Civil Claims for Drunk Driving Accidents
In addition to the criminal charges drunk drivers may face, they also may incur civil penalties for any property damage or personal injury they caused as a result of driving drunk. If you were injured by a drunk driver, call today to learn more about your available legal remedies. An experienced personal injury attorney can explain your options to you.
Common law claims
Under the common law of negligence, victims and their families can bring claims against the drunk driver for damages. To bring a negligence claim, the plaintiff must typically prove:
- The driver owed a duty to others to operate the car in a safe manner
- The driver breached the duty
- The driver's breach caused injury to the plaintiff
- The plaintiff suffered compensable damages
A drunk driver has the same duty of care as a sober driver. Intoxication is not a defense to failing to act as a reasonable driver would in the same circumstances.
In some jurisdictions, driving drunk alone is considered sufficient to to prove negligence. This means that the very act of driving drunk is enough to prove the driver breached his or her duty to the plaintiff. In these cases, the plaintiff still must prove that the drunk driver's actions are the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries — that is, but for the acts of the drunk driver, the plaintiff would not have been injured.
Due to the number of people injured and killed every year in drunk driving accidents, state legislatures have passed a number of laws to provide relief to the victims of those accidents. These laws broadly include:
- Dram shop acts make those who sell alcohol for profit liable for any injuries or damages that result from selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.
- Alcoholic beverage control statutes generally provide that a vendor who sells intoxicating beverages to a minor, intoxicated person or habitual drunk may be liable for any injuries that result.
- Wrongful death acts provide relief to the families of those killed by drunk drivers. In order for a family member to bring a wrongful death claim, the deceased must have been able to bring the same claim had he or she survived the accident.
- State tort claims acts these acts apply to state government employees — most often police officers. Only the drunk driver, his or her estate or family may file this type of suit. These claims often concern whether a police officer exercised proper authority or supervision over a drunk driver.
- Long-arm statutes provide a cause of action for a dram shop violation that occurred in a different state from the resulting accident. For the statute to apply, there must be significant contacts between the vendor of the alcohol and the state where the injury happened. For example, if the bar was ten miles from the state line and regularly advertised in the other state, significant contacts may be found to exist.
Additionally, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) also provides those who were injured by intoxicated military personnel an avenue of relief for their injuries. According to the terms of this federal law, the United States government may be held responsible for the failure to supervise or failure to exercise due care over the actions of military personnel.
Contact a drunk driving accident attorney
To learn more about the potential of your case, call today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer who can discuss your options for recovery with you.
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