When you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, you want justice. Their actions were dangerous and irresponsible, and now you’re suffering as a result. Luckily, the criminal justice system is hard on DUI offenses. If the person who injured you was intoxicated, there is a good chance they will face harsh penalties for their crimes.
While it may be satisfying to know that they are incarcerated and paying heavy fines, that may not help your need for personal justice. You may be facing steep hospital bills, missing work, and suffering physically. You want to pursue financial compensation, but is that possible when someone is already in jail? The answer is yes, you can still sue someone who is serving a sentence for their crimes.
Civil and Criminal Court
Courtroom justice splits into two segments, criminal court and civil court. Criminal court is reserved for handling people who have been accused of a crime against society. If that person is found guilty, they will repay their debt to society with criminal penalties. They can be forced to pay fines, perform community service, or lose their freedoms with probation and incarceration.
Civil court is where one party seeks financial justice from another party. The person who is suing is called the plaintiff. The person being sued is the defendant. In a civil case, the plaintiff is arguing that, because of the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff has suffered. That suffering can be financial, emotional, or physical. When the plaintiff wins a civil case, they are given financial compensation in the form of “damages.”
A civil case can take place at any time, regardless of the criminal court’s ruling. If the accused is found “not guilty,” you can still sue them for damages. Famously, the O.J. Simpson criminal trial of the ‘90s found Simpson “not guilty.” The family then sued him for wrongful death and won millions of dollars in the case. This proves that whether someone is sent to prison for the rest of their life or set free, you can sue them.
Suing an Incarcerated Person
This process is like any other. You contact a lawyer, and they help you file a lawsuit. Suing someone who is in jail does, however, come with some unique challenges. Setting up and following through with the case may be difficult. Someone who is locked up cannot simply appear in court. They need clearance to be released so they can defend themselves. This involves appealing to the facility where they are being held, which can be denied or delayed.
Simply locating the inmate can be an issue. Prisoners are often shuffled around to other locations, and they can be difficult to find. Even when you know where they are, they could be moved before the authorities allow them a release to appear in court. When this happens, your lawyer must start the whole process over again, making requests to the new facility.
Another potential problem is the resources, or lack thereof, of the defendant. There are certainly people in jail who have savings waiting for them upon their release. Statistically, however, people who are convicted of crimes don’t have much money going in. Once they are incarcerated, they aren’t making an income beyond a job in jail that pays next to nothing. After their release, it may be hard for them to secure new work. In short, you may find yourself attempting to sue someone who is broke and has little financial prospects.
What to Ask Your Lawyer
Before pursuing a lawsuit against an incarcerated person, talk to a lawyer. Ask them how difficult it will be to locate this person and get them into a courtroom. See if your lawyer can investigate the inmate’s finances and determine whether a lawsuit is even worthwhile.
Most importantly, ask about other options when pursuing a lawsuit is unfeasible. Is it possible to sue the establishment that sold drinks to the DUI offender? Is there someone else whose negligence contributed to your accident, like the car manufacturer or the city for their road upkeep? We are not encouraging you to be greedy. Civil justice is about helping you out of a bad situation when you’ve been hurt. Talk to a skilled attorney who can help you retrieve the compensation you need and help you overcome your current troubles.
If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, call us at (602) 483-6114, or contact us online. Whether the drunk driver has faced criminal justice or not, we want to help you pursue the justice you deserve.