intoxicated person. This is just one reason it is so important to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as practicable after the incident.
As a Deputy District Attorney, I criminally prosecuted hundreds of drunk drivers and many criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter cases involving drunk drivers. In my current civil practice, I have successfully negotiated insurance policy limit settlements in nearly all of my cases involving a drunk driver.