Who is to Blame in a Drunk Driving Accident?

By Peter DePaolis

Injury Lawyers Serving Victims of Drunk Drivers in the Washington DC Area

After an accident involving a drunken driver, you may wonder how you will pay for your medical costs, property damage or the extensive time away from work while you recover. In most cases, you will file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. If that doesn’t work, you may need to explore alternatives, such as a personal injury case.

While the driver obviously caused the accident, are they the party responsible for your injuries? In these types of accidents, dram shop laws might also apply.

What are Dram Shop Laws?

Currently, 43 states, including the District of Columbia, have some form of dram shop law in effect. However, each state has their restrictions and provisions in the law. Some states without dram shop laws include Maryland, Kansas, Delaware, and Nevada.

Under dram shop laws, the retailer who sold alcohol and should have known or reasonably is expected to are aware of their patron has had more than enough alcohol could be liable for a drunk driving accident.

Not all drunken driving cases apply to dram shop cases, but if you suspect that the crash was the result of negligent serving by an establishment, it is best to speak with a personal injury attorney.

How Drunk Driving Affects Your Personal Injury Claim

If you are filing a personal injury claim against an establishment or a person, the intoxication will become an issue. There are various levels of intoxication, and if the driver was over the legal limit, the case might be easier to prove than a driver skirting the lines of the limit.

Regardless, if the driver is over the legal limit or not, if their drinking caused his or her negligent actions, it is important to understand the difference between negligence and cause.

When a driver leaves the bar after drinking too much, he does not notice that the signal turned red. He drove through the red light and caused an accident. In this incident, his drunkenness was not the cause of the accident; instead, the negligent act of running the red light caused the crash. His drinking, however, caused him to act negligently.

Establishing Drunkenness at the Time of the Accident

As the victim of a drunk driving incident, it is in your best interest to see if the driver who caused the crash received a citation or was arrested for a DUI/DWI offense. If so, then that is all the evidence needed to prove your case.

Your attorney needs a copy of the police report to help establish the driver’s intoxication. Typically, these reports are available for a nominal fee from the local police department in just a few days after the accident. If you cannot obtain the report due to injuries, have a friend or family member request it on your behalf.

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney

Proving drunkenness or understanding the complexities of dram shop laws is something best left to a lawyer. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, contact an attorney from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP. We have three locations to serve you or you can request a free case evaluation online.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.