The combination of alcohol or drugs and driving can be lethal. Every year, thousands of avoidable accidents happen because of driving under the influence. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 28 people die daily in car accidents involving alcohol, which is about one person every 52 minutes. The most unfortunate fact about these accidents is that they are completely preventable.
In this article, we’ll talk about how a motor vehicle accident is different for both the inebriated driver and the other driver(s) involved when alcohol or drugs have played a role. If you have been in an accident, call our auto accident lawyers today at (602) 345-1818, or fill out our online contact form. You can also text us to set up a free initial consultation.
We have accident lawyers in Arizona and New Mexico.
Is the Other Driver Automatically Liable for the Accident?
An intoxicated driver is not always liable to pay for the other party’s damages, but their intoxication behind the wheel does come into play when it comes to determining fault. In most vehicle accident claims in Arizona and New Mexico, the key issue is determining who was at fault. Fault determines whose insurance company is financially liable to pay for the damages incurred as a result of the accident. The legal world determines fault by analyzing three parts:
- Duty – When an individual gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, they have an obligation to operate it with reasonable care for as long as they are driving the vehicle.
- Breach – When one breaches the established duty of care, they’ve acted carelessly or unreasonably, resulting in damages or injury to another.
- Causation – A defendant’s breach of his duty of care must be directly linked to the injuries and damages that resulted.
How the Other Driver’s Intoxication Comes into Play
While the defendant’s decision to drink and drive does not automatically secure a lawsuit win for the plaintiff, it will factor in to prove the duty and breach elements of fault. The argument that a defendant did not practice reasonable care behind the wheel after choosing to drive drunk is a compelling one.
In Arizona and New Mexico, proving the defendant violated the legal doctrine of “negligence per se,” will show that they breached their duty of care. This doctrine states that if a person injures another while breaking the law, negligence exists.
While the first two parts of determining fault are generally covered when a drunk driver is involved, proving causation may be difficult under some circumstances. For instance, in the case of a rear-end collision, the car in the back is generally always determined to be at fault. This means that the state of the driver in front would be immaterial. In the case that a drunk driver ran a red light, which caused the collision, the drunk driver would clearly be at fault. If it’s proving to be difficult to determine liability in the accident, the fact that the other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be enough to persuade a judge or jury that the intoxicated driver was at fault.
Every accident is different. It’s advisable to consult an accident lawyer in Arizona or New Mexico about the specific facts of your case.
What If You Were the Drunk Driver?
If you were the drunk driver, depending on where liability is determined to lie, you may still be able to receive compensation for damages incurred. This is because both Arizona and New Mexico adhere to Comparative Negligence, which allows at-fault parties to receive a percentage of damages determined by the percentage of fault they played in the accident. However, there are exceptions to this rule if you are in an accident while driving under the influence. In Arizona, pursuant to ARS §12-711, you cannot receive damages if you are proven to be under the influence, and, as a result of that influence, were at least 50% liable for the injuries you sustained.
The information above is for civil cases. If you have been in an accident while driving drunk, there may also be criminal consequences to your actions, which will depend on your state.
Proving the Other Driver Was Drunk
If you suspect the other driver was under the influence, mention it to the responding officer on the scene. Often, the intoxicated driver will be put under investigation while on the scene. The officer may perform a field sobriety test or use a breathalyzer. If the officer believes the other driver is drunk or their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level was over the limit, he may arrest the other driver. You will be able to find a record of the driver’s arrest in the official police report. You may also be able to find the BAC level at the time of the accident/arrest.
There are a few other pieces of evidence you and your accident lawyer may collect to prove the other driver was under the influence at the time of the car accident:
- Eyewitness reports
- Photographs and video of the scene; if you can do so safely, capturing video evidence of the drunk driver at the scene may come in handy later
- Photos of your injuries
- Medical records and bills that show the level of your injuries
- Photos of vehicle damage, damage to surrounding objects (signs, guardrails), skidmarks on the road, indentures in the ground, etc.
There are several reasons to investigate the intoxication of the other driver, including helping to determine liability, proving other parties may be liable (the bar, restaurant, or convenient station that sold the driver alcohol), and determining the extent of the damages you were caused by the drunk driver.
Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
Proving liability may be tricky, depending on the facts of your case. If you’ve been in an accident with a drunk driver, it’s advisable you team up with an experienced accident lawyer. To schedule a free consultation with one of our accident lawyers in Arizona or New Mexico today, call or text us at (602) 345-1818. You can also fill out our quick and convenient online form, and we will reach back out to you to set up your free consultation.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a drunk driver in New Mexico, call or text Impact Legal at 505-386-2807.