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

Let’s say you are driving home from work at night, and an SUV blows through a red light and t-bones you. Your car is seriously damaged, and you probably have whiplash. The other driver appears to be drunk. It would seem that the drunk driver would be at fault and liable for your accident injuries.

But what if you ran the red light and hit a drunk driver who was driving according to the law?

Liability is complex when a drunk driver strikes you; both parties may have contributed to the crash. The injured driver needs to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused their injuries. This is true even if the police arrest the other driver for DUI. Even in this circumstance, both drivers could share liability.

Figuring out who is liable for a car accident when one driver is drunk comes down to the accident facts that led to the crash.

Determining Fault and Liability Overview

If a drunk driver hits you, the negligence related to the intoxication is almost always to blame. However, the law says there must be a clear link between the drunk driver’s actions to the crash and your injuries. Let’s understand this better by covering the basics of a negligence lawsuit:

  • Duty: When you are driving on the road, you must obey traffic laws, stop for known hazards, and generally give respect to other people on the road.
  • Breach of duty: Driving recklessly, speeding, and driving drunk are breaches of this duty.
  • Cause in fact: If a drunk driver strikes you, would you still have suffered injuries if the other driver was sober? This aspect focus on the causation of your injuries.
  • Proximate cause: If your injuries were outside the scope of what the drunk driver could have anticipated, you could not prove that the driver being drunk was the direct cause of your injuries.
  • Damages: You must prove you suffered damages, such as injuries and property damage.

If a drunk driver slams into you and becomes injured, they breached their duty by merely being drunk. But you still must connect the legal dots and prove their being drunk was the proximate cause of your injuries and damages.

In the above example, if the drunk driver hits you after you ran a red light, then you might not be able to prove their inebriation caused your injuries or that the DUI driver could have foreseen your negligence when you ran the light.

Therefore, even if the police arrest them for drunk driving, you might not have a civil claim against the driver. These cases ARE rare, but the above elements always determine liability.

In many drunk driving accidents, liability will lie with the intoxicated driver who runs a stoplight or swerves into your lane. Whenever a drunk driver hits you, you must contact an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you. When drunk driving is a part of the accident, you could get a larger settlement. You can find an experienced attorney in your area by using the attorney finder on your website.

Hit By a Drunk Driver But You Share Liability

You and the drunk driver may share liability for the accident. For instance, say you sent a text message while trying to change into the left lane and cut off a drunk driver who was speeding in that lane.

The drunk driver rear-ends your car, and you both incur injuries. If the other drunk were sober, they might have avoided the crash. But if you were not distracted by a cell phone, you would not have cut off the drunk driver. Who is at fault?

You probably have a claim against the intoxicated driver, but they may be able to show you were partially to blame. This is the concept of comparative negligence. It means that your amount of fault reduces your damages in a claim or lawsuit for the accident.

The drunk driver could sue you for damages if you caused the accident. However, if the case gets to a courtroom, it is unlikely the jury will award a convicted drunk driver.

What To Do If a Drunk Driver Strikes You

Insurance companies and juries do not look kindly upon drunk drivers. If a drunk driver hits you, there are things that you can do that can ensure to prove the drunk driver at least partially liable for the accident. If you share liability for the crash, it is still wise to follow the guidelines below to give yourself the most robust case:

  • Take pictures, audio, video, etc., of the crash scene. Gather this information must immediately after the crash. This ensures preservation of the details for litigation later.
  • Get a copy of the police report that shows what happened in the accident, who was driving, and why it happened. If the accident involved a drunk driver, the police would give them a breathalyzer. They also can provide them with field sobriety tests.
  • If you suffered injuries, you must seek immediate medical attention. This is to ensure your safety, but also, there is an official medical report from a doctor that details your injuries.
  • Eyewitness testimony can be strong evidence because they are firsthand accounts of what happened.

Drunk Driver Settlements

If struck a drunk driver found liable for the accident, you may expect to compensation in a settlement or lawsuit. If you are partially at fault for the crash, your award could be reduced according to your percentage of blame for the crash.

Below are some sample drunk driver settlements from across the country.

$95,000 Drunk Driver Settlement

A drunk driver hit another car in Florida head-on. The at-fault driver drove the wrong way and tried to make a U-turn on the highway. She hit the other driver’s vehicle during this illegal maneuver.

GEICO offered only $17,500 at first. The driver was convicted of driving under the influence, and the attorney for the plaintiff asked for the DUI file from the criminal courthouse, which can have a lot of information that can boost the value of the case. It did, as the case settled for $95,000. That was fortunate because the injured driver suffered two bulging discs and two herniated discs in the crash.

$33,000 Drunk Driver Settlement

A drunk driver hit another driver head-on in Florida when the second car stopped at a red light. The innocent driver suffered a hip injury in this accident – an acetabulum fracture. Luckily, the woman did not need hip surgery.

The intoxicated driver was charged with causing the accident, and he also was high on Xanax and marijuana. The full value of the case rose because the at-fault driver tested positive for drugs. The case settled for $33,000.

$30,000 Drunk Driver Settlement

A drunk driver crashed into the rear of a car in Miami. A passenger suffered back and neck pain from the crash. The drunk driver lacked bodily injury liability insurance. That means the drunk driver lacked insurance that would have covered the injured woman’s lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.

However, the attorney made an uninsured insurance claim against the insurance company. There were three cars listed on the policy, so $30,000 in uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage was available. The case settled for $30,000.

Are Uber and Lyft Drunk Driver Cases Different?

They are. The most significant difference is there is probably more insurance available. If a Lyft or Uber driver has the app on but does not have a rider, the injured party can get up to $50,000 per person. If the driver has a rider, all injured parties can get up to $1 million coverage. But they need to prove the case.

If the Liable Drunk Driver Refuses a Breath Test, Does That Increase The Case Value?

Yes. The jury will hear the drunk, at-fault driver refused a breath test., This will increase the value of the injured party’s case because they can sue for punitive damages.

Also, juries do not like to hear when drunk drivers refuse blood alcohol tests and may award more money. That is why adjusters will probably offer more money to settle these cases out of court.

Contact A Personal Injury Attorney Today

If a drunk driver hits you, it is vital to talk to a skilled personal injury attorney today. It is even more critical if there are questions about liability in the accident. At Lawsuit Info Center, you can find an experienced attorney using our attorney finder tool.


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.

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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.

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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.

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

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