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Can The Conviction Of A Driver For Dui In New Jersey Assist A Civil Accident Claim?

A substantial number of highway accidents happen every year due to drunk drivers. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can change a driver’s state of mind, and this impairment can cause serious accidents. The victims in accidents caused by drunk drivers can file a civil action and seek compensation for any losses.

At the same time, police and prosecutors may bring criminal charges against the drunk driver. Can the criminal conviction of the drunk driver be helpful to the victim of that same drunk driver in a civil case?

The legal term for this problem is “issue preclusion.” The idea behind issue preclusion is that the same question ought not be litigated by the same person in two different courts.

In New Jersey, to set up a claim of issue preclusion, a party must show:

  1. the issue to be precluded the current case is identical to the issue decided in the prior case;
  2. the issue was actually litigated in the prior case;
  3. the court in the prior case issued a final judgment on the merits;
  4. the determination of the issue was essential to the prior judgment;
  5. the party against whom the doctrine is asserted in the current case was a party to or somehow tied to a party to the earlier case.

Here, if a drunk driver is convicted in a criminal case, the issue of his drunken state must have been proven beyond all reasonable doubt. Therefore, it is conceivable that the issue may not need to be re-litigated in a subsequent civil case.

However, the legal doctrine is fairly complicated as to what is, or is not, “issue precluded.” A New Jersey DUI Attorney with experience in civil litigation can be a good choice to find advice on the question if you have been injured by a drunken driver who also faces criminal charges. When you have an experienced legal professional with in-depth knowledge of both civil and criminal laws by your side, he can do anything necessary to protect your rights. An experienced attorney will do everything possible to obtain full and fair compensation in your civil case.

You might want to know the difference between approaching criminal court and civil court for DUI cases.

There is a crucial difference between the criminal case against the drunk driver and the civil case filed by his victims. The case in criminal court is focused on punishing crime, and determining the guilt or innocence of the defendant. If the drunk driver is convicted, then the court will apply criminal sanctions like hefty fines and jail time.

In a civil case, the victim seeks fair monetary compensation for injuries and losses caused by the defendant. If a civil case against a drunk driver is successful, then that individual may have to pay compensatory and punitive damages. 

In a civil case, it is mandatory to prove negligence 

Civil court lawsuits to recover damages for injuries depend upon proof of “negligence,” by the defendant. Therefore, some evidence of neglect of the duty to take reasonable care to avoid damaging others is needed to win. 

Ordinarily, this is not always easy to prove with evidence. In the case of a drunk driver, showing that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that this incapacity caused harm is the evidence you need to advance your claim. 

Certainly, the reports of police and medical technicians at the accident scene would be helpful. Also, if the drunk driver is subsequently tried and convicted, or pleads guilty, the fact of the conviction can help advance the case as well. 

The issue of negligence is separate from the issue of your injuries or damage. One would, of course, also need to make a full record of all injuries and losses suffered, any medical treatments that were prescribed, and any doctor’s recommendations that were followed, and the costs of each. For those matters, careful record keeping is also important.

An experienced attorney can help you seek full and fair compensation for your claim.

Managing your financial expenses when you have been injured by a drunk driver and are not well physically can become very daunting. The temptation is to pay extra medical expenses and other expenditures that might form part of a claim.

Not every claimant is fully compensated for their loss and damage after an accident. Taking the time to estimate the overall loss, gather a full set of bills and records, and then presenting a claim will improve your effort to receive full compensation for your injury.

Once you have an estimate of your damages, you are ready for the next step. You may talk to a New Jersey Auto Accident Lawyer who has experience in handling injury cases. With legal advice,  you can either reach a fair settlement with the insurance adjuster or you can, if necessary, proceed to court action. 

If you have been injured by a drunk driver, and have sued for negligence to recover your losses, it may be possible to negotiate a settlement with his insurance company. A criminal conviction for drunk driving can help advance settlement negotiations considerably.

If you have been in a DUI/DWI accident, and if you are still facing financial troubles due to your loss, pain and suffering, or economic damages, you should not hesitate to contact a legal professional today to discover your options.

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