Filing Suit for a Chattanooga Drunk Driving Accident Case

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a motor vehicle wreck involving a drunk driver, you are likely dealing with a lot. The physical, emotional, and financial hardships that often follow an auto collision can be overwhelming. On top of all of that, you may be confused about what to do or how things proceed legally.

Cases that involve crashes caused by intoxicated drivers can be confusing. If you are unsure of what steps to take to move forward with a legal claim, contact an experienced car wreck attorney for help with filing suit for a Chattanooga drunk driving accident case.

Types of Legal Cases Following a Drunk Driving Collision

There are two different cases that arise out of automobile accidents involving an intoxicated driver: Criminal and civil.

Criminal Case

The first and most immediate thing that happens after a drunk driver is involved in accident will be an arrest and the filing of criminal charges against them. The injured party who suffered as a result of that drunk driver’s negligence will not have any control over whether or not criminal charges are pressed in almost all situations. Once a DUI charge is filed, the district attorney or prosecuting attorney, depending on the jurisdiction, will control the prosecution of the case. An injured person may receive a request to act as a witness if the criminal case proceeds to trial. However, in such situations, the viewpoint of the victim will not impact whether or not to prosecute or dismiss criminal charges against the negligent driver.

Civil Claim

The second case that arises out of a motor vehicle collision caused by an intoxicated driver will be the civil claim for damages pursued by an injured party. Following an auto wreck, an injured person has a right to seek a full financial recovery for all of their accident-related losses, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

While a proactive injury attorney will do everything they can to settle the claim out of court, they will take a case to court if necessary to secure the injured party the fair compensation they deserve.

Are Criminal and Civil DUI Cases Handled Together or Separately?

The civil and criminal cases for an auto crash caused by an intoxicated driver will always be handled separately. The district attorney and the judge that is involved with the criminal case will have absolutely nothing to do with the civil case. The cases likely will not even be in the same courthouse depending on which jurisdiction they fall under. The civil case will probably not be filed for months, long after the criminal case is filed. This is because the criminal case usually initiates on the date of the accident, assuming the drunk driver is arrested at the scene.

A civil case likely will not begin for at least six to nine months or even longer, depending on how long the statute of limitations is tolled. The civil case will either be filed in the circuit court of the county in which the accident occurred or where the drunk driver lives. A knowledgeable lawyer will advise an injured party on the best venue for their particular case to maximize the recovery that they are entitled.

While the two cases will include different judges and lawyers and will likely proceed in two different courthouses, the criminal case and its outcome may have an effect on how the civil case proceeds. A guilty plea in the criminal case to drunk driving may be admissible as beneficial evidence in the civil case. Thus, the criminal case can influence the civil case, though, it is unlikely the civil case will have any impact on the outcome of the criminal case.

Tennessee’s Statute of Limitations for DUI Wrecks

According to Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-3-104 an injured person who wishes to pursue legal action has just 12 months from the time of an accident to file suit in Chattanooga. If a victim fails to file their claim within that timeframe, they will lose their right to recovery in most situations.

However, in drunk driving accident cases, the statute of limitations is tolled during the pendency of a criminal case. This means, if a criminal case is not yet resolved, then the statute of limitations for the civil case will not start running. As soon as the criminal case is resolved, though, the clock will begin ticking. Thus, plaintiffs injured in cases involving drunk drivers may have a little more time than those in other types of personal injury cases, but they should still seek assistance from a seasoned attorney in Chattanooga as soon as possible to ensure everything is filed in a timely manner and within legal guidelines.

An Attorney Could Help You File Suit After a Drunk Driving Crash in Chattanooga

Even though the criminal and civil cases for a singular DUI accident are handled separately procedurally, the result of a criminal case can have a strong influence on the success of a civil claim. That is why it is crucial to get in touch with a well-practiced attorney as soon as possible following a collision.

Not only could a skilled lawyer assist with filing suit for a Chattanooga drunk driving accident case, but they could also work with attorneys involved in the criminal case to gather the evidence necessary to build a strong claim for monetary damages. Call today to get started.

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