One of the most frustrating issues that often arises in a Connecticut civil car accident personal injury case is the victim's ability to secure a police report where the offending criminal and civil defendant has been arrested for drunk driving. In a criminal DUI case, the local police department or the State Police in a highway case will not release a full unredacted version of the police report until the criminal case has been disposed of by the criminal court system. Rather, a redacted police report without full pertinent criminal factual DUI information is released to the victim.
This seems patently unfair. The victim who will be a civil plaintiff needs the pertinent facts to prove liability. Civil liability to be proven may, in addition to negligence, include statutory reckless conduct from alcohol consumption that will rise to a level of civil treble money damages.
The full police report record may have blood alcohol readings or the results of field sobriety tests performed by either the local police investigating police officer or the State Police. A criminal defendant's failure to take a breathalizer test may also be strong evidence to be admitted against the defendant in the civil case brought by the victim.
In addition to establishing statutory negligence, recklessness and a Connecticut 14-295 statutory treble damage claim, some of the redacted police report investigation may implicate a bar, restaurant or alcohol establishment setting up a strong dram shop claim. A dram shop claim has a 120 day notice requirement. This policy further impedes access to pertinent information by the victim needed in setting up a dram shop claim with a proper notice. The claim must also have suit brought within a year. A criminal defendant who goes into an alcohol rehabilitation program will have a criminal case not fully disposed of for well over one year.
In any event there are some steps to be taken. The Connecticut car accident lawyer representing the injured victim can contact the Chief State's Attorney's Office and request that as a representative of the injured victim, the attorney be allowed to look at the police report unredacted. Usually, the state will allow the attorney for the plaintiff to do this and the pertinent information can be obtained by reading and reviewing the report at the court house. The Connecticut civil personal injury attorney can also contact the criminal defense attorney representing the defendant and ask for the defendant's voluntary help in gaining access to the report.
Often, the defendant would like admission into an alcohol rehabilitation program through the criminal court system. Getting admitted into the alcohol rehabilitation program generally requires, as a condition precedent, that a victim's rights letter to be sent by the criminal defense lawyer to the injured victim. The injured victim will eventually become the civil plaintiff.
Usually, a seasoned criminal defense attorney will advise his client to cooperate with the victim plaintiff by sharing the full contents of the police report which goes a long way in placating an injured plaintiff who now has the information necessary to prosecute his or her civil case. The civil case is generally covered by and through either an automobile liability policy or a dram shop general liability commercial policy.
In any event, what seems to be patently unfair hurdle for the victim injured in a Connecticut car accident is not insurmountable.
The key is to see your Connecticut car accident lawyer sooner rather than later. The reason to come into the office sooner rather than later is to allow the attorney to gather the factual evidence needed to prosecute the liability claim.
As a Stamford car accident plaintiff attorney, I hope this blog has been helpful.
Regards, Peter Rotatori, III, Esq.