Drunk driving can be incredibly dangerous. When people hear that there was a DUI accident, they immediately place the blame for the crash on the drunk driver. This sort of attitude carries over to the legal ruling in many cases, with DUI having a profound impact on fault and damages in a car accident case.
In Westchester County, if you were hit by a drunk driver, you can usually use their intoxication as evidence of fault. If they are separately convicted of DUI in a criminal case, that conviction can help with your civil case, too. If you had some alcohol in your system, that could actually hurt your case. Additionally, drunk driving cases might also allow you to sue a bar or restaurant that overserved the drunk driver.
For a free review of your car accident case, call the Westchester County car accident lawyers at The Martello Law Firm at (914) 685-6950.
If a Driver Was Drunk, Are They at Fault?
Generally speaking, driving drunk is going to make a driver at fault for a crash. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or a combination of the two) is patently illegal and incredibly dangerous. Usually, fault in a car accident case is based on a violation of a legal duty or a violation of a reasonable safe-driving principle, and drunk driving violates both.
For a driver to be found at fault for a crash, the victim needs to show they broke a traffic law to cause the crash. Alternatively, they can show that they did something dangerous or unreasonable that an “ordinary driver of reasonable prudence” would avoid. Driving with drugs or alcohol in one’s system is a violation of V.A.T. Law § 1192 et seq. It is also unreasonable and would violate what a reasonable driver would do. The same is true of drugged driving.
So long as the drunk driving is actually the cause of the crash, it will usually be sufficient to show the driver was at fault. Our Yonkers, NY car accident lawyers can use this as the main theory of our case to prove that the driver who hit you only did so because they were under the influence.
Proving DUI for a Car Accident Claim in Westchester County, NY
Fortunately, most car accident cases involving a drunk driver do not require the victim to go out of their way to prove the other driver was drunk. Everyday drivers do not usually have access to the power to arrest someone and administer a breath or blood test to scientifically confirm that the driver was under the influence when the crash happened. However, the police do. In many DUI accident cases, the driver will be arrested and charged, and then we can piggyback off that conviction and have it help us in your civil injury cases.
Criminal and civil cases are separate. The government charges and prosecutes crimes against defendants, seeking to punish them for what they did. At the same time, the victim of a case can sue in civil court to seek damages against the defendant in a separate process that can run alongside any criminal case.
Usually, when there is a criminal conviction on record, we can get a record of that conviction and use it as evidence that the defendant did what we accuse them of doing. Since the burden of proof is higher in a criminal case – the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard – and a judge or jury already found the defendant guilty, we can simply introduce that into your civil case as proof that the driver was indeed drunk. From there, we merely need to prove that their drunkenness was what caused the crash.
However in some cases, the case will not result in a conviction, the charges will be dropped, or a plea deal will be arranged. When that happens, we will need to go through the process of proving that the other driver was drunk as part of your civil injury case. We may be able to use testing evidence the police collected as well as the officer’s testimony about the driver’s slurred speech, slow reactions, and odor of alcohol. Your own observations can also be used as evidence.
Even if a criminal conviction failed, a civil claim can still succeed because the burden of proof is lower in a civil case.
The Victim’s Drunk Driving as a Contributing Factor in a Car Accident in Westchester County
As mentioned, the driver who is drunk is usually at fault for a crash. If you had some alcohol in your system, the court might find that you were at fault instead of the other driver. If you were both intoxicated to some degree, then the court could find partial fault for each of you.
Even a small amount of alcohol in your system could be enough to find you partially at fault. Courts can usually assign partial blame to each driver, reducing the victim’s damages by the percentage of fault they shared in causing the crash. For example, if the court finds that your beer at dinner made you 15% at fault for the crash, then you would only receive 85% of the total damages from the other driver.
Suing Bars and Restaurants for DUI Accidents in Westchester County
New York has a “dram shop act” – a law that allows people hurt by drunk drivers to sue the establishment that served them alcohol. A.B.C. Law § 65 makes it illegal to sell or give alcohol to anyone who is “visibly intoxicated” or under 21. G.O.B. Law §§ 11-100 and 11-101 give victims of drunk driving a right to sue establishments that violate those rules. These laws have a big effect on your car accident case by potentially bringing in additional parties as defendants if there was a bar or restaurant that overserved the driver who hit you or served a driver under 21.
Call Our Westchester County Car Accident Lawyers Today
For help with your car accident case, call (914) 685-6950 for a free case evaluation with the Peekskill, NY car accident lawyers at The Martello Law Firm.