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Lawsuits Against Drunk Drivers in Ohio: What You Need to Know

drunk driver accident lawyer

The police are dogged in their efforts to reduce drunk driving in Ohio, and for a good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Ohio drunk driving rates have been historically higher than the national rates.

For victims of crashes caused by OVI (operating a vehicle while intoxicated) drivers, police action may be reassuring, but it does not help them deal with the losses they have sustained.

Insurance may cover some or even all of your losses. In many cases, however, that coverage is not enough. Fortunately, you may have recourse through a lawsuit to get sufficient compensation to cover your losses.

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Drunk Driver in Ohio

When you are involved in an injury accident, the authorities and insurance companies will first want to determine the degrees of fault for each driver. Your share of responsibility in the accident directly impacts any settlement money you receive.

Negligence and Negligence Per Se in Lawsuits Against Drunk Drivers in Ohio

Negligence is an essential part of any claim for compensation or lawsuit following an accident. If you cannot demonstrate that the other driver was negligent, they will not be held responsible for your losses. Additionally, if you are deemed more than 50% at fault for causing the wreck, you have no right to recovery.

In OVI cases, negligence per se comes into play. Using this standard of negligence, you do not have to prove that the other driver’s actions were negligent because the action itself is conclusive evidence of negligence.

You only need to prove that the driver indeed committed the act. Drivers guilty of OVI are automatically negligent under Ohio law. As such, civil lawsuits against drunk drivers in Ohio tend to occur after criminal proceedings have been finalized.

Effect of Criminal Proceedings on Lawsuits Against Drunk Drivers in Ohio

The criminal proceedings for OVI against the defendant have a direct impact on any subsequent lawsuits. However, the two processes are entirely separate and may produce contradictory results.

In other words, an acquittal of OVI charges does not prevent lawsuits against drunk drivers in Ohio from going forward.

Standards of Proof

Criminal drunk driving in Ohio cases requires that the prosecutor demonstrate a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest legal standard of proof in all American jurisprudence.

However, lawsuits against drunk drivers in Ohio only require you to prove the defendant’s responsibility in the accident by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that proving a defendant was responsible for an accident in a lawsuit is easier than proving their guilt in a criminal trial.

Technicalities and Fault

Sometimes, defendants get an acquittal for reasons having nothing to do with their guilt or innocence.

For example, defense attorneys regularly attack the functionality of police breathalyzer equipment because of issues with the equipment’s administration or condition. Doing so creates pockets of doubt in the minds of the jury, which is often enough to win a not guilty verdict.

However, despite these pockets of doubt, in a civil trial, the same jury could find the defendant responsible for the injury accident they caused by drunk driving in Ohio since the standard of proof is much lower than in criminal trials.

If the defendant wins an acquittal, then negligence per se is no longer applicable in lawsuits against drunk drivers in Ohio, and your attorney will have to demonstrate negligence in some other fashion.

For example, the police report may contain damning evidence against the defendant, such as statements that the defendant was weaving in and out of traffic, slurring their speech, and stumbling during a failed field sobriety test. 

Recovering Compensation for Your Losses

The compensation process for drunk driving accidents in Ohio begins with insurance companies. Likelihood & recovery is higher if both sides have insurance and the injuries are minimal.

However, drunk driving accidents tend to cause serious injuries and sometimes death, which result in losses that usually exceed the coverage provided by insurance companies.

Insurance Negotiations and Your Rights

Lawsuits against drunk drivers in Ohio give injury victims a pathway to recover more compensation for their extensive damages.

Of course, insurance companies want injured parties to accept the lowest payout possible. They work diligently to get them to accept quick and easy payouts that are typically inadequate for addressing victims’ injuries.

Getting you to admit some sort of responsibility (whether you were responsible or not) for your accident is just one of the tactics insurance adjusters employ to limit their payout. As explained above, if you are partially negligent, your payout will be reduced according to your percentage of fault.

For this reason, any OVI injury victim seeking maximum compensation for their losses should consult with an attorney for guidance and potential representation.

Your rights to compensation are on the line, and you may unwittingly give a seasoned insurance adjuster a reason to deny your claim or offer you significantly less compensation than is just.

Steps to Take After a Drunk Driving Accident

Your safety is paramount after an accident, and you should take all appropriate steps to get your injuries addressed. Call first responders, including police, and seek further medical treatment and evaluation from a physician.

As stated, you will need evidence to sustain your case. The police report is an essential document for establishing negligence, your injuries, and other relevant facts. Other important pieces of evidence may include:

  • Traffic and surveillance video
  • Witness statements outside of the police report
  • The other driver’s record
  • Photos of the accident scene
  • Medical reports and records of your injuries

A drunk driving injury accident attorney is a valuable asset in the compensation process. They will have a good idea of how your case will likely play out.

Although no one knows the future, experience allows for some level of prediction. Hence, meeting with an attorney with an exemplary track record of representing OVI accident victims will help you understand the big picture of your case.


Ohio insurance coverage laws mandate that drivers have at least $25,000 of coverage for injuries and death and a minimum of $50,000 total for a single accident. For property damage, the minimum is $25,000. Other drivers may carry more protection. However, drunk driving accident losses can dwarf policy coverage limits.

As an injury victim, you may incur damages such as:

  • Hospital and doctor bills
  • Prescription medicine expenses
  • Loss of the ability to engage in gainful employment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Some of these damages, such as medical bills, come with a dollar amount. Others, however, such as pain and suffering, require the parties or the court to determine their worth.

Seeking Justice After a Drunk Driver Causes Harm

Drunk drivers who injure people deserve more than criminal penalties — they need to be held accountable to their victims for the damages they cause. If a drunk driver caused your accident and injury, contact Slater & Zurz and speak to one of our drunk driver injury lawyers. Our clients have relied on us to recover millions of dollars in compensation through lawsuits in Ohio. We’re ready to help.

You can contact one of our personal injury lawyers any time of day or night just by picking up the phone.