What OVI / DUI Accident Victims Should Know About Their Rights Under Ohio Law
You’d be hard pressed to find someone living in Ohio who doesn’t understand that drunk driving is dangerous. …Or that it’s illegal, with huge consequences. …Or that it results in death all the time.
And yet people continue to get behind the wheel when they know they’ve had too much to drink.
It’s heartbreaking when you stop to think about all the people who have endured terrible injuries, spent days or weeks in hospitals, or said goodbye to a dearly loved one — just because someone else made the selfish decision to drive when they weren’t fit to.
Even today, in 2018, drunk driving remains one of the most frequent causes of drunk driving in Ohio.
As Columbus drunk driving accident attorneys, we’ve helped many victims and their families recover compensation after one of these terrible collisions.
Drunk driving can impact anyone — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and passersby. Its victims can be any age, and often, they were entirely innocent and driving safely, obeying the law.
It is fundamentally unfair that blameless victims must not only suffer but also fend for themselves financially after a drunk driving crash. It doesn’t have to be that way. Ohio personal injury law makes it clear that drunk drivers must pay for the damages they cause. Our law firm is determined to hold them accountable and to get the victims the largest amount of money allowable under the law.
Below, we provide a general overview of drunk driving and personal injury in Ohio.
Legal Liability for Personal Injuries Caused by Drunk Driving
Each time someone operates a motor vehicle on Ohio roadways, he or she automatically assumes a legal duty of care, which they owe to everyone else on the road — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, maintenance workers, and so on.
Drivers breach the duty of care when they operate their vehicles carelessly — or, in legal terms, negligently. There are many examples of negligent driving: speeding, texting, tailgating, running red lights, breaking traffic laws, and so on.
Driving while intoxicated is one of the most sinister forms of negligence. It represents a deliberate choice to endanger the lives of others.
The State of Ohio takes drunk driving extremely seriously, and it has passed laws that crack down on those who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Anyone in Ohio who is injured by a negligent driver (drunk or not) is entitled to recover compensation for the damages caused by such carelessness. We discuss those general damages in the next section. Additionally, victims of drunk driving may be entitled to certain other damages, and we will address those in the sections to follow.
If you’ve been injured by a drunk or drugged driver in Ohio, you should contact an experienced Columbus drunk driving accident attorney as soon as possible. A car accident lawyer can help you understand your rights under the circumstances, including any claims you might have to financial compensation.
Damages Generally Available to Victims of Negligence Under Ohio Personal Injury Law
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your personal injury, you may be able to recover compensation for these and other damages:
- Medical expenses, including doctor and hospital bills
- Ongoing / future medical care
- Bodily pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Disfigurement and/or disability
- Property damages
- Lost income due to time away from work
Tragically, drunk driving accidents sometimes result in death. If you have lost a loved one in an Ohio OVI accident (operating a vehicle under the influence), you and your family members may be entitled to recover wrongful death damages. Depending on the circumstances, these may include:
- Loss of future earnings by the deceased
- Loss of future inheritance
- Loss of the services or support the deceased provided
- Loss of love, companionship, and affection
- Emotional damages
- Funeral and burial expenses
You May Be Entitled to Additional Damages After a Drunk Driving Crash
As a general rule, personal injury victims are not allowed to seek punitive damages in Ohio. (Punitive damages are a special type of financial compensation that are designed to punish the defendant financially for bad behavior. Punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff in addition to any compensation for his or her actual damages.)
However, Ohio makes an exception in cases where there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions (or failure to act) “demonstrated malice, aggravated, or egregious fraud, oppression or insult.”
In many cases, Ohio courts have accepted an excessive BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) level as clear and convincing evidence of egregious behavior, thus allowing for punitive damages in some drunk driving cases.
The experienced Columbus drunk driving accident lawyers at Colombo Law will fight hard to maximize punitive damages — which may be as high as two times the total award for actual damages — in every OVI injury case we take on, whenever possible.
Bartenders & Bar Owners Might Be Liable Too: Ohio Dram Shop Law
Additionally, Ohio personal injury law allows drunk driving victims to bring a claim against a bartender or bar owner who continues to serve the drunk driver alcohol when he or she was clearly intoxicated.
Here again, BAC levels and other evidence may be used to establish whether the barkeep knew or should have known that serving the person alcohol would endanger the public. This is known as Ohio dram shop liability, and our office is prepared to fully investigate the situation to determine whether a bar or restaurant’s negligence might be to blame.
The Difference Between Civil Law and Criminal Law in Ohio Drunk Driving Cases
Drunk driving is a criminal violation with serious penalties, which can include traffic tickets, time spent in traffic class, enormous fines, and even prison time. If someone dies as the result of an OVI, the driver may even be charged with manslaughter.
But personal injuries caused by drunk driving are a civil law matter. If you make a claim for injuries caused by the driver, or if you file a lawsuit seeking financial compensation, your personal injury case will be completely separate from any criminal proceedings or traffic court matters.
The outcome of the criminal matter does not affect the outcome of your personal injury claim (nor vice versa).
Please don’t assume that, just because the other driver was charged or convicted with an OVI or DUI in Ohio, you will automatically be awarded fair compensation by an insurance company. Insurance providers are large corporations that are interested in protecting their own profits. Before accepting any settlement offer from an insurer, talk to an experienced attorney first.
In many cases, victims are able to recover far greater sums of money by hiring a lawyer to represent their interests against the at-fault driver and the insurance companies.
Free Case Review with an Ohio Drunk Driving Personal Injury Lawyer
Remember that there is a very narrow statute of limitations for drunk driving accidents in Ohio — just two years in most cases. That’s a much smaller time period than in many other states, and because claims take time to research and negotiate, it is in your best interest to talk with an attorney as early as possible.
At Colombo Law, we offer decades of experience as Ohio drunk driving accident lawyers. We are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get our clients the largest amount of money possible.
We proudly serve clients all across the state of Ohio — not just in Columbus but also in: Chillicothe, Circleville, Heath, Hebron, Lancaster, New Lexington, Newark, Pataskala, Westerville, and beyond.
Here’s our promise to you:
- A free case evaluation with absolutely no obligation to hire us
- Honest guidance and advice
- No attorney fees unless and until we recover damages for you
- Our passion, respect, time, and attention
Come find out why we have a 99% success rate. Contact Colombo Law and schedule a free Ohio OVI injury victim’s consultation right away.
To get started, call 888-860-1414 (614-362-7000 in Columbus) or simply contact us online.