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Are Drunk Drivers Automatically at Fault for a Car Crash?

When you get into a motor vehicle accident with another motorist in Virginia, you may be shocked to learn that the other driver was operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol. But how does the other driver’s intoxication affect liability for the accident and your injuries? Can you automatically hold another motorist at fault for a car crash simply because they were intoxicated by alcohol?

Drunk Driving Accidents and Liability

If you get into an accident with a driver who you suspect was intoxicated, you might establish their liability for the accident in one of two ways.

The simpler method for establishing liability in a drunk driving accident is asserting a claim of negligence per se. In a negligence per se claim, you allege that the other party’s negligence can be presumed because they injured you in the course of breaking the law. If the other driver is convicted for DUI, you may have the option of making a negligence per se claim.

Alternatively, you can choose to bring an ordinary negligence claim. In an ordinary negligence claim, you allege that the other driver breached a duty of care, and that breach caused the accident and your injuries. While the duty of care expected of all drivers includes refraining from getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol, you would still need to prove that the other driver was intoxicated and caused your injuries.

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, a driver is considered intoxicated if their blood-alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. For a commercial driver, the legal limit is 0.04%.

Proving That a Driver Was Intoxicated

You may have multiple options for proving that the driver who hit you in a car crash was intoxicated, such as:

  • The driver’s arrest and/or conviction for DUI
  • The driver’s breath or blood alcohol test results
  • Eyewitness testimony regarding the driver’s behavior and condition after the accident, including bloodshot eyes, slurring, swaying, or odor of alcohol
  • Eyewitness testimony regarding the driver’s behavior behind the wheel, including drifting out of the lane or off the road, suddenly swerving, or not keeping with the pace of traffic
  • Testimony regarding the driver’s whereabouts and actions prior to the accident, including evidence that the driver was drinking at a bar or restaurant

Injuries Caused by Drunk Drivers

Unfortunately, driving intoxicated can make a motorist more likely to speed and less likely to react in time to try to avoid a collision. As a result, drunk driving accidents often result in serious injuries for those involved, including:

  • Severe lacerations and bleeding
  • Bone fractures
  • Dislocated joints
  • Ligaments sprains
  • Tendon and muscle strains
  • Soft tissue tears
  • Spinal disc herniations
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Head injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Road rash
  • Burns and smoke inhalation injuries from fire
  • Crush injuries
  • Amputations 

Compensation for Drunk Driving Crashes

If you were hurt in a crash involving a drunk driver, you may be entitled to recover compensation for losses that you suffered in the crash, including:

  • Expenses for medical treatment and physical rehabilitation
  • Mental health therapy
  • Long-term care costs required due to permanent disabilities
  • Lost wages or income when you miss time from work during your recovery from the accident
  • Lost future earnings when disabilities prevent you from returning to the workforce
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional trauma and distress
  • Lost quality of life from physical scarring/disfigurement or permanent disability
  • Cost to repair your vehicle or other property damaged in the accident
  • Punitive damages, such as if the driver’s BAC level was 0.15% or greater, they consciously disregarded the risk of driving while intoxicated, and their intoxication caused the accident.

How a Virginia Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Could Help

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver, contact Lynchburg car accident attorney Herbert E. Maxey, Jr. for a free, no-obligation consultation. Learn more about liability in drunk driving accidents and your legal rights and options for recovering financial compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 434-969-4873.

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