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Alcohol Related Accidents

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What Are Alcohol Related Accidents?

The term “Alcohol Related Accidents” usually refers to roadway automobile accidents were caused by the consumption of alcohol.  In most cases, such accidents are covered under  DUI laws (drunk driving or driving under the influence), although similar accidents involving other forms of transportation may be covered under intoxication assault laws. In many jurisdictions, DUI is sometimes known as “DWI” or driving while intoxicated.

Alcohol-related accidents are a major cause of injuries in the U.S. every year. They can sometimes involve serious injury or death to drivers and passengers on the road. Alcohol-related accidents therefore make up a large proportion of insurance claims as well as private personal injury lawsuits.

What Are Some Examples of Alcohol Related Accidents?

Alcohol-related accidents can actually involve a somewhat wide range of different types of accidents, which may include:

  • Car-to-car collisions
  • Striking a pedestrian or bicyclist with a car
  • Striking an object with a car (such as a tree, light post, wall, etc.)

In most cases, the involvement of alcohol is proven by such means as breathalyzer tests, blood samples, etc., which can be taken at the scene of the accident.  Usually, a person doesn’t need to be totally intoxicated or incapacitated to be charged with DUI.  In most cases, if their blood alcohol concentration is above a certain percentage (usually 0.08) they can be charged with DUI.

What Are the Penalties for Alcohol-Related Accidents?

If a person is charged with DUI, they may face some strict criminal consequences. These can include misdemeanor charges, which usually result in a criminal fine and a jail sentence of up to one year. 

In serious cases, the DUI charge may actually result in felony charges, which would result in higher fines and a prison sentence of longer than one year. This usually happens if the alcohol related accident was a repeat incident, or if it caused death or serious bodily injury (SBI) to another party.

Also, the party responsible for an alcohol-related accident may become subject to a civil lawsuit, filed by the victim(s) of the accident. This may cause them to be liable for even more expenses, such as the victim’s hospital fees and car repair costs.

Lastly, DUI charges can result in the other consequences, such as the offender having their license revoked, or their car impounded, plus mandatory alcohol abuse counseling. Such measures are meant to prevent future incidents of alcohol-related accidents.

Who Can Be Held Liable For Alcohol Related Accidents?

In most cases, the party that caused the accident may be held liable if it can be proven that their intoxication caused the accident. However, in most jurisdictions, a negligent party can still be held liable even if the alcohol played only a minor role (i.e., they weren’t completely intoxicated or unable to drive).

In some cases, a person such as a bartender or even the host of a private party can be held liable for serving alcohol to a visibility intoxicated person and allowing them to drive. Rules regarding this type of liability may vary depending on the situation, as well as state laws.

Lastly, the victim can sometimes be held partly responsible for their own injuries, for example, if they were driving recklessly or disobeying traffic rules.

The party that is found liable may be required to compensate the victim for their costs, which may include:

  • Hospital and medical expenses
  • Car repair fees
  • Lost wages and loss of future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Court and attorney fees

In severe cases, punitive damages may be awarded, but only if the defendant acted maliciously or very recklessly.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Alcohol related accidents can present many complex legal challenges, both for the offender as well as any victims. You may wish to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer if you need assistance with legal claims involving alcohol-related accidents. An experienced attorney can help you file your claim, review documents, and provide legal argumentation during court proceedings. DUI and alcohol laws will vary from region to region, so be sure to ask your lawyer if you have any specific questions or concerns.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-08-2016 07:44 PM PST

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