Authorities say a drunk driver was operating on the wrong side of the road when she collided with a Saturn.
Shortly after midnight, a wrong-way driver on Interstate 64, near the Third Street interchange in Louisville, smacked into a Saturn. The front seat passenger, a 42-year-old Indiana woman, died at the scene. Emergency responders rushed two other juvenile passengers to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
Immediately after this initial impact, a tractor-trailer collided with the disabled Saturn.
First Party Liability in Alcohol-Related Wrecks
In the 1980s, largely in response to a vocal advocacy group, Kentucky and other states launched a decades-long crackdown against drunk drivers. Utah was the first state to lower its BAC limit from .10 to .08. Utah was also the first state to lower its BAC limit to .05, a move that New York and several other states are also considering.
Yet despite this crackdown, alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in the United States. This depressant affects motor skills and judgement ability. Drinking slows muscle reactions. So, people have a harder time reacting to changing situations when they are behind the wheel. As for judgement ability, alcohol gives people an artificial sense of euphoria. This effect might be great at parties, but it’s dangerous for drivers. This sensation causes people to take unnecessary risks.
Because of these two effects, alcohol-related wrecks are normally high-speed wrecks. That means serious injuries, such as head injuries. These wounds are difficult to diagnose and treat, especially if they are collision-related.
Frequently, Lexington personal injury lawyers use the negligence per se shortcut to establish liability for damages in these cases. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) are liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate the DUI law or another penal safety law, and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
Additional evidence isn’t necessary in most of these negligence per se claims, at least on the issue of liability. However, additional evidence could impact the amount of damages. Usually, the more evidence a victim/plaintiff presents, the more damages a jury awards.
One reason the BAC limit has gone down over the years, at least in some situations, is that most people are impaired after one drink. Since these motorists usually aren’t legally intoxicated, an attorney must use circumstantial evidence to establish a lack of care. Such evidence usually includes physical symptoms, such as:
- Odor of alcohol,
- Slurred speech,
- Unsteady balance, and
- Bloodshot eyes.
The burden of proof in a civil claim is only a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. These bits of evidence do not establish impairment. At best, they only prove that the tortfeasor was around someone who was drinking. However, since the burden of proof is so low, a little evidence goes a long way.
Third Party Liability
Alcohol-related crash claims don’t “blame” anyone for an accident. Instead, these matters force drivers to accept responsibility for the mistakes they make. If you mistakenly throw a ball through a window, you must pay for the window. If you mistakenly cause a car crash, you must pay damages.
Sometimes, the tortfeasor is not the only responsible party in alcohol-related wrecks. In most cases, a commercial provider, like a bar or grocery store, illegally sold alcohol to a customer who was already intoxicated. These providers blatantly ignore the safety of other people so they can make more money from questionable alcohol sales.
The same circumstantial evidence listed above is admissible to prove intoxication at the time of sale. The same burden of proof applies as well.
Foreseeability is sometimes an issue in these claims. That’s especially true in illegal packaged alcohol sales. Generally, however, it’s foreseeable (possible) that an intoxicated person will open a bottle of beer and have a few drinks on the way home.
Multiple At-Fault Drivers
This same issue could apply if there are multiple at-fault drivers in a car wreck. Sometimes, it’s hard to connect personal injuries directly to one person’s negligence.
Procedurally, attorneys usually file claims against a single party. Then, if that party wants to blame someone else, the two drivers can sort that question out for themselves. Kentucky’s joint and several liability law is rather complex. But the bottom line is that, no matter who pays compensation, maximum compensation is usually available in these cases.
Typically, attorneys file claims against the parties who have the most insurance coverage or a possible responsible third party. So, because of the respondeat superior rule which makes employers responsible for their employees’ negligence, a claim against the truck driver might be a good idea. But that’s the subject of a different blog.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions. #goodelawyers