In Iowa, generally you have two years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Filing a personal injury lawsuit is not contingent upon the disposition of a criminal case, if criminal charges are filed and tried.

You may wish to contact legal counsel as soon as possible after a personal injury crash or incident. Your attorney will need time to gather records, evaluate the case and attempt settlement prior to filing suit. A personal injury lawsuit can take one to five years to be resolved.

In a criminal vehicular homicide case, if convicted, the offender must pay $150,000 restitution to the family of the victim. This payment is not dischargeable in a bankruptcy. Payment schedules may be set up with the offender. It is recommended the offender not be released from probation until the amount is paid in.

Legal Fees

In a personal injury lawsuit, it is usual for an attorney to take the case on contingency. contingency contracts vary, but are usually at 331/3% of the recovery amount.

You may be also charged fees for postage, faxes, telephone calls, expert witness reports and testimony, travel expenses, photocopies, and so on.

In a criminal case, the evidence is "beyond a reasonable doubt", however in a civil case the ruling is based on the "a preponderance of the evidence".

Your drunk driving history

If you have ever been involved in a drunk driving incident, your previous arrest(s) or conviction(s) have no bearing on the present case. The defendant's previous drunk driving records are also not admissible to prove fault. However, some lawyers will try to use the victim's drunk driving history against the victim or victim's family in order to settle out of court because of such a history.


A defendant in a civil lawsuit involving a drunk driver may not be able to declare bankruptcy to avoid paying restitution to the victim.


Filing against a DRAM SHOP defendant (bar, restaurant, or tavern) must be filed within six months of the incident. You have to prove the defendant was at the establishment(s) drinking and that the establishment should not have continued to serve the defendant.

State of Iowa, Alcoholic Beverages Division's Web site


There are two kinds of police reports, one is a 'just the facts' report of the crash. You may receive a copy of this "crash report" by contacting the appropriate law enforcement office (city, county, highway patrol, etc.).

The officer's report consists of what the officer heard, saw, said, and actions taken. This report is available through a court order.


The reports of any medical personnel and may contain relevant information that may have been "missed" by the prosecutor in the criminal case.

For example, a hospital emergency room employee having had contact with the defendant may have asked him questions about how fast he was driving, and so on that could be relevant to the case. These sorts of questions may be routinely asked and noted on medical information forms.


It is illegal to furnish alcohol to a miner. If the source is known, you might be able to take legal action against the alcohol provider, even if it was his parents' refrigerator.


This Web site for the Iowa online court records system also includes such items as speeding, failure to stop/yield, etc.

It is suggested that you first enter your own name and possibly family names prior to checking to get a feel of how the program works.

You may wish to contact the court records department in the county that is listed for the offense to obtain additional detailed information or pay a $25 fee for additional access to the records.

Victims of Crime Act CrimeVictim Fund

Iowa Driver's Manual

This may be a good source of information on certain aspects of the crash.

Legal Resources and Libraries

Law degrees are obtained at:
Drake University in Des Moines, University of Iowa In Iowa City, Prelaw is available at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls.

The State Library of Iowa has a Law Library In Des Moines. These sites have law related information at their libraries though not usually available for interlibrary Loan.

MADD--Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Publications at
Nationwide Victim Assistance

Referral List

Victim Information Pamphlet : A Guide Through the Criminal Justice System

You're Not Alone: MADD Can Help

Selecting A Civil Attorney

Financial Recovery After A Drunk Driving Crash

A Guide Through the Criminal Justice System

Your local MADD chapter has compiled a listing of personal injury attorneys in their geographic area.


This outlines is general advise only and is not intended to be legal advise. For such advise, CONTACT AN ATTORNEY.

Information on Personal Injury Attorneys is available from your local MADD Chapter.

updated 12/19/16