Liability Issues In Drunk Driver Crashes
Roughly thirty years after a long-term drunk driver crackdown began, alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in Ohio. That’s roughly the same proportion as it was in the 1980s, right before this crackdown began. Alcohol clouds judgment ability and impairs motor functions. Therefore, people who drink and drive take unnecessary chances and are unable to quickly react if things go sideways.
Alcohol-related wrecks often involve catastrophic injuries. The driver’s loss of control often means that these vehicles are traveling at or near top speed at the moment of impact. So, a Columbus personal injury attorney can usually 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. Columbus personal injury attorneys may use direct or circumstantial evidence to obtain this compensation in court.
If emergency responders arrested the tortfeasor (negligent driver) for DUI, Ohio’s negligence per se rule could apply. Tortfeasors could be liable for the aforementioned damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety rule, and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
The negligence per se rule usually applies in civil court even if the tortfeasor “beats” the DUI in criminal court. These proceedings are completely separate. In civil court. A civil jury decides all the facts, including guilt or innocence on a relevant criminal charge.
A Columbus personal injury attorney doesn’t need additional evidence to prove liability in a negligence per se case. However, additional evidence is relevant to the amount of damages. Generally, there’s a link between the amount of evidence a victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of compensation a jury awards.
This shortcut is more widely available in DUIs than in speeding and other wrecks that involve traffic law violations. Most Franklin County law enforcement agencies have mandatory DUI arrest policies. If there’s evidence of DUI, officers must press charges.
The impairing effects of alcohol, which were mentioned above, begin with the first drink. However, most people aren’t legally intoxicated unless they have three or four drinks. Therefore, many drivers are impaired but not intoxicated. Circumstantial evidence of impairment includes:
- Erratic driving before the wreck,
- Bloodshot eyes,
- Slurred speech,
- Unsteady balance, and
- Slow reflexes.
Individually, this evidence is not particularly compelling. For example, alcohol is only one possible cause of bloodshot eyes. However, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Additionally, the burden of proof in civil court is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s one of the lowest legal requirements in Ohio.
Third Party Liability
A few final words about vicarious liability in alcohol-related wrecks. Commercial providers, like restaurants and bars, are often financially responsible for damages in these cases.
Ohio’s dram shop law applies if these establishments knowingly serve intoxicated people who later cause car wrecks. The same circumstantial evidence listed above, except for erratic pre-crash driving, is admissible on this point.
Connect With a Thorough Franklin County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Columbus, contact the Oliver Law Office. Virtual, after-hours, hospital, and home visits are available.