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Victim of a Drunk Driver? A Criminal Conviction Is Only the First Step

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You’ve been hurt in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. The police and courts do their job and prosecute, the driver pleads guilty or is found guilty, and a menace to others is removed from the roads.

But what now? The guilty driver will pay a fine and might also receive jail time for the offense. But that fine isn’t paid to you, and putting a guilty driver in jail does nothing to repair the damage he or she caused or to undo the harm of any physical injuries you suffered in the accident.

If you want to receive restitution for damage caused to your property or injuries caused to your person in a car crash, whether caused by a drunk or sober driver, you’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.

Paying the Penalties

A driver found guilty of operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Wisconsin faces a minimum of a $150 fine and five days in jail. But that’s just at the lowest end: He or she will also probably face an insurance surcharge and a license suspension of six months or more and might be required to install an ignition interlock device.

The exact punishment depends on the circumstances of the crash and the harm done, as well as whether this was a first or later offense. Later offenses bring harsher penalties, as does causing more harm or having a higher blood alcohol content.

In the most serious cases, resulting in “great bodily harm” or death, an offender could be looking at a $100,000 fine and up to forty years in prison.

Recovering for the Victim

Despite the severity of those penalties, any person who was injured by an OWI driver will see nothing beyond a possible insurance claim payout unless he or she pursues a personal injury claim in civil court.

This kind of suit allows a victim to attempt to recover financial damages from the guilty driver—and it’s important to recognize that a driver being found “guilty” can be a vital part of any civil suit. If the driver has already been convicted in criminal court, that can make a civil suit more solid.

A civil suit, if it goes to trial without a settlement, will be built upon the plaintiff’s injury, using all available material (accident reports, medical examination records, and so on) to show that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries and should be required to pay what is needed to make the victim whole.

Help with Civil Cases

Succeeding with a personal injury claim may seem simple: Prove that the defendant caused harm; show the extent of the injuries; document the amounts involved for treatment, recovery, and other costs. But it’s not simple to get all of these things right, especially at the same time that a victim is going through the recovery process and putting his or her life back together.

Cases have strict statutory time limits that must be met, forms that need to be filed, and evidence that must be gathered. There will be phone calls to insurers, affidavits to get from witnesses, and meetings with the other party’s attorneys.

Milwaukee Car Accident Lawyer

When you’ve been the victim of a car crash, turn to a firm with a record of success. The experienced car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Gary S. Greenberg have helped many people like you recover the compensation they deserve after being harmed by drunk drivers.

We offer every client a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss their case, so you have nothing to lose. Give us a call today at 414-271-7007 or complete the form below to schedule an appointment.