Before the early 1980s, DUI was little more than a traffic ticket. Then, advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched a concerted public relations campaign against drunk drivers. As these campaigns gained momentum, officials passed tougher laws and allowed more aggressive police tactics.
Yet despite all these efforts, alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal vehicle collisions in Kentucky. This proportion is even higher in rural areas. The extra two or three minutes in an ambulance could quite literally be the difference between life and death.
Alcohol is a depressant which slows motor skills. Alcohol also gives people an unnatural feeling of euphoria. This combination might make people fun at parties. But it is very dangerous when a driver gets behind the wheel.
Frequently, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) know they are too impaired to get behind the wheel, but they drive anyway. As a result, a Lexington personal injury attorney can obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. However, as outlined below, these cases are rather complex.
First Party Liability
To obtain compensation for their injuries, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.
Frequently, a safety law, such as the DUI law, establishes the standard of care. Therefore, tortfeasors who violate this law could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Evidence is still important in such negligence per se claims. There’s usually a close relationship between the amount of evidence in the case and the amount of damages jurors award.
Assume Dick and Jane both broke the DUI law and caused crashes. Dick’s BAC level was .08 and Jane had a .24 BAC level. In plain English, Dick was legally drunk and Jane was almost passed-out drunk. But unless a Lexington personal injury attorney introduces the proper evidence, which would probably be the breath or blood test result, jurors would never know how drunk Jane was.
Most people are legally drunk after about three drinks. But alcohol’s impairing effects begin after the first drink. So, many people are impaired but not intoxicated. Evidence of impairment includes:
- Erratic driving before the crash,
- Bloodshot eyes,
- Slurred speech,
- Odor of alcohol, and
- Tortfeasor’s previous stops.
That last bullet point illustrates the low burden of proof in these claims. If the tortfeasor was at a place which served alcohol, it’s more likely than not that the tortfeasor consumed alcohol while there.
Third Party Liability
Under Kentucky law, commercial alcohol providers could be financially responsible for damages. These providers are in a position to stop drunk driving crashes before they happen. Their failure to do so is negligence.
The Bluegrass State has one of the country’s broadest dram shop laws. Bars, restaurants, and other commercial providers are vicariously liable for alcohol-related crash damages if they knowingly sell alcohol to intoxicated persons, and it is foreseeable that the sale could contribute to a drunk driving wreck.
Evidence on the knowing sale prong usually includes the aforementioned physical symptoms. Most servers receive special training in this area. So, if they ignore the signs and continue serving intoxicated patrons, the servers are clearly negligent.
The foreseeability prong sometimes surfaces in grocery stores, convenience stores, and other packaged alcohol cases. Generally, it’s foreseeable (possible) that a person will open a bottle or other container and drink on the way home. Foreseeability is easier to establish in convenience store claims because the alcohol is, well, convenient.
Vicarious liability theories like dram shop liability are especially important in catastrophic injury claims, such as wrongful death claims. Individual tortfeasors often do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these claims. Vicarious liability gives these victims an additional source of recovery.
Alcohol-related collisions are rather complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act. #goodelawyers