Jump To Navigation
Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk Driving Accidents - An Overview

People who drive drunk and cause an accident face both criminal and civil charges for their actions, in addition to any actions by the state's transportation department to revoke or limit driving privileges. Criminal penalties may include fines, jail time, court-mandated treatment programs and incarceration, depending on the severity of the offense.

Those who were harmed by the drunk driver's acts also can sue him or her to recover for their losses. These losses can include medical bills, property damage and lost wages, among others. Typically, anyone directly harmed by the driver, such as pedestrians, other motorists and passengers, can bring a civil action. If the accident resulted in a fatality, the family and/or estate of the deceased may bring a wrongful death suit.

Actions against drunk drivers are usually negligence actions. Drivers owe a duty of care to their passengers and other motorists to operate their vehicles safely. Intoxicated drivers are held to this same standard. If a drunk driver breaches his or her duty and injures another person or damages property, the driver can be held liable for his or her actions.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident, call today to schedule a consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can review your case and discuss your legal options with you.

Claims against third parties

In some cases, the victim of a drunk driving accident or his or her family may name third parties in a lawsuit. These third parties can include the business that sold the alcohol to the driver, such as a bar, tavern or restaurant. Many states have dram shop acts that allow innocent third-parties to sue alcohol vendors who provided alcohol to an intoxicated person who subsequently causes injury in a drunk driving accident. To recover under these laws, the vendor had to knowingly provide the alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Visible signs of intoxication can include slurred speech and/or difficulty walking or controlling body movements. In states without dram shop acts, victims may be able to sue third parties under common law negligence principles or Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) statutes.

Other third parties that may be held liable for injuries caused by drunk drivers include:

  • Passengers — if the passenger of the drunk driver aided and abetted the driver in becoming intoxicated, he or she may be liable
  • Police officers — if the officer had an opportunity to prevent a drunk driver from driving and failed to act, he or she may be liable. This could include a situation where an officer pulled over a drunk driver, but did not arrest the driver, who later injured someone in a drunk driving accident.
  • Employers — in some limited situations, an employer may be held liable for the acts of an intoxicated employee. In some cases, employers have been held liable because the court reasoned the employer is in a position to control consumption and distribution of alcohol at work-related events. However, unless a company car was involved or the accident occurred on the employer's property or in furtherance of the employee's work duties, many courts have rejected employer liability for injuries caused in an employee's drunk driving accident.

Social host liability

Social host liability is a hotly contested area in many states. It can attach to barbeques, work parties, birthday parties and other social gatherings where a host provides guests with alcohol without charging a fee. To be a social host, the host cannot be licensed to sell liquor. Social hosts may be liable for injuries caused by a person they provided with alcohol under one of two theories:

  • Negligence — in these types of actions, the court will typically ask whether a reasonable person under the same circumstances would foresee an unreasonable risk or likelihood of danger to others by providing the guest with alcohol. In situations where the guest was a minor or visibly intoxicated, the host may be found liable for creating a foreseeable risk of harm.
  • Alcoholic beverage control (ABC) statutes — while these statutes are meant to apply mainly to commercial vendors, some states have liberally interpreted their ABC statutes to find social hosts liable for furnishing intoxicating beverages to high risk individuals. Not all states construe their ABC statutes so broadly and many have refused to apply them to social hosts.

Currently, the majority of jurisdictions do not impose liability on social hosts for the acts committed by intoxicated guests once they leave the social gathering.

Damages

The types of damages available in a civil drunk driving accident suit will vary depending on state law and the facts of the case. For example, in a dram shop action, damages for the death of a loved one are not available, but damages for loss of property, personal damage and loss of services may be.

In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are those awarded in addition to damages for actual losses. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and send a message to others not to engage in this type of behavior. In some states, actual malice on the part of the drunk driver must be shown before the plaintiff can seek for punitive damages. In other states, the actions of the drunk driver must have been so reckless as to show a conscious disregard for the safety of others. Punitive damage awards are normally upheld so long as the court finds they are reasonable.

Contact a drunk driving accident attorney

Drunk driving accidents take a terrible toll on society — from the injuries and deaths of loved ones, to the costs of paying for the accidents. Those who engage in this type of behavior should be held legally responsible for their actions. Call today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Copyright © 2012 FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Return to Main

New Immediate Representation | Tired of Insurance Hassles | We'll represent you right now | Click Here | Call Now Toll Free 1-800-300-8561

- Free Advice!
- Free Consultations!
- No Out of Pocket Fees!
- Contingency Fees!
- We Get Paid Only if We Win Your Case!

Contact Us
foxyform

Never a fee to speak with an Injury Law Center attorney

Injury Law Center | For Over 25 Years



What Our Clients Say

Client Testimonial:

"I am impressed the way your firm took care of me, and I am pleased with results. "


KW, Satisfied Client, San Jose, California

"Great Settlement, Thank You."
R.H. - Milpitas, CA

"Mr. Bloxham treated me honestly and fairly - Thanks!"
A.T. - Pittsburg, CA

"I was disappointed in a previous attorney. Thanks for handling my sister's case - I appreciate the care that you took with her."
P.O. - Concord, CA

"Good Job, Thank You."
T.E. - Brentwood, CA

"Thanks for fighting for me, Mr. Bloxham. I appreciate your efforts."
B.K. - Concord, CA

"With my serious injuries, I appreciate that you were able to come to my home and get my case started right away - Thanks."
T.K - Walnut Creek, CA

BBB | Better Business Bureau | www.bbb.org

Click here to see our A+ Rating

Injury Law Center Law Offices of Jack Bloxham
  • Injury Law Center - Walnut Creek
    Law Offices of Jack Bloxham
    2099 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite 201
    Walnut Creek, CA 94596

    925-280-4800
    Walnut Creek Law Office

  • Injury Law Center - San Jose
    Law Offices of Jack Bloxham
    2570 N. First Street
    Second Floor
    San Jose, CA 95131

    408-224-3286
    San Jose, CA Law Office

  • Injury Law Center - Fremont-Hayward
    Law Offices of Jack Bloxham
    34716 Alvarado-Niles Road
    Union City, CA 94587

    510-832-1177
    Union City Law Office

  • Injury Law Center - Oakland
    Law Offices of Jack Bloxham
    166 Santa Clara Ave
    Oakland, CA 94610

    510-832-1177
    Oakland Law Office

Disclosure: Photos may not depict cars, places or situations related to clients or cases. Other photos may not depict attorneys or clients of the firm. The photos are intended only as dramatizations. Testimonials or endorsements, or statements regarding the outcome of a case should not be construed as a guarantee or warrantee or prediction regarding the result or outcome of your or anyone’s legal matter. Each case has its own unique facts, and the outcome of each case will differ.

San Jose personal injury attorney Jack Bloxham represents clients in negligence and wrongful death litigation related to motor vehicle accidents of all kinds in the Greater Bay Area of Northern California, including Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County, Solano County, San Jose, Walnut Creek, Union City, Oakland, San Francisco, Fremont, Hayward, Pittsburg, Richmond, Dublin, Concord, Fairfield, Benicia, Vallejo, Los Gatos, Napa, Pleasanton, Livermore, Antioch, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo.