When a drunk driver causes and accident, and when the driver’s intoxication is documented, it is much easier to prove negligence. If a drunk driver caused your accident, there is a good chance that a jury will grant a higher award for your injuries because of the stigma of drunk driving. You may also seek punitive damages. However, simply being in a motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver does not mean you have an open-and-shut case; you still need to contact an experienced auto accident attorney.
Intoxication alone does not determine fault. If the evidence shows that the drunk driver clearly did not cause the accident, the negligent driver who caused the accident will still be held responsible.
For instance, if you were driving while intoxicated but were following the rules of the road, and another driver ran a red light and struck your vehicle, the other driver could be held responsible for your injuries. However, this would not prevent you from facing criminal charges for DUI.
If there is any question as to who was at fault, the drunk driver is more likely to be found at fault for the accident.
Third Party Liability
A large portion of drunk drivers who cause accident are either drivers with prior convictions of drunk driving who cannot hold a driver’s license and, therefore, do not have insurance. In either case, an experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to hold a third party responsible for your injuries.
Laws regarding third party liability vary from state-to-state. Some states have very clear statutes defining the responsibilities of third parties. Even in states which do not, third party liability suits are often possible depending on the unique circumstances in your case.
Some of the theories of law which are used to hold third parties responsible for accidents caused by drunk drivers include:
- Negligent entrustment – knowingly allowing an impaired person to drive
- Dram shop liability – selling alcohol to an intoxicated person or a minor
- Social host liability – serving alcohol to an intoxicated person or a minor, in the context of a party, social gathering, or private home
Employers may be held responsible if they allow or encourage their employees to drive drunk while on the clock or after providing alcohol at an employee party or meeting.
Police officers may be held responsible when they makes contact with drunk drivers but choose to allow them to continue driving, or allow a drunk passenger to take over the wheel.