Who Is Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident?

Posted On January 17, 2022 Car Accidents
Determining Fault for Drunk Driving Accidents | The Flood Law Firm

Nearly one-quarter of car accident fatalities in Connecticut in 2020 involved drinking and driving. As such, driving under the influence is the single-largest cause of deadly crashes in the state, resulting in 74 deaths in 2020 alone.

Drunk driving upends people’s lives. Victims of accidents caused by drunk drivers may suffer severe, life-altering injuries. Families who lose a loved one to an intoxicated driver are often never the same.

You have rights after a drunk driving accident. If you were injured or lost a loved one to the recklessness of a driver who was under the influence, you may be entitled to compensation. However, the drunk driver may not be the only liable party in your claim.

It is crucial to understand all of your legal options after a drunk driver accident. Contact The Flood Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.

When Are Drunk Drivers Liable for Car Accidents?

The most obvious negligent party in any car accident claim is the driver of the other motor vehicle. This is especially true if the at-fault driver has been drinking.

Alcohol intoxication has a number of negative effects on the ability to drive, including:

  • Blurry vision
  • Reduced spatial awareness
  • Slower reaction times
  • Lapses in judgment – drunk drivers are more likely to take chances or fail to recognize potential hazards
  • Fatigue – drunk drivers may fall asleep behind the wheel

In the event of an accident, drunk drivers are vulnerable to both criminal and civil liability. Legally, driving under the influence is defined as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Although this is the legal limit of intoxication for criminal DUI offenses, the drunk driver does not have to have a BAC of 0.08% to be held liable for damages in a civil suit.

Drinking and driving is an inherently negligent act. Presenting evidence that the driver who caused the car accident was intoxicated (even if his BAC was below the legal limit) can improve the likelihood of a favorable outcome in your case.

The following can help you build a claim against the drunk driver:

  • Your impressions of the driver: If the driver slurred his words, was stumbling, or – perhaps the most telltale sign of all – smelled of alcohol, it is important to inform law enforcement at the scene. You should also tell a lawyer what you observed as soon as possible.
  • Eyewitness testimony: Witnesses to the accident may agree with your impression that the driver was intoxicated. Your attorney can speak to witnesses on your behalf, ask the right questions, and use their testimony to strengthen your claim against the drunk driver.
  • Police report and test results: The police report may include details concerning field sobriety testing of the other driver and any citations issued or arrests made for driving under the influence. Officers may also administer a breathalyzer test and/or test the driver’s blood or urine for signs of intoxication. An experienced lawyer can obtain copies of these reports and test results on your behalf while investigating the accident.

It is also important to determine how and where the driver became intoxicated prior to the auto accident. Witnesses at bars, restaurants, and other establishments may be able to testify as to how much the driver had to drink, as well as his or her behavior before getting behind the wheel.

This testimony is crucial for proving that the driver was visibly intoxicated. It may also open another avenue for you to pursue compensation after the accident.

Are Bars Liable for Drunk Driving Accidents?

Connecticut has implemented a Dram Shop Act that enables those injured by an intoxicated individual to take legal action against the establishment that sold the person liquor: “If any person, by such person or such person’s agent, sells any alcoholic liquor to an intoxicated person, and such purchaser, in consequence of such intoxication, thereafter injures the person or property of another, such seller shall pay just damages to the person injured.”

Liability of the seller is limited by the Dram Shop Act to $250,000 in damages to an injured individual or $250,000 in total if there are multiple victims. In addition, establishments that serve alcohol cannot be held liable on the grounds of negligence alone. The claimant(s) must prove that the seller engaged in “wanton and reckless conduct in furnishing alcoholic beverages to another.”

Potential evidence of “wanton and reckless conduct” on the part of the seller may include:

  • Continuing to serve alcohol to a patron who is physically incapacitated by liquor; potential signs may include falling asleep at the bar, blacking out, loss of control of bodily functions, difficulty walking, loss of hand-eye coordination, etc.
  • Serving alcohol to a patron whose judgment is impaired – an intoxicated individual may talk about engaging in dangerous activities, insist on driving home despite having too much to drink, etc.
  • Serving alcohol to a patron whose behavior is unruly – the intoxicated individual may yell at, insult, or threaten staff and customers; sexually harass others; become physically violent; etc.

Eyewitness testimony is essential for proving that the establishment was reckless in serving alcohol to the visibly intoxicated person. Witnesses can testify as to the drunken behavior of the patron, as well as the misconduct of the owner and/or the staff in continuing service (such as failing to cut off a customer who is incapacitated or belligerent).

Dram shop liability claims are subject to special legal procedures, including a requirement to notify the seller of your intent to sue within 120 days (in the case of personal injury) or 180 days (in the case of wrongful death). An experienced lawyer can assist you with all aspects of your claim, from giving the required notice to collecting evidence to taking action on your behalf against all liable parties.

Contact a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today

Holding a drunk driver accountable for a motor vehicle accident is not always as easy as it seems. Without prompt investigation, witness recollections may fade, evidence may be lost, and tests that prove the driver was intoxicated may not be performed.

At The Flood Law Firm, our car accident attorneys start working on your case immediately. We determine how the accident occurred and who is responsible, then pursue the compensation you deserve.

Many law firms lack the knowledge, resources, and investigative acumen to take on cases involving complex liability. Attorneys at The Flood Law Firm are well-versed in the complexities of dram shop liability claims, and we are committed to maximizing recovery on behalf of our clients. Our results speak for themselves.

Please call The Flood Law Firm at (860) 346-2695 today for a free case review. Our lawyers represent those injured in drunk driving accidents and other types of collisions in Middletown, Bridgeport, Danbury, Waterbury, and all of Connecticut.

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