Iowa is an at-fault car insurance state, and drivers are required to carry proof of financial responsibility. When a driver causes an accident, then he or she (or the driver's insurance company) is required under law to pay for damages.
When a driver is drunk at the time of the accident, intoxication is often enough to establish negligence and fault. While criminal and civil law is completely separate, the outcome of the other driver’s DUI criminal case can affect your car accident claim and your ability to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver.
The Outcome May Help to Substantiate Fault
The outcome of the other driver’s DUI criminal case can help either prove or disprove fault. If the case results in a verdict of guilty and a sentence, then this can be brought to the insurance company as an indication of the driver’s negligence.
Conversely, if the court issues a verdict of "not guilty," then proving that the driver was at fault due to intoxication may be more difficult. If a person is found not to be guilty, then that person may argue that his or her intoxication level was not significant enough to contribute to the accident; therefore, he or she was not at fault.
When a Criminal Case Doesn’t Change Your Car Accident Claim
In some cases, even a verdict of guilty in a DUI case may not change your car accident claim. If you did anything to contribute to the accident, then you may be held responsible under Iowa’s comparative fault laws. The law, found in Iowa Code 668.3, states that contributory fault does not bar recovery of damages but that damages shall be diminished in proportion to fault. Therefore, even if the drunk driver was 95 percent at fault for your accident, your damages amount may still decrease by five percent.
Do I need an attorney after a car accident with a drunk driver?
You should always hire an attorney when filing a car accident claim for damages.
Doing so can help you recover your full compensation amount. When a drunk driver is involved, though, an attorney may be even more valuable to have on your side. Your attorney can help establish the fault of the drunk driver, ensuring that you get 100 percent of your benefit amount.