Beyond Jail Time: The Civil Impact of Drunk Driving in Georgia

A clear glass of liquor on ice beside a set of car keys and handcuffs on a wooden table.

Drinking and driving is deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day 37 people die in drunk-driving crashes, that’s one person every 39 minutes. Because the effects of drinking and driving are often catastrophic, the laws in Georgia to keep its citizens safe and keep people from drinking and driving carry some serious consequences, both criminally and civilly. Simply put, criminal cases involve jail time and fines and are prosecuted by the government, whereas civil cases involve money and involve disputes between people or organizations.

What is considered drunk driving?

Under Georgia law, it is illegal for people to drive a motor vehicle is their blood alcohol concentration percentages are as follows:

  • 08% or higher, if they are twenty-one years old or older operating a passenger vehicle (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391)
  • 04% or higher, if they are operating a commercial vehicle (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391)
  • 02% or higher, if they are younger than twenty-one years old.

What are the criminal consequences?

The consequences for drinking and driving vary depending on the circumstances. But generally speaking, if you are caught drinking and driving, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety:

First Offense

  • Possible jail time up to one year
  • Fine of $300 minimum, up to $1,000
  • License suspension of up to one year
  • 40 hours of community service, which is a mandatory minimum
  • $210 license reinstatement fee

Second Offense:

  • Minimum mandatory 48 hours in jail, possible 90 days to one year
  • Fine of $600 minimum, up to $1,000
  • License suspense of three years
  • Minimum 30 days of community service
  • $210 set license reinstatement fee
  • A mandatory clinical evaluation, and if indicated, completion of a substance abuse treatment program at the offender’s expense

Third Offense:

  • Minimum Mandatory 15 days jail time
  • Fine of $1,000 minimum, up to $5,000
  • License revocation for five years
  • Minimum mandatory 30 days community service
  • Violators name, photo and address published in local newspaper at violators expense
  • Declared as habitual violator
  • Mandatory clinical evaluation and, if indicated, completion of a substance abuse treatment program at offender’s expense.

What are the civil consequences of drunk driving?

In addition to the criminal consequences of driving under the influence, there can also be civil consequences if you cause a wreck and injure someone while driving under the influence of alcohol. The injured party has to prove that the at-fault driver was negligent in causing the wreck.

In order to prove negligence in a civil case, you have to prove “1) a legal duty to conform to a standard of conduct; 2) a breach of this duty; 3) a causal connection between the conduct and the resulting injury; and 4) damages to the plaintiff.” Johnson v. American National Red Cross, 253 Ga. App. 587, 591 (2002). If the Plaintiff can prove these elements by what’s known as the “preponderance of the evidence”, then the at-fault party will be financially responsible to the Plaintiff for the damages awarded by a jury.

Negligence per se is a legal theory wherein an at-fault party’s unexcused violation of a law creates a presumption that the defendant is negligent. It doesn’t prove the negligence – it only creates a presumption that the defendant is liable for negligence.

In a car wreck scenario where a person suffers injuries and the at-fault driver committed a DUI, there is a presumption that because the at-fault driver was driving drunk, they are then negligent for causing the wreck. In order to get this presumption it must be established that the at-fault driver was driving over the legal limit (this can happen when they plead guilty to the offense). Once that is established, the injured party can claim that because they violated the law, they are presumably negligence. At this point, the burden then shifts to the defendant, who must prove that they were not negligent in causing the wreck even though they were driving under the influence. Negligence per se is a powerful tool in proving the negligence of another because it creates a burden-shifting presumption.

Punitive damages for drunk driving!

With a DUI case, in addition to compensatory damages, the injured party can seek punitive damages from the at-fault driver. Punitive damages are damages awarded as a punishment or to penalize and deter the at-fault driver from engaging in the behavior that caused the injuries. Normally, punitive damages are limited to $250,000.00 in Georgia, but that is not the case if the at-fault driver is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Being able to pursue punitive damages greatly increases the value of your civil case against the at-fault driver and their insurance company.

If you have been injured in a wreck due to the negligence of another, especially by someone who was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you must find a lawyer who will aggressively fight on your behalf to ensure justice is sought from the wrongdoer and their insurance company. Contact the personal injury law firm of Williams Elleby Howard & Easter at 833-534-2542.  Not quite ready to call? Check out our YouTube channel for additional resources and information in our video covering alcohol and its effect on personal injury cases.

Ordering Medical Records for a Personal Injury Case

A doctor sitting at a desk,writing on a clipboard.

Understanding the Importance of Medical Records:

When pursuing a personal injury claim, obtaining accurate and complete medical records is crucial. Additionally, these records serve as vital evidence to support your claims and demonstrate the extent of your injuries. Medical records provide an objective account of your injury and how it impaired your life. These records can include physician notes, diagnostic reports, laboratory results, imaging studies, surgical reports, and other relevant documents. Collecting comprehensive medical records is vital for building a strong personal injury case.

Identify Relevant Providers and Facilities:

The first step in ordering medical records is to compile a list of all medical providers and facilities where you received treatment for your injuries. This may include hospitals, clinics, specialists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and any other healthcare professionals involved in your care. Gathering accurate and up-to-date information about these providers will make the record retrieval process more efficient.

Differentiating Legal Requests from Patient Requests:

When requesting medical records, it’s important to understand the distinction between legal requests and patient requests.

  1. Legal Requests Are: Typically made by an attorney or legal representative on behalf of a client. These requests are governed by specific laws and regulations, such as the [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)] in the United States. Legal requests are often more formal and should adhere to the following guidelines: 

          a. Written Request: Create a written request that is addressed to a specific facility the client received treatment at. This authorization                        should include specific details, such as the time frame of treatment for records being requested, the healthcare providers involved, and                  the purpose of the request.

b. HIPAA Compliance: Ensure that the legal request complies with all HIPAA regulations. This includes protecting the privacy and confidentiality of the client’s medical information throughout the process.

     2. Patient Requests: As a patient, you have the right to access your own medical records. Patient requests are typically more straightforward,             but it’s still important to follow certain steps:

a. Authorization: Complete and sign any necessary forms provided by your healthcare provider to authorize the release of your medical records. These forms may vary depending on the provider’s policies.

b. Identification: Provide valid identification to verify your identity when making the request. This is to ensure that your medical records are only released to the authorized person.

c. Time Frame: Specify the time frame for the records you need. Including the dates of treatment relevant to your personal injury case.

d. Fees: Some healthcare providers may charge a fee for copying and processing medical records. Inquire about any applicable fees and payment methods.

In the state of Georgia physicians may charge a fee for copying and mailing patient records under O.C.G.A. § 31-33-3 and may even require the payment be made “up front”. These charges are determined by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Methods for Ordering Medical Records:

Once you understand the type of request you need to make, there are several methods available to order medical records:

  1. Written Request: Prepare a written request and include all necessary details and authorizations. Send the request by certified mail, return receipt requested. This method provides proof of delivery and ensures a paper trail.
  1. Online Portal: Many healthcare providers have online patient portals where you can access and download your medical records. Ask your medical provider if they offer this option and follow their instructions for accessing the records.
  1. Fax or Email: Some healthcare providers accept requests via fax or email. Ensure that the method you choose complies with their guidelines and includes all required information and authorizations.
  1. In-Person Request: You can visit the healthcare provider’s office or medical records department in person and fill out a request form. Some facilities may require you to show identification or provide specific details to verify your identity. This method allows you to clarify any questions or concerns directly with the staff.

Remember that healthcare providers may have specific policies, procedures, and associated fees for accessing and obtaining medical records. It’s essential to contact them directly to understand their requirements and any associated costs.

Organize and Review the Records:

As you receive the medical records, organize them in a systematic manner. Create a secure digital or physical file to store and safeguard the documents. Review the records carefully, noting any inconsistencies or missing information. Discuss any concerns or questions with your attorney to ensure a thorough understanding of the records.

In situations involving numerous medical providers, it may be helpful to summarize the medical records in a chronology that lists things like dates of service, diagnoses, treatment plans, etc.

Medical records can be powerful evidence in a personal injury case. Work closely with your attorney to determine how best to use the records strategically. They can help establish the link between the accident and your injuries, demonstrate the severity of your condition, and support your claim for damages.


Ordering medical records is a critical step in building a strong personal injury case. By understanding the importance of medical records, complying with privacy laws, and working closely with your attorney, you can navigate the process effectively. Remember to be organized, thorough, and proactive throughout the process, ensuring that you have all the necessary documentation to support your claim. Seek legal guidance to maximize your chances of a successful outcome.

WILLIAMS ELLEBY provides legal representation for personal injury and wrongful death cases in Georgia. When you choose our firm, you are not just a client. You are a real person with real problems. You deserve a personal injury lawyer that will fight for justice, offer encouragement, and stand by you through all the tribulations you may face. Your case deserves us. Give us a call at 833-LEGAL-GA (833-534-2542) for a free consultation.