This past December, an intoxicated woman driving the wrong way on the interstate struck our client head on. The massive collision destroyed our client’s arm, as well as her dreams of becoming a graphic designer. The skilled surgeons at Stanford reconstructed our client’s elbow with plates and screws, but she permanently lost much of her range of motion.
The drunk driver had no automobile insurance, but our client fortunately had a $100,000 uninsured motorist (UM) policy with Mercury Insurance. We did not stop fighting for our client after we got the $100,000 policy limits settlement from Mercury, and are now seeking attorneys’ fees against the drunk driver in the criminal case.
People who are injured by drunk drivers are crime victims and have rights under both civil and criminal law. One of those rights is to seek restitution from the defendant in the criminal case. Restitution is money that the convicted criminal must pay to the crime victim to compensate him or her out of pocket losses. This includes the attorney’s fees that the crime victim incurs in a civil case arising from the DUI collision.
Restitution is a powerful tool for crime victims, because the criminal defendant owes the debt for the rest of her life until she pays it. Although a defendant can wipe out a civil judgment by declaring bankruptcy, a defendant cannot discharge a criminal restitution order. The restitution order also accrues interest at the rate of 10% a year until the debt is paid.
Many personal injury attorneys are not aware of a crime victim’s right to recover restitution. It is important for people who have been injured in a DUI collision to consult with attorneys who can advise them of their rights under both civil and criminal laws.