Drunk Driving Injury Cases: If DUI Driver Pleads Guilty, How Does That Effect the Case? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Drunk drivers in Virginia endanger themselves and others on the road. In addition to causing serious and potentially life threatening car accident injuries, they put bicyclists and pedestrians at risk as well. When DUI related crashes do occur, victims may be entitled to compensation for the medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages they suffer through a personal injury lawsuit filed against the drunk driver. If the driver has pleaded guilty on criminal DUI charges, this can have a positive impact on your civil case. However, even if a not guilty plea was entered, evidence gathered during their trial may prove helpful in your claim. 

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How Criminal DUI Charges Impact Your Personal Injury Claim


According to statistics from the Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 7,000 drunk driving accidents in Virginia happen each year. These crashes prove fatal for roughly 250 people while causing serious injuries for over 4,400 others on the road. When a crash occurs as the result of a driver being impaired behind the wheel, they can be subject to criminal charges and may be held liable in a personal injury claim. 


As the victim of a DUI driver, the circumstances of the driver’s arrest, how they plead to their charges, and any subsequent conviction could play a major role in defending your rights to compensation. Section 8.01-418 of the Code of Virginia explains the impact a guilty plea in criminal court has on a civil claim. It states that if a plea of guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) is entered in response to traffic related charges or other criminal matters, it can be used as evidence in any civil case resulting out of the same occurrence or circumstances. For example:


  • You are involved in a car accident that leaves you suffering personal injuries and/or property damages. 
  • Law enforcement officials at the scene determine that the other person involved was under the influence at the time of the crash. 
  • The driver is arrested and charged with DUI, which may be considered a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense depending on the circumstances involved. 
  • The driver pleads guilty and admits to being under the influence or otherwise fails to contest the charges against them, often in return for a lesser criminal sentence. 
  • A judgment is issued in the case, resulting in a DUI conviction.
  • A personal injury lawsuit is filed on your behalf by our Virginia car accident attorneys. 
  • We obtain a certified copy of the judgment, which is submitted as evidence in your claim. 


As the judgment or disposition of the case shows that the other driver admitted to being under the influence at the time of the accident, they are clearly at fault and liable for any damages you suffer. Unfortunately, this only applies in the event of a guilty or nolo contendere plea. If the other driver does not admit to driving under the influence, this could present a problem. Even if the outcome of their trial is a guilty verdict, that judgment cannot be cannot automatically use in your civil court case. 


Evidence In DUI Related Injury Lawsuits


At the heart of any personal injury case is proving that the other person involved was negligent. In a car accident claim, this involves gathering evidence that indicates the other driver was engaged in some type of reckless behavior that was ultimately responsible for the crash. 


In a DUI related car accident, this applies even if the other driver is found guilty but does not plead guilty in regard to being intoxicated. Under Virginia court rules, evidence of DUI gathered as part of a criminal investigation can be used in your civil claim. This includes: 


  • Police reports from the scene;
  • Statements from witnesses;
  • Videotape recordings from nearby stores or traffic signals;
  • Results of breath or blood alcohol testing;
  • Evidence that the other driver refused DUI testing, which implies guilt under Virginia guidelines. 


Depending on the circumstances involved in your case, our attorneys may also rely on testimony from toxicologists, who can analyze BAC test results. Even if testing does not indicate the other driver was over the legal limit, these experts can analyze when it was obtained and what the actual intoxication level might have been at the time the crash occurred. 


Get Legal Guidance From Our Virginia DUI Car Accident Attorneys

When car accidents happen due to the reckless actions of DUI drivers, Shapiro & Appleton provide the experienced, aggressive legal representation you need to hold them accountable. To discuss the best course of action for seeking compensation in your case, call or contact our Virginia car accident attorneys online and request a consultation today.