Saturday, October 26, 2013

DUI Driver Responsible For Other Driver's Medical Bills Even Though He Was Partly Resonsible For Accident

In a recent case in California, People vs. Watson, the appeals court ruled that a DUI driver convicted in court must pay all of other driver's medical bills even though that driver was partly to blame for the accident.  The defendant drove her dune buggy at night in the Imperial County dunes without headlights and at a high rate of speed. She hit a 15-year-old boy driving a quad, who suffered severe injuries to his leg during the collision. Defendant pled no contest to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher (Vehicle Code section 23153, causing injury while DWI. She received probation. At a restitution hearing, she presented expert testimony regarding the victim's comparative fault, but the court failed to reduce the amount of restitution. Defendant appealed. The Court Affirmed. Finding that Penal Code Section 1202.4 mandates restitution to cover victims' economic losses, absent "compelling and extraordinary reasons." In People v. Millard (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 7, the court found the victim bore "substantial responsibility" for his injuries, and, as a result, "compelling and extraordinary reasons" justified the application of comparative fault principles. However, Millard does not require application of comparative fault in criminal proceedings, and, regardless, the victim was not substantially responsible for his injuries. In addition, restitution may be imposed under Penal Code section 1203.1 to serve broader goals, such as furthering rehabilitation, and, here, imposing the full victim restitution served rehabilitative purposes.