If someone is intoxicated, are they automatically considered at fault for the accident?
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious crime. Anyone who is caught driving drunk will face criminal sanctions, including fines, jail time and possibly a driver’s license suspension. But is a drunk driver automatically considered at fault in an accident? This is not always true. However, the intoxication of the driver will increase the odds he will be found at fault for the crash.
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Who Was At Fault?
In most car accidents, the key issue is who is at fault for the accident. Fault is the determining factor for who, or which insurance company, will be held financially responsible for personal injuries and damages due to a car accident.
In terms of legal responsibility, fault consists of three parts:
· Duty of care: This means one party owed the other a duty of care. Everyone has the responsibility of taking measures to avoid hurting others when driving.
· Breach: The duty of care is breached when the driver does not act as a responsible and reasonable person when driving their vehicle.
· Causation: The plaintiff has to show a direct link between the breach of care of the defendant and the injuries or damages.
How Does Intoxication Factor In?
If you were hit by a drunk driver, just proving the other driver was legally drunk does not automatically prove fault. But in most car accident cases, showing the defendant was legally intoxicated will prove that at least duty and breach were broken. After all, you have a strong argument that the other driver did not exercise duty of care because they were driving drunk. In a jurisdiction with a ‘negligence per se’ law, showing the drunk driving was in breach of DUI laws automatically will satisfy both duty and breach.
But in the area of causation, the drunkenness of the driver is not necessarily the deciding factor. For example, in a rear end crash, the driver behind is almost always at fault. The driver in the front could have been drunk, but this would be irrelevant in most cases. But in other accidents, such as when a drunk driver hits another vehicle while going the wrong way on a road, the impairment of that driver is clearly the issue. In a case where the jury cannot decide who really caused the crash, the fact the other driver was drunk could be enough to win the case for you.
Even if the other driver is drunk, if you were partially responsible for the accident, you may not get as much in your personal injury settlement. Many states have a comparative negligence law. This means that your percentage of blame for the accident will reduce your level of compensation for your injuries. For example, if you are 50%responsible for an accident at an intersection with a drunk driver and you have $10,000 in damages, in many states, your award could be reduced to $5000.
Generally, being in an accident with a drunk driver will mean that he will be found at least partially and possibly entirely to blame for the accident. But everything depends upon the case particulars. The best course of action is to run your case by an experienced personal injury attorney. This usually can be done at no charge. So, you have little to lose by contacting a personal injury attorney in your state to determine how strong your accident claim is with a drunk driver.
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