Yesterday morning at around 6:30 a.m., three people inside the bedroom of their Pasadena home—probably still sleeping although news reports don’t tell us—suddenly found their bedroom decorated with a pickup truck. Fortunately, none of the residents was seriously injured but the structural damage to the home rendered the house being designated by authorities as uninhabitable.
The driver of the pickup was not injured but he was arrested for driving under the influence. Now either he fell asleep at the wheel or he was so drunk or affected by drugs that he didn’t even realize he was veering straight into a house. The driver was arrested and incarcerated with a $15,000 bail imposed. Police have not yet released information regarding what substance, whether alcohol or drugs, he was under the influence of.
The driver will likely be charged with not only driving under the influence but also because he caused an accident, an additional jail sentence and/or sentence enhancement. Even though the injuries were minor, he can be charged with a sentence enhancement for DUI causing injury. If the prosecutor determines that the injuries were serious enough to warrant it, he could even be charged with a felony DUI, which if convicted, could land the driver in state prison.
But let’s talk about other consequences we don’t always consider. The driver is going to be responsible for the damage to the house. Since the damage was major, this will surely be a tidy sum. You might think that if he has property damage coverage on his car insurance, that will cover it. Maybe, maybe not. Many insurance policies have a clause that excludes damage caused by the policy holder’s driving under the influence. In fact, California law specifically allows insurance companies to write in language that excludes coverage for damages caused by the policy holder’s DUI driving. If there is no such exclusion, however, the damage caused by this driver will probably be covered, but only up to his limits.
Even if the driver’s automobile coverage pays for some or all the damages, the criminal court may order that he pay restitution to the injured parties. Restitution is a court-ordered amount that is designed to make the victim whole again. When a victim suffers an economic loss due to a criminal act, the courts will almost always order restitution to the victim. The appellate courts have held that a restitution obligation may be offset by amounts paid by the offender’s insurance carrier but often not all losses and/or all economic damages are covered by an insurance policy.
In this case, the driver would have to have a policy that does not exclude losses caused by his DUI driving and has very high limits, in amounts that are not likely given the damage here, for him to avoid an out-of-pocket obligation. Furthermore, the bodily injuries caused to the victims normally have quite low limits on vehicle insurance policies. In other words, this driver is likely to be handed a huge bill for which he will be liable in part or in full. And even though the restitution is ordered by the criminal court, it is considered a civil liability, which if not paid can lead to a lawsuit.
You could say this driver got off easy; at least, he didn’t kill anyone. But his life could be forever affected by this incident. Not only is he facing potentially serious criminal charges but his financial well-being is in serious jeopardy. It is cases like this where an experienced DUI lawyer can make a difference. In addition to potential defenses to the most serious charges, a good DUI attorney will also try to mitigate the financial consequences, which can follow a defendant long after the criminal matter is closed.
Orange County DUI attorney William Weinberg has been defending drivers charged with DUI from first-time offenders to those charged with Watson murder. He is available to speak with you about your DUI matter. Contact him at (949) 474-8008 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary evaluation of your case.