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Drunk Driving Accidents

Defenses to Drunk Driving Injury Claims

The defenses to civil drunk driving claims can vary by state and the circumstances of each case. The information provided here will give you a brief overview of some of the defenses that may be claimed. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your claim and help you plan accordingly. Call today to schedule a consultation to learn more about the types of defenses that may be used against you.

Contributory negligence

In jurisdictions that recognize contributory negligence, the plaintiff can be barred recovery if his or her own actions contributed in any way to the injuries. Even if the drunk driver is found responsible for 99 percent of the accident, the plaintiff still will not recover any compensation. Only a minority of jurisdictions follow this rule.

Comparative negligence

Most jurisdictions have adopted comparative negligence rules over the stricter contributory negligence standard. In these jurisdictions, the damages award is reduced to reflect the plaintiff's proportion of fault for the accident. Thus, if the plaintiff is found to be 20 percent at fault for the accident, he or she will only collect 80 percent of the damages. Some states have a hybrid comparative negligence rule in which the plaintiff is barred recovery if his or her own negligence is greater than 50 percent.

Assumption of the risk

Assumption of risk as a defense normally is asserted by defendants when passengers of drunk drivers bring suit. For a defendant to successfully claim the passenger assumed the risk of injury, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff passenger was aware of the risk, understood the nature of the risk and voluntarily chose to assume the risk by riding with the drunk driver. Thus, the passenger had to know the driver was intoxicated at the time he or she got into the car.

Sudden emergency

For a plaintiff to win damages from a drunk driver in a negligence action, the plaintiff must prove that the drunk driver's conduct fell below the standard of care applicable to drivers generally. Depending on the jurisdiction, proof of intoxication alone may not be enough to prove conduct below the standard of care. Consequently, a drunk driver may attempt to show he or she did not breach the standard of care by claiming a sudden emergency caused him or her to act in a way that led to the accident. For this defense to be successful, the defendant must show the existence of a true emergency. Also, the defendant must show that he or she acted in the same way that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. Finally, the defendant's own intoxication may not be what caused the emergency.

Contact a drunk driving accident attorney

The person responsible for your injuries may claim other defenses than those listed here. It is important to have an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer review the circumstances of your claim and plan the strategy for your case. Call today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your case.

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