Ohio Drunk Driving Car Accident Attorney

This video features Michelle Martin, a Civil Rights attorney based in Ohio.

Columbus Lawyer Represents Injured Victims

Video Transcript:

Michelle Martin: 

They're responsible and liable just because the person was driving drunk and broke the law and then hit them.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you're hurt in a car crash with a drunk driver, could you have a case for a lawsuit? And who do you turn to? Well, we're gonna answer those questions right now on this episode of "Ask the Lawyer". Here to help me out is Ohio attorney, Michelle Martin. I wanna remind you, if you wanna ask Michelle any questions of your own, just go to askthelawyers.com. Click the button at the top that says Ask a Lawyer, walk you right through the process, doesn't cost you anything to ask questions. Or you can simply call the phone number you'll see on the screen while we have our conversation. Michelle, it's good to see you as always. Thank you for making time to help us.

Michelle Martin: 

Thank you so much for allowing me to be here to speak with you. I enjoy these meetings that we have.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So someone's in an a car crash. They suspect or maybe they know the other driver was intoxicated. What should they do? What's your advice to them?

Michelle Martin: 

Well, so that's a really good question. Initially, of course, you're gonna wanna call the police. Any time you're involved in an automobile accident and it's not on private property, you wanna get a police report even if no one is harmed or even if you feel that nothing significant has happened, you still wanna make sure you get that footprint because you never know what can happen down the line. And so here with a drunk driver a little different, but not so much. Because what you're gonna wanna do, make sure you're a part of the investigation and potential prosecution of the tort fees or a person who hit you, if they were driving drunk. Additionally, you may wanna mention that to the officer because what I've seen sometimes is that the officers don't do a thorough enough investigation if they believe that there may not be some foul play or drunk driving. So if you can maybe bring that to the officer's attention, I think that's a really important thing to do. So the first thing you're gonna wanna do is make sure you call the police. And mention that when you call. Sorry.

Rob Rosenthal: 

When it comes to making insurance claims, is that different? Does it change things if it was a drunk driver?

Michelle Martin: 

Slightly. At the end of the day, if you are the victim of an automobile accident and the tortfeasor has caused you injuries and caused you to damage to your personal property, of course, you're entitled to compensation. If you're hit by someone who is driving drunk and you let the insurance company know that this person is driving drunk, then of course, he's a more culpable party. Sorry, I couldn't get that word out. There's more culpability from someone who's driving drunk, and then of course, the insurance company needs to know that, because a lot of the time, the insurance company, they try to attribute some negligence to the victim, and so when you have a drunk driver, it's less likely that there's gonna be any type of negligence that can be attributed to you as the victim. Additionally driving drunk is illegal, so it's negligence per se, which means they're responsible and liable just because the person was driving drunk and broke the law and then hit them.

Rob Rosenthal: 

I think some people get confused maybe, Michelle. So let's say the person is charged with DUI. The injured person might think, "Well, the prosecuting attorney," whether it's a DA or whatever they call it in your area, "they'll be representing me in this case, and that's how, they'll be looking out for me." Explain how that works and why that's not the case.

Michelle Martin: 

Thank you, that's a really good question. So here in Ohio, and specifically in Franklin County, we have the Columbus City Attorney's Office who would handle these type of matters, and so it is the prosecuting attorney here and the Columbus City Attorney, the prosecuting attorney represents the state of Ohio. And so a lot of victims believe that because the prosecutor is bringing these claims against the tortfeasor that they are also, like you said, representing them. However, in these types of incidents there are two, sometimes three different types of cases that are gonna be running parallel.

Michelle Martin: 

So you're gonna have the criminal case, which is the driving under the influence, depending on the way in which the traffic stop was initiated, there may be a traffic case, as well, that the prosecutor's gonna handle, but he's only handling those two matters as it relates to the harm that was done at society or the State of Ohio as a whole. And so he's going to of course pursue the criminal actions, and that may or may not result in some type of restitution, but it definitely is not a guarantee that you'll be able to recover for your medical bills, the loss of your personal property, as well as your lost wages and your pain and suffering. So yeah, he's fighting on behalf of society or Ohio, the State of Ohio as a whole, so he's on your side. But you need someone who is going to be tailored and specific just to your case, additionally, that can focus on the civil portion of your case. That's the criminal portion.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So someone like yourself, who is a personal injury attorney to handle the civil portion. The other question I would have is, do people need to wait until after the criminal case is over before they start the civil case, or can they happen at the same time?

Michelle Martin: 

So they can actually happen at the same time, and they should happen at the same time. The reason being, you don't wanna delay your civil case, waiting to see what's gonna happen with the criminal case. There's evidence that can start to disappear. There are witnesses who can begin to forget. And then, at the same time, you're also treating for your injuries, assuming that you have significant injuries. If you don't have any significant injuries, you still wanna get your car fixed, so you wanna start that process moving so you can get your life back on track. When the criminal investigation and prosecution is taking place, there are limitations to certain evidence that you can have access to, because there is an ongoing criminal matter. However, if you have a knowledgeable civil attorney that can work well with your city attorneys, the prosecutor, they are able to open those lines of communication to kinda see what's going on with that evidence, what's going on with the case. Is there anything that I can do to help either case propel further to help the client to receive the optimum result?

Rob Rosenthal: 

What if, for whatever reason, the client's found not guilty of drunk driving or maybe the case dismissed, whatever, does that affect the civil case? Does that mean you may not still have a civil case?

Michelle Martin: 

Great question. So that's one of the reasons you wanna make sure you get an attorney. Just because that case may be dismissed or the person may plead to what's called a lesser included offense, sometimes we see that here as a reckless operation or like a moving violation. And so I do see a lot of clients get discouraged because then they feel, "Oh, well, does this lessen the value of my claim?" And so it does not. If you have an attorney that can argue the initial merits of the claim, the initial driving under the influence charge, what that means as it relates to the investigation, and then they can also use that information in the civil trial. So just because the person isn't necessarily convicted it doesn't mean that that information can't be used in the civil trial. So it's really important to make sure that you get an attorney because if the person is not found guilty or they plead to a lesser included, you don't wanna just throw your claim away because it's potential that they have no bearing on one another when it comes to how the prosecutor chooses to plead or try cases.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Perfect. Lots of great information. Michelle, as always, thank you for making time to answer our questions.

Michelle Martin: 

Absolutely.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Takes care of this episode of "Ask the Lawyer". My guest has been Ohio Attorney, Michelle Martin. Remember, if you wanna ask her questions of your own, go to askthelawyers.com. There's a button at the top that says Ask a Lawyer. You click there and it'll walk you right through the very simple process. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal for "Ask the Lawyers".

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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