The fact of a criminal violation - drunk driving, hit-and-run accident, or injuries caused by an uninsured or unlicensed driver - can both complicate and streamline your claim for personal injury or wrongful death damages in the aftermath of an accident.
For example, when alcohol or drugs are a factor in causing a motor vehicle accident, punitive damages or exemplary damages may be available. Punitive damages may be awarded by Colorado judges and juries for behavior which is willful, wanton or reckless - in other words, for extremely bad behavior. These damages would be payable in addition to any insurance coverage that the driver has.
However, at the same time, serious criminal violations can make a wrongful death or personal injury claim more difficult. Often an insurance company will attempt to deny coverage under a “criminal acts exclusion" or an "intentional acts exclusion" in an insurance policy. As such, it is important to characterize most claims in terms of negligence or recklessness rather than intentional or criminal acts.
Proving Civil Liability
Regardless of the outcome of a criminal case against the drunk driver who caused your accident, we can use the information generated in the criminal investigation to help prove civil liability against the defendant. Once we establish negligence or reckless conduct against the driver responsible for the accident, we can focus on questions concerning the amount of the damages and how you will collect them.
If there isn't enough insurance to cover your full damages, we can proceed against your own underinsured motorist coverage, work toward an order for restitution in the criminal proceedings, or even apply for compensation under county crime victim programs.
All states have zero tolerance laws when it comes to people under the age of 21 who drive drunk - and the state of Colorado is no exception. In Colorado over 6,300 teenagers between the ages of 16 -20 were killed in fatal crashes in 2002. Of those killed, 29% had been drinking alcohol. The zero tolerance laws are in effect to prevent underage drinkers from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and putting themselves and everyone around them at risk.