Is it Always the Drunk Driver’s Fault in an Accident?

Is a drunk driver always at fault?
When it comes to the topic of drunk driving, it is easy to agree that anyone who drives while intoxicated is in the wrong. And if that intoxicated driver causes an accident, it is easy to assume that they are completely at fault. After all, drunk driving is a serious crime. If you are driving safely and following all traffic laws when an intoxicated driver hits you, it is likely easy to prove who was at fault. And while drunk driving remains one of the main causes of car accidents it isn’t always so simple to say that the drunk driver is at fault.

But what if the drunk driver was following all traffic laws and you collided with them? The issue of drinking and driving plays into liability and fault, but cannot always be dismissed as the cause of an auto accident. The facts and evidence of the accident have to be examined because even if one driver was drinking, both might share responsibility for the crash.

In short, no. A drunk driver is not always at fault.

Car Accident Settlement

Determining Fault and Liability Overview

In any accident, it is important to look at the big picture. This means taking all of the facts into account and not jumping to place blame. If you are hit by a drunk driver, there is a good chance that their negligence was a result of being intoxicated. But when it comes to the law, simply pointing fingers is insufficient. When you are trying to prove negligence, there are three categories of fault that must apply.

  • Duty of care: Step one of proving fault is proving that the individual had a duty of care. That means that they had a responsibility to avoid actions that put the people around them in danger. Anytime anyone is behind the wheel, they accept the duty of care to other people on the road and in the vicinity.
  • Breach of duty: Simply put, the driver did not adhere to the duty of care in place. They acted in a way that put other people at risk. When it comes to a car accident, the breach of duty can be identified by an action or specific decision such as drinking and driving.
  • Causation: The plaintiff will have to prove that the breach of care directly caused the accident and subsequent injuries.

So let’s say that a drunk driver collides with your car and you are injured. It is easy to prove that the breach of care happened when the driver chose to operate their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. It is less easy to prove that the fact that the driver was drunk was the cause of the accident. If you are not found to be liable at all for the accident, fault will lie with the drunk driver. But, if you are responsible for the accident, let’s say you rear end a vehicle at a stop sign, it may be completely irrelevant that the other driver was drunk. The fault is still yours.

Car Accident Lawsuit

Shared Fault In a Drunk Driving Accident

In any accident, there is a percentage of fault to be shared. Sometimes that looks like 100% and zero liability. Or perhaps it is determined to be 50/50 responsibility. This is possible in an accident that involves a drunk driver. It is not very common, but it is even possible to be in an accident and the drunk driver is not at fault at all. That does not mean they won’t be punished for driving drunk, but that is a separate issue from the car crash.

Let’s say that a drunk driver is passing through an intersection at a high rate of speed and you make an illegal turn, resulting in a crash. So the other driver was drunk and speeding. But you made a turn when you did not have right of way. You both acted negligent and liability for the accident is shared.

The insurance companies and the courts will all respectively work on determining the percentage of fault. Different states have different laws regarding how much you can claim in a car accident lawsuit based on your percentage of liability. In some states, you are not eligible for compensation if you are found responsible at all. This means the regardless of how much your damages amount to, you are limited to how much you can receive.

What To Do If a Drunk Driver Strikes You

If you are in an accident with a drunk driver, you should call 911. There may be injuries that need to be assessed. It is also important for the police to file a report and handle the intoxicated driver.

Get medical attention if you are injured. Check to make sure any passengers are not hurt. Even if you are not in immediate need of care, you should still be assessed by a medical professional in the following days. Some injuries are not as apparent as others.

Make sure that you are out of harm’s way and far enough away from traffic to avoid additional damage or injuries.

Collect any crucial information that you can. If the other drive attempts to leave, take note of the vehicle they are driving and the license plate. Otherwise, take a picture of the other driver’s ID and insurance information.

Take pictures and video of the scene. Record your interaction with the other driver if you can. Take pictures of both vehicles and your surroundings.

Give your statement to the police and ensure that a report will be filed. You will want a copy of the report when you provide evidence to back your claim.

If there are any witnesses to the car accident, take a statement from them. This can help boost your case.

Insurance companies and juries do not look kindly upon drunk drivers. If a drunk driver hits you, make sure you take the steps to protect yourself and your rights. There are ways that you can prove the drunk driver at least partially liable for the accident. If you share liability for the crash, it is still wise to follow these tips to give yourself the most robust case.

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Are Uber and Lyft Drunk Driver Cases Different?

Getting into an accident involving a rideshare driver tends to be complicated. If you were injured in an Uber or Lyft car while they were working, the liability lies with both the at fault driver and the company. Lyft and Uber have insurance policies to compensate passengers in the event the third party driver is unable to provide an adequate settlement. If you are in an accident in a rideshare vehicle, speak with an attorney about your claim before speaking to the insurance company.

When Will I Get Compensation For Being Hit By a Drunk Driver?

There is no real timeline when it comes to insurance claims, settlements, lawsuits, and payouts. The length of time it takes to get a drunk driving accident settlement depends on many things. Are you still recovering from your injuries? Is the insurance company insisting on offering a lower payout than you deserve? Are you considering filing a car accident lawsuit to recover your damages? Naturally, you want your settlement as soon as possible. But the course that your claim takes affects the length of time it takes to settle. Speak with a personal injury lawyer fore more details about what a drunk driving accident claim typically looks like and what your next steps should be.

Drunk Driver Settlements

If you are in an auto accident and a drunk driver is found liable, you may be entitled to compensation from an insurance settlement or auto accident lawsuit. If you share liability, your compensation may be less. A car accident attorney can help advise you on how much your settlement might be if you settled out of court, what the general timeframe and costs of suing for the car accident will be, and help you decide which option would be best for you.

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Examples of Drunk Driver Car Accident Settlements

$200,000 Drunk Driver Car Accident Settlement: A drunk driver crossed over the center line and into oncoming traffic, resulting in a head on collision. The victim suffered from many injuries, including a torn ligament in her knee that required surgery and left her with a permanent limp. The drunk driver’s insurance company originally offered $50,000. The victim’s attorney obtained a copy of the police report stating that the other driver was intoxicated at the time. After some negotiating, the victim got a much higher settlement for the auto accident due to the fact that the at fault driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

$40,000 Drunk Driver Car Accident Settlement: A drunk driver swerved suddenly on the highway and pinned another car up against a concrete barrier. The victim suffered from a concussion, bruised ribs, and a minor hip fracture. Fortunately, her injuries were minor enough to not require surgery. The drunk driver was also found to have opioids in his system. The insurance company settled after receiving a demand letter from the victim.

$50,000 Drunk Driver Car Accident Settlement: An impaired driver rear ended another car as they were both driving. The driver in front suffered from a back injury and demanded $50,000 from the drunk driver’s insurance company. It was later determined that the driver in front pulled in front of the drunk driver without leaving adequate space between them. Both drivers were found liable for the accident. Because they lived in a state with a pure contributory negligence standard, the $50,000 car accident settlement turned into a total loss.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about car accident settlements

Depending on your level of blame for the crash, you may be able to collect damages from the other driver, but your award will be reduced based on your percentage of responsibility for the impact.

You could be held liable for the drunk driver’s damages, but juries do not tend to side with drunk drivers. So the insurance company may be willing to settle the case for less because their client was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

Causing a severe injury while intoxicated is a felony. You will probably face thousands in fines, loss of license, and jail time. You also can be sued in civil court by the injured party for damages.

Drunk drivers in the US kill approximately 29 people per day. That is one fatality every 50 minutes.

 

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