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Guide to Claiming Damages for DUI Accidents in Los Angeles

Most of us try our best to drive defensively and be careful on the roads at all times. However, there is often not much you can do to avoid an accident with a drunk driver and unfortunately, the damage is sometimes not limited to your vehicle. DUI accidents frequently lead to significant and even fatal injuries.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a negligent driver in a DUI accident, you might be entitled to compensation and car accident attorneys can help you get the settlement you deserve.

We hope this guide to claiming damages for DUI accidents in Los Angeles will give you a better understanding of the process.

A man involved in a DUI accident looking in his rearview mirror

In heavily populated areas, such as Los Angeles and elsewhere in Southern California, fatal injuries are not uncommon.

According to the latest annual statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,847 traffic fatalities in California. This number includes 1,159 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.

What Are the DUI Requirements in California?

It is illegal for any person in California to operate a vehicle if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is:

  • 0.08% or higher if the person is 21 years or older.
  • 0.01% or higher if the person is under 21 years of age.
  • 0.01% or higher for anyone on DUI probation.
  • 0.04% or higher for commercial vehicle drivers.
  • 0.04% or higher for when a passenger for hire is in the vehicle.

Note that a blood alcohol concentration below legal limits does not mean it is safe for someone to drive. Nearly all drivers show some impairment due to alcohol consumption at levels lower than the legal limit.

A driver who shows impairment might face a DUI conviction, even without a blood alcohol concentration measurement.

What About Drugs?

Under California law, driving under the influence applies to driving under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol.

Using any substance that impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal. It includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Was the Defendant Negligent?

To succeed in your personal injury claim, you need to prove negligence.

Negligence is any act or omission by the defendant that results in a breach of their duty of care that could likely cause injuries to others.

It has four key elements, namely:

  1. Duty of care owed – The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  2. Duty of care breached – The defendant failed to fulfill their duty of care due to a careless act or failure to act.
  3. Causation – The defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate (main) cause of the accident.
  4. Damages – The plaintiff suffered compensable losses as a result of the accident. 

After an accident caused by someone driving under the influence, there will typically be a criminal case and, if the victim chooses to sue, a civil one for personal injury or wrongful death.

The Negligence Per Se Doctrine

Should the defendant be found guilty of DUI in a criminal case, it improves the plaintiff’s chances of winning a civil lawsuit based on the negligence per se doctrine.

Under this doctrine, a jury or judge will presume defendants are negligent if they violate a statute and, in doing so, injure someone it is there to protect.

The plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care and failed to fulfill this duty due to a careless act or failure to act.

However, the plaintiff still has to prove that the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of the accident and that the plaintiff suffered compensable losses due to the accident.

What Damages Can You Claim?

Judge's gavel with car key and money

You might be able to claim both economic and non-economic damages depending on the nature and extent of your injuries.

Economic damages might include:

  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Future medical treatments
  • Lost wages
  • Future loss of earnings
  • Reduced earnings potential
  • Physical therapy

Non-economic damages might include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

A DUI accident attorney will gladly provide you with more information on the damages you might be able to recover based on your unique circumstances.

Serious injuries include, but are not limited to:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Loss of limb(s)
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Back injuries

What if You Are Partly to Blame for the Accident?

Just because someone was driving under the influence does not necessarily make them 100% responsible for an accident.

California is a comparative fault state. If you and the other party both contributed to the accident, a jury will apportion the fault between you and the other driver.


Assume you sue a drunk driver that ran a stop sign for $50,000 in damages. The drunk driver admits he was drinking but claims you could have avoided the accident if you were not talking on your phone. He countersues you for $30,000 in damages.

A jury attributes 20% blame to you and 80% to the other driver.

Based on the above:

– You are entitled to 80% of $50,000 which is $40,000

– The other driver is entitled to 20% of $30,000, which is $6,000

– After offsetting the amounts against each other, the other driver owes you $34,000

Why Choose Cohen & Marzban?

Using a reputable personal injury law firm such as Cohen & Marzban can boost your chances of getting a fair settlement offer.

  • We have over 45 years of experience in personal injury cases.
  • Our attorneys know the ins and outs of DUI personal injury claims.
  • We don’t leave any stone unturned to get you the compensation you’re entitled to receive.
  • Cohen & Marzban has already recovered $2,000,000,000+ in damages for our clients!
  • Our list of accolades includes winning The Litigator Award™ – an honor awarded to only the top 1% of trial attorneys in the United States.

If we can’t reach a fair settlement with the defendant out of court, we won’t hesitate to initiate legal proceedings.

All new clients receive a FREE consultation. And if we agree to accept your case, we do not get paid unless you get paid!

Call us at (310) 464-2670 to schedule an appointment. Our phone lines are open 24/7.

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