Proving Liability in Drunk Driving Cases

Written by Jeremy D. Earle, JD

April 7, 2022

Proving Fault After Getting Hit by a Drunk Driver

After getting struck by a drunk motorist, how to collect evidence for a successful insurance claim. Obtain the monetary compensation you are entitled to as a result of your injury.

On this page:

How Drunk Driving Affects a Claim

Keep an Eye on the Driver at the Crash Scene Gathering Proof of Impaired Driving

When You’ll Need an Attorney Video: Liability in DUI Car Crashes

Drunk Driving Crashes Questions and Answers

More than a million drivers are arrested each year for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but that’s just a fraction of the 111 million drunk driving events reported by people in the United States each year.

If a drunk driver has hurt you, you have a legal claim to compensation for your injuries, pain, and suffering, as well as any property damage.

However, the insurance company for the at-fault motorist will not just throw you a large compensation cheque. You’ll have to back up your allegation with evidence.

Drunk driving lawsuits proceed in the same way as any other claim for property damage or injury. The distinction is in the sort of proof you’ll need to prove your case.

What Impact Does Drunk Driving Have on a Claim?

A claims adjuster will handle your claim with the Other Driver’s insurance company. Adjusters are often taught to settle your claim as rapidly as possible for the least amount of money.

You may effectively settle your injury claim without an attorney if you acquire the necessary proof and demonstrate that you know what you’re doing to the adjuster.

Instead of going to court, the insurance company would rather offer you reasonable compensation. They understand that a judge or jury will sympathise with your injuries due to a drunk driver. A favorable decision might result in you receiving a substantially higher sum than you’re asking for now. You may use this to your advantage during negotiations.

There are several degrees of drunkenness. Whether the offence is classified as Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in your state, it ultimately comes down to an accident caused by a motorist who has consumed alcohol or drugs.

Here’s when the legal wrangling begins: The fact that the impaired driver was drunk or high does not render him or her accountable for your car accident. The accident was caused by the careless acts of the Driver, who was inebriated and made errors.

Understanding the following words used by lawyers and insurance firms is beneficial:

A car driver commits negligence when he or she fails to behave properly or does something that no reasonable car operator would do. Driving the wrong way down a one-way street, for example.

The word “liability” denotes “responsibility.” In most cases, the at-fault driver or car owner is responsible for the accident victim’s losses.

 

Property damage, medical and therapy costs, out-of-pocket expenditures, replacement services, consortium claims, lost pay, and pain and suffering are all possible damages for car accident victims.

Proximate A cause is an activity that results in an anticipated effect, such as an injury that would not have occurred otherwise.

As an example, consider the terms “negligence” and “cause.”

After a few too many drinks, Andy drove away from a bar in his car. He was too intoxicated to realize the light was red on the way home. He smashed into the side of Carol’s car as he went through the junction without stopping, gravely wounding her.

Andy’s intoxication was not officially the cause of the crash in this case. The careless conduct of driving past a red light was the reason. Andy’s inebriation drove him to drive carelessly (by running a red light), which resulted in the collision.

Andy’s carelessness was the direct cause of Carol’s injuries. Hence Andy is responsible for her losses.

If you were injured in a drunk driving accident and the at-fault driver received an open container ticket or was arrested for DUI or DWI, you’ll have a strong negotiation position.

In drunk driving instances, an open container citation or a DUI should be sufficient proof to persuade the claims adjuster that their insured was at fault.

LIABILITY AND COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE

What if the intoxicated driver isn’t the only one who gets a ticket from the cops? Or a witness informs the cops that you did anything wrong?

Most jurisdictions use a comparative fault system, which means that even if you were partly to blame for the accident, you might still seek reimbursement from the other Driver’s insurance carrier. To account for your portion of the risk, your overall remuneration will be modified.

Example: Drunk Driving and Comparative Negligence

In San Diego, Bob was running late for a meeting. He was messaging his employer that he was on his way while also suddenly changing lanes to get ahead of traffic.

Jen, who had drunk many glasses of alcohol after lunch, was cut off when Bob changed lanes. Jen was unable to respond quickly enough and slammed into the back of Bob’s car. The crash resulted in injuries to both drivers.

Jen was arrested for driving under the influence. Bob was issued a ticket for careless driving. Even though she was driving while intoxicated, Jen’s insurance company refused to assume

 

full blame for the accident, so Bob hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit, seeking $100,000 in damages for his injuries.

In addition to the careless driving citation, Jen’s lawyer obtained Bob’s phone records, confirming that he was texting at the time of the accident.

Jen was found to be 55 per cent responsible for the accident by the jury. Jen might have responded quickly enough to avert the collision if she had been sober. However, since Bob was texting and driving aggressively, the jury determined him to be 45 per cent at fault for the accident.

Bob won his claim, but after deducting 45 per cent for his share of the blame, his $100,000 demand was lowered to a $55,000 judgement.

State Liquor Laws May Be Beneficial to Your Claim

Severe car accident injuries may be difficult and costly to recover from. Your reimbursement may not be limited to the insurance coverage provided by the at-fault driver. Dram Shop laws exist in most jurisdictions, making bar and restaurant operators liable for alcohol to intoxicated drivers.

Individuals who supply alcohol in their homes may be held liable in several areas. Have you been hit by a drunk driver who just got home from a Super Bowl party? You may be able to track out the party’s host.

A useful comparison of state liquor liability laws may be found here.

Commercial places, such as pubs and nightclubs, sometimes carry significantly greater liability coverage than a drunk driver’s motor insurance can provide. Individuals who serve alcohol often have liability coverage via their homeowner’s insurance or umbrella policies. Adults who enable underage drinking in their homes are in the same boat.

State liquor regulations may be interpreted in a variety of ways. Many jurisdictions, for example, hold the bar responsible for serving someone who is already inebriated.

It will be difficult to show that the server should have realized the customer was intoxicated. You’ll need professional assistance. A skilled personal injury lawyer can tell you how much your claim is worth and how strong your Dram Shop case is.

Keep an eye on the Driver at the accident scene.

If you’ve recently been in an car collision with a motorist who seems to be inebriated, contact 911 to report the accident and request assistance. Inform the dispatcher of your location, any injuries, and your suspicions that the other motorist is drunk or intoxicated.

Tell the police officers if you smell alcohol or marijuana on the other motorist when they arrive on the scene. When it takes for police to arrive, the motorist

 

may employ breath spray or other methods to mask the stench. If you report the odour to the police, they may conduct a field sobriety test.

Check to see whether the Driver is using eye drops. He might be under the influence of marijuana, medicines, or other hard-to-detect substances. If you tell the police you witnessed the motorist use eye drops, they may conduct a drug test.

Keep an eye out for anybody from the other car attempting to dispose of beer cans, alcohol bottles, or drug paraphernalia. If you see the other motorist tossing any of these objects, call the cops.

Make certain you know who was driving. Drunk drivers may also trade places with one of the passengers who has not consumed alcohol. If you see anything like this, call the cops.

For drivers involved in a collision, each state has its own set of rules. Check out our Car Accident Guides to see what the laws are in your region.

Gathering Proof of Driving Under the Influence

It shouldn’t be difficult to get evidence of drunk driving. Begin by acquiring a copy of your accident’s police report. Outside influences that the investigating officer believes contributed to the collision are included in a separate part of police reports called “contributory factors.”

The officer will record any acts taken by the at-fault motorist that they believe contributed to the collision, such as speeding, following too closely, or failing to yield.

Any citations given to the motorist will be included in the police record, as well as the cause for the arrest. If the motorist was tested on the scene or in the hospital, the report would normally include the Driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

A drunk driving arrest is significant proof of irresponsibility, but a conviction is much more so. Make careful to check into the Driver’s arrest to see whether he or she was convicted.

You may talk with the prosecutor assigned to the case by contacting the District Attorney’s Office.

When a drunk driver has struck you, you can never have too much evidence to prove drunkenness and culpability.

Statements of Witnesses: Look for witnesses who witnessed the other Driver swerving or running their car off the road before the accident, in addition to the police report and arrest records.

Obtain witness testimony from anybody who saw the other motorist behaving intoxicated or overheard the other Driver confesses to causing the crash.

Video and Photographs: At the accident site, get as much photographic evidence as you can safely. Use your phone or any other camera-equipped device. You can never have too many

 

photos of the cars, the road, your injuries, and the cops and paramedics on the job.

Videos with sound may catch the actions of the other car’s passengers and give strong proof of drunkenness.

When Will You Require the Services of an Attorney?

If you aren’t too seriously hurt and the at-fault motorist has enough insurance to cover your costs, you can usually handle your injury claim on your own. Just keep in mind that there’s no turning back after you’ve accepted settlement money and signed a release.

You have every right to see an attorney before your final settlement if you have any issues regarding the worth of your claim or how the insurance company is treating you.

An expert personal injury lawyer will be able to get evidence that would be difficult for you to obtain on your own, such as alcohol or toxicological tests administered to the at-fault motorist at the hospital, the at-fault Driver’s driving history, and other crucial information.

Other than the Driver’s motor insurance, your attorney may assist you in pursuing compensation for serious injuries or deaths from other sources.

The intoxicated Driver may have been covered by many insurance policies, such as a parent’s policy or a corporate car policy

Money might be available from the estate if the at-fault driver was murdered

Compensation may be sought from the supplier of the Drunk Driver’s drink, such as a bar or nightclub

Don’t accept anything less than the best. You have much too much to lose if you attempt to handle a difficult drunk driving case on your own. Finding out what a competent personal injury attorney can accomplish for you is free.

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