A 16-year-old girl and 19-year-old man are dead after a drunk driver crossed the centerline and smashed into their vehicle while they were en route to a birthday party.
Police state that a 30-year-old man, who was legally intoxicated, hit the teens head-on as they travelled on Athens Boonesboro Road. Both teens were declared dead at the scene. Their mother said the 19-year-old “ knew what he wanted out of life” and enjoyed playing basketball. “He was very happy [and] he had a lot to live for,” she added. The 16-year-old was the mother of an infant daughter. “She had her at 15, and she did amazing,” the victims’ mother said.
The drunk driver had a BAC level nearly four times the legal limit. At the time of the crash, he was out on bond for a previous DUI charge.
First Party Liability
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers, and a significant number of these wrecks involve impaired or intoxicated motorists. Contrary to popular myth, these terms are not synonymous. More on that below.
Alcohol is a depressant which slows reaction times and motor skills. Additionally, alcohol gives most people an artificial sense of euphoria. This combination is very dangerous when people are behind the wheel. Motorists are unable to react to changing circumstances, and they usually take unnecessary risks as they drive.
These impairing effects, which normally constitute a breach of care, usually begin at the first drink. Circumstantial evidence of alcohol impairment includes:
- Tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) departure point,
- Erratic operation before the crash,
- Statements the tortfeasor made about alcohol consumption, and
- Physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol.
The burden of proof in ordinary negligence claims, which are built on such circumstantial proof, is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, if the tortfeasor recently came from a place that sells alcohol, it’s more likely than not that the tortfeasor had at least one drink there.
Most people are intoxicated after three or four drinks. If emergency responders charge these people with DUI, the negligence per se rule could apply. Tortfeasors are normally liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety rule, and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
A Lexington personal injury attorney can often obtain higher damages in negligence per se alcohol crashes, especially if the tortfeasor’s BAC level was .16 (twice the legal limit) or higher. These tortfeasors usually know they are too drunk to drive, yet they got behind the wheel anyway.
General damages in car crash cases usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Third Party Liability
Frequently, a third party can stop a crash before it happens. That’s usually true with regard to alcohol-related wrecks. If a bar, grocery store, or other commercial provider is reckless when it sells alcohol, people often get hurt.
Section 413.241(2) of the Kentucky Revised Statutes states that these commercial providers are financially responsible for vehicle collision damages if they sell alcohol to people who appear to be intoxicated. The aforementioned circumstantial evidence, particularly physical symptoms, is admissible in this area. These owners have a legal responsibility to teach their employees how to spot intoxicated people and how to cut them off.
Vicarious liability, such as dram shop liability, is particularly important in wrongful death claims. Wrongful death survivors are entitled to compensation for things like lost future emotional and financial support. So, the damages could be very high. Most individuals do not have enough insurance coverage to cover such losses. Vicarious liability gives these victims an additional source of recovery.
Wrongful death survivors are usually entitled to compensation for pecuniary losses, such as the aforementioned losses. They may also be entitled to compensation for their own grief and suffering, under a theory like negligent infliction of emotional distress. If the survivor is a child, the court usually appoints an attorney ad litem, if the victim did not leave a will.
Foreseeability is sometimes an issue in grocery store and packaged alcohol sales. A car wreck must be a foreseeable consequence of the transaction. Typically, it is foreseeable that people will open these packages and drink on the way home.
Alcohol-related crash victims might be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.