Written by attorney Sarah Nelson

Civil Lawsuits Related to Drunk Driving

From rear-end whiplash injuries to t-bones to wrongful death, drinking and driving can result in civil as well as criminal penalties. Oftentimes, the civil sanctions can be even more serious that the criminal ones--where the driver is a first time offender eligible for diversion.

People typically think of criminal exposure when they think of drunk drivers. People often don't think of the civil suits for personal injuries or property damages. Whether the victim suffers serious personal injuries (or even wrongful death) or simply a broken fence, proving a case against a drunk driver is usually a simpler task than a normal car wreck case-because the wrongful conduct can be established by the mere fact of the driver's blood alcohol level.

The Elgin High School teacher recently released from custody, Janet Scoubs, is an example of someone who got off easy. Scoubs caused property damage and minor personal injuries in East Multnomah County, east of Gresham, when she collided into the back of a police cruiser. Scoubs' police victim was by Multnomah County Sgt. Diana Olsen, who is better known for coordinating the Kyron Horman investigation. Olsen suffered minor personal injuries in the accident.

The recent story of eresa Nickleby was on the other end of the spectrum. Nickleby killed two 21-year old Camas women when she was driving the wrong was on SR 14 and collided head on with the two young women, killing them both. It was later revealed that Nickleby had spent the night drinking at the Golden Star Restaurant and Bar in Gresham. Nickelby was found guilty of the criminal charges and the bar was held civilly liable for $1.35 million in civil wrongful death damages for overserving the driver. This type of liability for the bar is known as dram shop liability.

These cases on two ends of the spectrum illustrate that drunk drivers, and those who serve them, can face serious consequences, including liability for civil damages and even punitive damages.

If you or a family member has been injured by a drunk driver, there are a number of steps you should take. First, you should seek medical care. Second, you should do what you can to cooperate with the criminal investigation and prosecution. Third, you should contact an experienced Portland car accident lawyer to see if there is compensation available for the personal injuries you've suffered.

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