After an accident with a drunk driver, you may feel as though proving liability should be easy. After all, you can clearly see that the other driver was intoxicated, and that intoxication should make it very easy for you to move forward with a claim.
Unfortunately, a drunk driving accident may not be as straightforward as you think. In order to establish liability in a drunk driving accident, the injured driver will need to prove that the drunk driver’s actions caused the accident.
While sometimes, this is relatively easy, in other cases, even when a drunk driver hits a car, they may still not have directly contributed to the circumstances that caused a serious accident, which could leave another party liable.
Is the Driver Truly Inebriated?
Sometimes, a theoretically drunk driver, even one who displayed all possible signs of inebriation at the time of the accident, might not actually have been drunk. A driver who appears drunk may actually have several other conditions.
A driver who suffers from a traumatic brain injury during the accident may appear to be drunk when he gets out of the car. He may appear confused or disoriented, stumble around, or have a hard time holding a conversation. Patients with brain injuries may even vomit or collapse when trying to move around the accident scene following the incident.
Low Blood Sugar
Diabetics with very low blood sugar may slur their speech, stagger around, or seem to be disoriented or aggressive. Sometimes, low blood sugar may look much the same as inebriation. In fact, diabetics with blood sugar problems may even have a “drunk” smell on their breath. However, they will not blow a positive breathalyzer test or have any signs of alcohol in their blood if they take a blood test.
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How Do You Know If the Drunk Driver Bears Liability?
In order to establish whether the drunk driver bears liability for the accident, you will need to check the same things you would in a normal car accident: did the drunk driver’s behavior lead to the accident? That could include a variety of potentially dangerous behaviors that drunk drivers often display behind the wheel.
Drunk drivers often show a lack of cognitive reasoning that can cause them to drive very recklessly. Frequently, drunk drivers will speed, cut off other drivers, or drive very aggressively. Due to inebriation, they may lack the reasoning skills to acknowledge that the other drivers around them could be placed in danger by those accidents, or that they could cause a serious accident due to their behavior.
Obvious Speed or Braking Errors
Drunk drivers often have a hard time safely controlling their vehicles, and potentially engage in potentially dangerous behaviors. They may travel too fast for the posted speed limit or, conversely, travel much slower than the posted speed limit, often because they do not want to appear inebriated to any observers – most obviously police officers. Inebriated drivers can prove very unpredictable on the road, which makes it more difficult for other drivers to avoid accidents with them.
Inebriated drivers may also have trouble with braking. They may brake far too early, which can make their behavior unpredictable and make it harder for other drivers to maintain a safe distance, or they may brake too late, or too sharply. Sometimes, that means the drunk driver causes an accident with the vehicle in front of him. Other times, it may mean that a drunk driver stops so abruptly that the vehicle behind him plows into him.
Trouble Maintaining Lane Control
Drunk drivers may swerve around the road, slipping in and out of their assigned lane of traffic and bumping into other lanes. Because of that poor lane control, drunk drivers can cause serious sideswipe or head-on collisions. Drunk drivers may also have a hard time turning safely, causing them to strike a pedestrian, cyclist, or vehicle in another lane before they regain control of the vehicle.
Trouble Observing Events Around Them
Inebriation interferes with vision in a number of ways. First, it often causes tunnel vision or blurred vision. Second, it can interfere with reaction times, which means that even if the drunk driver sees something, like a pedestrian in a crosswalk, he may have a hard time reacting to it. As a result, drunk drivers can cause severe accidents due to failure to respond.
Can the Other Driver Be Held Liable If Not Convicted of a DUI?
Sometimes, it does not matter whether the other driver was drunk at the time of the accident. What matters is that the other driver committed an act of negligence or an error on the road that led to the accident.
That means that even if the other driver does not face a criminal conviction for driving while intoxicated, you may still have the right to pursue compensation for damage to your vehicle and for any injuries that you sustained in the accident. While in some cases, judges may assign punitive damages – compensation for the accident assigned directly to the drunk driver as a punishment for the accident – the drunk driver’s conviction should, in general, have relatively little impact on your claim through the insurance company.
A drunk driving conviction may help serve as proof that the other driver caused the accident and make it easier for you to pursue compensation. However, even if the other driver was not intoxicated or if something goes wrong that prevents the driver from being convicted, such as a problem with the chain of evidence or the way the evidence of drunk driving was collected, it should not prevent you from filing a claim against a driver whose clear negligence caused an accident.
An Attorney Can Help
If you suffer injuries in a drunk driving accident, a drunk driving accident lawyer can help you assess your right to compensation and file a personal injury claim. Contact Pacific West Injury Law as soon after the accident as possible to learn more about how you can pursue compensation.