Drunk driving accidents occur when a driver who is intoxicated crashes into another car or pedestrian. Because the driver is impaired at the time of the accident, these types of crashes can be very serious. They can sometimes involve many people, and can involve serious injuries. Drunk driving accidents can involve:
- Rear-end collisions;
- T-Bone collisions;
- Head-on crashes;
- Roll-over or flip-over accidents;
- Head, neck, and spinal injuries;
- Broken bones and lacerations; and/or
- Various other accident types and injuries, including fatalities.
An individual driving while intoxicated may face criminal charges for drunk driving and a civil lawsuit for any damage that they may have caused while driving drunk.
A civil lawsuit is filed by anyone harmed by the individual driving while intoxicated. If the defendant is convicted of drunk driving, it is easier for the plaintiff to win their lawsuit. A plaintiff usually brings a negligence action against the defendant in this sort of situation.
How Can I Win My Negligence Claim?
Negligence is a legal term that describes when a person fails to act as a reasonable person would in the same circumstances. As most drunk driving lawsuits involve a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove specific elements of a negligence claim in order to win. These elements are:
- Duty: This element decides whether the defendant owed the plaintiff the duty to protect him from harm. In the case of drunk driving, the duty is usually to follow road rules by not driving while intoxicated
- Breach of Duty: Once duty is established, the plaintiff must show the duty was violated or breached. Here, the breach might occur once the defendant started driving while drunk.
- Cause: The plaintiff proves the defendant was the direct or indirect cause of his injury. In other words, the accident caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In a drunk driving case, this is often done through examination of evidence, such as photos or video of the accident and witness testimonies.
- Damages: This is where the plaintiff shows bills and estimate for the physical injuries suffered and/ or any property loss. The losses must be calculable in order for the injured party to receive the damages award. Damages often cover medical bills, hospital costs, property damage, wrongful death losses (if applicable), and other losses.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Drunk Driving?
Basically, any driver who is found to be driving while under the influence of alcohol may be found liable for drunk driving. This includes drivers of passenger vehicles, motorcycles, and other automobiles. Commercial drivers can also be found liable for drunk driving. An example of this is where a professional truck driver is found to be drunk while making a delivery.
In some cases, the employer of a commercial driver may be held liable if their employee is found to be drunk driving. This can happen under vicarious liability laws; the claim becomes more likely if the employer specifically instructed or encouraged the driver to drive while drunk, or if their company policies allow drivers to drive while drunk.
Are There Any Defenses to Drunken Driving Accidents?
The defendant in a drunk driving lawsuit may have defenses available to them, including:
- Comparative Negligence: This is where the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to their injuries, which might limit or prevent their ability to collect damages. An example of this is where the plaintiff was also driving drunk at the time of the accident.
- Lack of Injury or Damages: Measurable damages are needed to succeed on a drunk driving claim. If the plaintiff was not injured or didn’t suffer any losses, it may serve as a defense.
- Duress: If the defendant was operating the car under duress, such as under the threat of force from another person, then it might serve as a defense.
- Involuntary Intoxication: It may also be a defense if the person became drunk involuntarily. An example of this is where someone “spikes” drinks at party without their knowledge, and they later drive.
Should I Talk to a Lawyer about My Drunk Driving Accident?
If you have any questions about your rights, ability to sue, or defenses, you should contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. They can answer your questions, and help you with any legal actions that you may face or wish to pursue. Drunk driving lawsuits can be complex, but your attorney can provide you with guidance.