Despite a decades-long crackdown on drunk drivers, alcohol is still a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Ohio. Alcohol is a depressant and relaxant that clouds personal judgment and impairs motor skills. When people drink at home or in limited social situations, these effects are often pleasant. But when intoxicated or impaired drivers get behind the wheel, the effects are often deadly.
Even if these victims survive these wrecks, they often sustain permanent injuries. So, a Columbus car accident attorney can obtain substantial compensation in these cases. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. As outlined below, a third party is often financially responsible for these damages.
If emergency responders cite the tortfeasor (negligent driver) for DUI, a Columbus personal injury lawyer can use the negligence per se doctrine to obtain the aforementioned compensation. Tortfeasors may be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
The tortfeasor violated the DUI law or another traffic safety law, and
That violation substantially caused injury.
Sometimes, negligence per se is a presumption of negligence, instead of absolute proof of negligence.
The negligence per se doctrine typically applies even if a tortfeasor “beats” a DUI case in criminal court. These issues are common. It’s very difficult to prove DUI-collision cases in criminal court, mostly because the burden of proof is so high.
In either case, victim/plaintiffs need additional circumstantial evidence to obtain maximum compensation. There’s usually a relationship between the amount of evidence in a case and the amount of compensation a victim receives.
There’s a difference between alcohol intoxication and alcohol impairment. Most people are intoxicated after they have three or four drinks. But impairment begins with the first drink. Circumstantial evidence of impairment includes:
Pre-Driving Behavior: If the tortfeasor recently visited an establishment that serves alcohol, it’s more likely than not that the tortfeasor had at least one drink at that establishment. Erratic driving before the wreck, like failing to maintain a single lane, also indicates alcohol impairment.
Physical Symptoms: Bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcohol, and instead balance only prove alcohol consumption. But as mentioned above, consumption and impairment is basically the same thing.
Statements About Alcohol Use: Even if tortfeasors have no serious injuries, they’re usually disoriented and confused. These people will say pretty much anything to emergency responders. If an alcohol use admission makes it into a police report, the admission has additional credibility in court.
The standard of proof in an ordinary negligence claim is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way.
The medical bills and other economic losses in a catastrophic (life-threatening) injury case could be more than $100,000. These losses could be ten times higher in a wrongful death case. More individuals don’t have nearly that much insurance coverage.
Vicarious liability, such as dram shop alcohol provider liability, gives these victims an additional source of compensation.
Generally, commercial alcohol providers in Ohio are vicariously liable for damages if they illegally sell alcohol to a patron who later causes a car crash or other personal injury. Sales to intoxicated individuals are the most common illegal sales. Circumstantial evidence on this point includes the aforementioned circumstantial evidence of impairment. Other illegal sales include underage, after-hours, and unlicensed sales.
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