Are Drunk Drivers Always At Fault
Are Drunk Drivers Always At Fault
As we continue discussing drunk driving accidents in Virginia, one question that is not always asked is are drunk drivers always at fault when they are involved in an accident? There are many different causes of car accidents, and in alcohol related crashes it’s easy to think the impaired driver must be responsible. While driving under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offense in Virginia, (a class 1 misdemeanor) that doesn’t automatically mean that the drunk drivers are at fault in an accident.
In motor vehicle accidents, finding out who is at fault and will be held responsible for personal injuries and property damages is the most important issue. If you are in an accident where the other driver has a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit, just proving that this driver was legally drunk doesn’t automatically prove they are at fault. For example, if the drunk driver was waiting at a red light and was rear-ended by someone who was sober, the accident would still be the sober driver’s fault. It is a common misconception that drunk drivers are always at fault.
In Virginia, when determining who is at fault in an accident, there are three main factors that are looked at. Number one is duty of care, which means that one party owed the other a duty of care and should have taken steps to avoid hurting others while driving. The second factor is breach, meaning the care of duty was breached when the driver doesn’t act as a responsible person when driving their vehicle. And the third factor is causation, which means that the plaintiff must show a direct link between the breach of care of the defendant and the injuries or damages.
If you are hit by an impaired driver, showing that this party was legally intoxicated will help you argue and prove that at least duty and breach were broken. The defendant did not exercise duty of care because they were driving drunk. Showing that this party was in breach of the DUI laws with a bac at or above the legal limit will satisfy both the duty and breach requirements. In determining causation, the impairment of the driver is not necessarily the deciding factor.
With causation, other factors can be involved in determining if a drunk driver causes a car accident. For example, as we talked about in our earlier example, in a rear end crash, the driver behind is almost always at fault. Even though the driver in front could be drunk, it is irrelevant in most cases. But in other accidents, like when a drunk driver hits another vehicle while traveling the wrong way on a road, the impairment of that driver is the clear cause of the accident.
There are always other considerations as well. In some accidents, even when a driver has violated Virginia DUI laws, you can be found responsible or partially responsible for the accident as well. When this happens, and despite the fact that you believe your injury was caused by the impaired driver, it can impact the recovery you can seek for general damages and the amount of punitive damages you believe should be awarded as compensation for your injury.
In general, anytime you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver there is a good chance that they will be found at least partially responsible and maybe completely to blame for the accident. Because no two accidents or injuries are the same, everything depends on each case. These criteria are crucial in any accident injury case and can impact the amount of compensatory damages that injury victims and their families receive, even in wrongful death cases.
If you are one of the innocent victims that is injured each year due to the negligence of a drunk driver, Virginia law allows you to seek punitive damages if three criteria are met. The first is that the drunk driver registered a 150 bac or above. The second is at the time of drinking alcohol the driver knew or should have known that their ability to drive was impaired, and lastly that the driver’s intoxication was a legal cause of the personal injury to the victim.
If you’re not an attorney, reading and understanding Virginia’s complex personal injury laws and their implications is not easy. Many of these statutes describe detailed legal concepts that aren’t widely known. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident that you believe was caused by the negligence of a drunk driver, you should immediately seek the help of one our experienced accident injury attorneys. This is often one of the first and most important decisions you will make.
At Randall J. Trost, P.C., we have been one of Virginia’s leading accident injury & wrongful death law firms since 1982. Over the past three decades we have dedicated our practice to providing help for drunk driving injury victims and their families. In some instances, drunk driving accidents result in the worst possible outcome, where innocent victims lose their lives, leaving family members and next of kin faced with seeking the help of a wrongful death lawyer and filing a wrongful death action.
If you or a loved one are injured by a drunk driver in the state of Virginia, we want you to know that our team of compassionate and highly skilled attorneys are ready to help. We will guide you through the entire legal process, so you can focus on your recovery. We never charge any upfront fees, so you only pay if we win. If you would like our help, contact us today to schedule a free, no obligation case review, and experience the Randall J. Trost, P.C. difference. you’ll be glad you did.