Was She Drunk or Sick?

by | Feb 18, 2022 | Car Accidents

A Kentucky woman faces extradition to Florida following a fatal head-on collision which authorities claim was alcohol-related. But the woman’s daughter says the wreck was “the will of God” and a “medical accident.”

Investigators say the woman was passed out drunk behind the wheel after the collision. So, they have charged her with vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter. But her daughter says the woman suffered from a wide range of medical conditions. Those issues, as opposed to alcohol or drug use, caused her to lose consciousness, her daughter claims.

“What I’m hoping is that this family can find it in their hearts to forgive my mother’s medical accident and to find it in their hearts to understand that we cannot control the will of God,” she said. “It’s crazy when it wasn’t even her fault,” she added.

Driver Impairment Wrecks

Generally, criminal laws punish driving while intoxicated. Depending on the jurisdiction, the cause of intoxication could be alcohol, an illegal drug, or pretty much any other substance. So, from a criminal law standpoint, the woman’s family might have a point.

However, personal injury laws are different. They address negligence, which comes in many forms, especially in terms of driver impairment.

Alcohol

Almost anyone over 21 may legally consume alcohol. So, it’s not surprising that alcohol is a factor in about a third of the fatal car accidents in Kentucky, especially since alcohol’s impairing effects begin with the first drink. 

These effects, which include an inflated sense of well-being and overall relaxation, are nice in many situations. But they are very dangerous when one is behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Because their judgment is clouded, impaired drivers are unable to properly assess risks. Furthermore, because they are overly relaxed, impaired motorists are less able to react to changing situations.

Impaired motorists are typically legally responsible for damages in these crashes. A Lexington personal injury attorney may use direct or circumstantial evidence to establish this liability. Direct evidence is usually a DUI citation. Circumstantial evidence usually includes physical symptoms, such as:

  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Unsteady balance,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Odor of alcohol, and
  • Unsteady balance.

Other circumstantial evidence of alcohol driver impairment includes erratic driving before the wreck and the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) statements about alcohol consumption.

Frequently, if a commercial provider overserved the tortfeasor, this provider is financially responsible for damages. The aforementioned physical symptoms are also admissible to prove intoxication at the time of sale.

Medical Condition

In contrast to alcohol consumption, relatively few people suffer from serious medical conditions which could cause sudden loss of consciousness. These conditions include:

  • Epilepsy,
  • Diabetes,
  • Heart disease, and
  • Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs), or mini-strokes.

When drivers lose consciousness, they usually cause out-of-control collisions, like the one in the above story. There’s no telling what could happen in these situations.

Driving with a mild illness, like the flu or even a cold, could also constitute driver impairment. According to one study, driving while suffering from such illnesses is like driving after consuming “four double whiskeys.” 

Medical condition wrecks often have some complex legal issues. For example, the state is supposed to suspend drivers’ licenses in cases of serious illness. But doctors don’t always report such illnesses and government bureaucrats don’t always follow through.

Drugs

Marijuana and prescription pain pills are the primary impairing drugs among Kentucky drivers. These substances have roughly the same effects as alcohol. But the process is different.

Alcohol impairment usually starts gradually and then builds. Drug impairment usually hits people like a ton of bricks after the first puff or pill. Then, the effects fade rapidly. Because of this quick fade, it’s difficult to prove DUI drug cases in criminal court. But these proof problems don’t affect injury claims. In civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Fatigue

Many people know they shouldn’t drive while drunk or stoned, or if they have a serious medical condition. But these same people often have no problem driving while they are sleepy.

These people probably don’t realize that drowsiness has basically the same effects on the body and brain as alcohol. Driving with a .05 BAC level, which is above the legal limit for some motorists in Kentucky, is just as bad as driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours.

Alcohol and fatigue have something else in common. There’s no quick fix for either condition. Only time cures alcohol impairment and only sleep cures drowsiness.

Distraction

On a similar note, driving while using a hands-free cell phone is as bad as driving drunk. Speakerphone use is just one kind of distraction. Others include using a hand-held phone while driving, eating while driving, and drinking while driving. All these behaviors are distracting in at least one of the following ways:

  • Visually (eyes off the road),
  • Manually (one hand off the wheel), and/or
  • Cognitively (mind off driving).

Once again, both direct and circumstantial evidence is available in these claims. Kentucky has a cell phone use ban, but it’s very limited. Kentucky’s reckless driving law could apply as well, but emergency responders rarely issue such citations. So, most distracted driver compensation claims hinge on circumstantial evidence.

This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

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. You have a limited amount of time to act. #goodelawyers