How to Sue a Drunk Driver Who Faces Criminal Charges in Arizona

Last updated on: June 22, 2022


Car accidents are already difficult and inconvenient, but they can be devastating when alcohol is involved. Drunk driving killed over 11,000 people in the United States in 2020, accounting for about 30% of all traffic fatalities. That same year, police reported almost 2,000 DUI arrests in the state of Arizona alone. Knowing how to sue a drunk driver who faces criminal charges in Arizona can give you the confidence to stand up for your rights after a drunk driving accident.

If you or a loved one were hurt in a drunk driving accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312. An Arizona drunk driving accident lawyer can answer your questions about the accident based on the information you provide. Call us today for your free consultation.

How can an injury lawyer near me help?

Initially, you might wonder whether it is possible to sue the driver who hurt you if he or she already faces criminal charges. Yes, you can sue the driver, but there are many moving pieces to your lawsuit. A lawyer can help you identify and work through those pieces in the following ways:

1. An Arizona Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help File Your Claim

As the victim of a drunk driving accident, you cannot use criminal law to sue the person who caused the accident. The state of Arizona takes care of the criminal suit against the defendant. Accordingly, you must pursue a civil claim against the driver.

Your attorney can help you file the claim so that it meets all of the court requirements. However, you must bring your claim within two years of the accident according to Arizona’s statute of limitations. If it has been longer than two years since the accident occurred, you might not be able to sue the driver.

Read More: Arizona Car Accident Lawyers

2. A Lawyer Can Help Gather Evidence

Depending on how badly you were injured when the accident happened, you may or may not have had the opportunity to gather the necessary evidence to win a settlement against the drunk driver. A lawyer help you build your case by gathering information about the accident and proof of your injury. This is a critical part of the lawsuit because it can uncover new information to help your case.

3. A Lawyer Can Help Settle with the Defendant

Once you and the defendant have the information you need, you can begin working toward a settlement. A car accident lawyer can use his or her knowledge and skill to negotiate with the defendant’s lawyer and insurance company. The defendant will likely try to settle for the smallest amount possible. Your lawyer can help you understand the fair settlement amount for your case and can highlight the strengths of your case during negotiations.

A fair settlement amount for your case depends on the kinds of injuries you sustained in the accident. For example, scrapes and bruises affect you less than a back injury or a concussion. In terms of compensation, a lawyer must consider the financial costs of the accident (economic damages) and the pain and suffering the accident caused you (non-economic damages).

Importantly, you may not agree with the defendant on a fair settlement amount. In this case, your attorney may advise you to go to trial. Parties typically prefer to settle outside of court rather than go to trial since juries can be somewhat unpredictable. However, if you have a very strong case—especially as the sympathetic victim of a drunk driving accident—a trial could result in a greater compensation amount than negotiation and settlement.

Read More: What is the Likelihood My Case Will Go to Trial?

What should I do after a drunk driving accident in Arizona?

While it is hard to know how to respond to a car crash until you have been in one, it never hurts to be prepared or to make sure you have checked all the right boxes. Of course, if the crash leaves you in critical condition, you may not be able to stay at the accident scene. In that case, an attorney can help you fill in the information later. If you can stay at the scene immediately after the accident, you can preserve the strength of your case by doing the following:

1. Do Not Admit Fault

After a car crash, you might feel the need to rush out of your car and apologize to the other driver even if you do not think you caused the accident. Perhaps you are thinking of ways you could lessen the impact of the accident. Do check on the other drivers involved in the accident and make sure they are alright, but do not admit that the accident was your fault or give any recorded statements about the accident at all. The defendant could try to use such statements against you later.

When you call your insurance company later, do not admit fault. Even your own insurance company could try to reduce payments. If you indicate that you are at fault or provide a recorded statement to your insurance company without talking to a lawyer first, you could give the insurance company a reason to provide less coverage.

2. Call the Police

Someone should call the police so that the reporting officer can create a crash report. Crash reports can greatly influence the outcome of a case. Police officers record their initial impressions of the crash in the report, often including which party they believe is at fault. The report becomes public record after a few days, and you can request one for your personal documentation of the accident.

Additionally, in a drunk driving accident, a police officer can breathalyze the other driver to confirm that he or she was over the legal limit during the accident. You must get this information at the scene of the accident so that you do not have to try to prove it later simply based on witness statements. It is one thing for the defendant to personally admit to you that he or she is drunk at the scene of the accident. It is another thing for a police officer to test and record whether the defendant is drunk.

3. Collect Evidence

Next, look around the scene of the accident. Find anything that helps build your case that the other driver was negligent. The police officer who writes the crash report typically also gathers information from the other drivers involved and takes pictures, but you can gather that for your personal record too.

Additionally, collect the name, address, license plate number, license number, and insurance information from the drunk driver. Other drivers who were not directly involved in the accident may have seen the accident and be willing to provide witness statements in the future. Take pictures of your surroundings and of the damage to the vehicles.

4.  Seek Medical Attention if Injured

See a doctor relatively soon after the accident if you did not need emergency medical treatment. Even if you think you could recover on your own, you need to receive documentation of your injuries so that the defendant cannot accuse you of making them up. Additionally, you might not realize the seriousness of your injuries if you do not visit a doctor, and those injuries may become irreparably worse over time.

A doctor’s diagnosis provides evidence of the injury itself and of the pain and suffering that you experienced because of the accident. This gives you a basis for the economic and non-economic damages you claim to have suffered. Keep track of all your medical documents as you continue to receive treatment. Note the healthcare facilities you visited, the diagnoses and treatment you received, and your missed wages from time you had to take off work.

5. Call an Arizona Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

Finally, call a lawyer to find out the strength of your case and your chances of recovery. A lawyer can draw on the experience of handling similar cases to guess how much your case might be worth. Talking with a lawyer can save you time and energy by giving you an objective, professional opinion about your case and preventing you from attempting to navigate the legal system  alone.

Read More: Trusted Drunk Driving Victim Lawyers

What Civil charges can I file against the drunk driver?

If you have been in a car crash caused by a drunk driver, you might file a personal injury claim, namely, a claim for negligence. Under a negligence claim, you must show that the drunk driver owed you a duty of care while operating his or her vehicle and that he or she breached that duty of care to you. Proving that the driver was drunk at the time of the accident will likely suffice to show that he or she breached the duty of care.

You must also demonstrate that you suffered an injury for which you can receive compensation under the law. Finally, you must prove that the drunk driver caused your injury. An Arizona drunk driving accident lawyer will be familiar with these elements and can help you understand whether your case amounts to negligence.

What IS THE PUNISHMENT for a Drunk Driver Facing Criminal Charges?

Arizona’s law states that “it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle” if the driver is under the influence of intoxicating liquor; has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more; or has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more while driving a commercial motor vehicle. In Arizona, there are various punishments for someone facing a DUI, and the severity of the punishments increases with each successive DUI. Also, a drunk driver could face an extreme or aggravated DUI.

First Offense

If a drunk driver is convicted of a DUI for the first time, he or she will serve at least ten consecutive days in jail without probation or suspension and will pay a penalty of at least $250.  The court may assign additional fees as punishment or order community service. The offender may also be required to use a certified ignition interlock device to operate the vehicle.

Second Offense

If a drunk driver is convicted of a DUI for the second time within eighty-four months of the previous conviction, the punishments increase for that second offense. The driver will be sentenced to at least ninety days in jail, will serve thirty of those days consecutively, and will not be eligible for probation or suspension unless the entire sentence has been served. The driver will pay a fine of at least $500 in addition to other heftier fines and mandatory community service. He or she will have driving privileges revoked for one year.

Third Offense

Someone who is convicted of a third DUI faces greater punishment. He or she must complete at least four months of jail time and pay a fine of at least $750 in addition to other fines. The driver will be prohibited from driving for one year.

Extreme DUI

A drunk driver receives an extreme DUI for driving with an alcohol concentration of at least 0.15, which is twice the legal limit. For the first offense, the driver must serve at least thirty consecutive days in jail with no probation or suspension. He or she must pay a fine of at least $2,500; undergo alcohol screening, education, and treatment; perform community service; and use a certified ignition interlock device.

For the second extreme DUI offense, the driver will be jailed for at least 120 days. He or she must also pay at least $3,250 and have driving privileges revoked for one year. Finally, as with the first extreme DUI, the driver must undergo alcohol screening, education, and treatment; perform community service; and use a certified ignition interlock device.

Aggravated DUI

A drunk driver can receive an aggravated DUI for the following reasons:

  • committing a DUI while driving privilege is suspended, revoked, or canceled
  • committing a third DUI in eighty-four months
  • committing a DUI while someone under the age of fifteen is in the vehicle
  • committing a DUI or refusing to submit to a blood alcohol content test while under the requirement to use a certified ignition interlock device.

As punishment, the driver receives a minimum prison sentence of at most two years and a license revocation of one year. The driver must undergo alcohol screening, education, and treatment and equip his or her vehicle with a certified ignition interlock device. Finally, the driver will be ordered to perform community service.

Call now for a free consultation with an Arizona drunk driving accident attorney at Zinda law group

If you have suffered due to the negligence of a drunk driver, you do not deserve to deal with the consequences alone. Let a compassionate lawyer fight for you. We understand that you are probably worried about several expenses and how to move forward, so you do not have to pay us unless we win your case for you. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to see how we can help.

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