Obtaining Damages In Alcohol-Related Car Crashes

  • By:David Bate

Because it impedes concentration, affects motor skills, and impairs judgement, alcohol is often a factor in the nation’s fatal car crashes.  The number of alcohol-related wrecks has remained consistently high in recent years even though there are many new laws and police tactics available to combat “drunk driving,” which indicates that impaired driving is simply a very bad habit that motorists will not break.

In some jurisdictions, drugged driving is even more common than drunk driving.  While it is legal to take opioid pain relievers, powerful sleep aids, and other potent drugs, it is always unsafe, and usually illegal as well, to drive while under their influence. You should always seek a car accident lawyer Jonesboro GA trusts if you are involved in an accident of this sort of nature.


First Party Liability in Alcohol Collisions

Victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).  Since impairment begins at one drink, this burden of proof is normally easy for an officer to determine with circumstantial evidence. Such evidence includes:

  •       Bloodshot eyes,
  •       Unsteady balance,
  •       Odor of alcohol, and
  •       Erratic driving.

Furthermore, if the victim/plaintiff introduces evidence that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) had just left a party or commercial establishment like a bar, club or restaurant, where alcohol was served, and the plaintiff can provide witnesses who saw the negligent driver drinking, it is reasonable for the jurors to conclude that, more likely than not, the tortfeasor was drinking.

First party liability is even easier to establish if the tortfeasor was arrested for DUI, because of negligence per se.  In most cases, the tortfeasor is liable for damages as a matter of law if s/he:

  •       Broke a safety law, and
  •       Said violation caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

In some cases, negligence per se is a presumption of liability.


Third Party Liability

Many drivers are either uninsured or underinsured, and in these cases, the victim/plaintiff may need an additional responsible party in order to collect fair compensation. Most states have very strict dram shop laws which hold commercial alcohol providers, like bars, clubs, and restaurants, liable (responsible) for damages in these cases.  Typically, dram shop law applies if the negligent driver was:

  • An Underage Minor: Usually, the law holds providers strictly liable if they furnish alcohol to minors, even if the minor “looked older.” Or,
  • An Intoxicated Adult: The law holds the establishment liable if they kept serving someone who was clearly drunk.  To establish intoxication, the victim/plaintiff can use the circumstantial evidence mentioned above.

In some states, the dram shop law also applies to noncommercial providers like hosts of parties.

Alcohol-related crashes can be complex, especially when you consider a possible a layer of a dram shop action.  


Thank you to our friends and contributors at
Butler Tobin for their insight on this subject.

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