What Are the Personal Injury Implications of Drinking and Driving?

Despite adequate warnings, educational programs, public awareness, and more severe penalties for drinking and driving, there are still people who choose to drive their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. Although some drivers who drink and drive cause minor fender benders, others cause more serious crashes that end in severe injuries or death to others.

When drivers decide to drink alcohol and then drive, they endanger other road users with their impaired driving skills and judgment. If a drunk driving accident severely injured you, or seriously hurt or killed a loved one, you are well aware of the terrible price that innocent people must pay due to the mistakes of a drunk driver.

Who Can I Hold Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident?

In most cases, drivers who injure others while driving drunk are legally liable for the resulting damages.

In some cases, however, other parties may also share liability for the accident. For example, if a driver is in a car that somebody else owns, the owner may bear partial liability for the accident under the legal principle of negligent entrustment. This may apply when the vehicle owner knew or should have known that the driver had a drunk driving history or was already impaired but still let them drive the vehicle anyway.

Commercial drivers who drive taxis, trucks, rideshare vehicles, delivery trucks, and other vehicles are also liable for drunk driving incidents they cause. Additionally, their employers may also share liability for the negligent acts of their drivers. For instance, if the employer knew or should have known that the driver had a history of drunk driving but still hired the driver, the employer may be vicariously liable for the driver’s actions.

Furthermore, social hosts and bar owners may be held responsible for a drunk driving accident if they are found guilty of serving alcohol to a clearly intoxicated person and then letting that person drive.

Drinking and Driving Can Lead to Devastating Injuries

Drivers who drive while drunk behave in reckless and unpredictable ways that significantly increase their risk of getting into accidents and harming others. They become distracted easily, lose control of the vehicle, and drive at excessive speeds. Likewise, since alcohol impairment reduces a person’s reaction times and physical abilities, this diminishes the driver’s ability to drive defensively and take preventative measures to avoid crashes.

In fact, a report by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center found that motor vehicle collisions are the top cause of spinal cord injuries. Additionally, people who survive catastrophic motor vehicle accidents usually suffer from spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and other life-altering injuries. As of 2020, approximately half of the 18,126 TBI patients that the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems National Database study monitors suffered injuries from motor vehicle crashes.

Drunk driving accidents result in life-changing injuries that may necessitate lifelong treatment.

Victims will have to endure physical impairments, pain, and various lifestyle changes as a result of catastrophic injuries, such as:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Paralysis
  • Nerve damage
  • Spine and disc injuries
  • Severe burns
  • Traumatic amputations
  • Crushed bones and multiple fractures
  • Internal organ damage
  • Extensive scarring

Damages Injured Victims Can Recover for Drunk Driving Accidents

Personal injury law enables injured victims to recover economic damages and non-economic damages to compensate them for losses.  Examples of noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life and disfigurement. Economic damages cover financial losses the victims incurred due to their injuries.

These can include:

  • Lost earnings for time out of work
  • Medical bills, including emergency services, doctor and surgery services, diagnostic procedures, hospitalization costs, medications, rehabilitation, physical therapy, assistive devices, and other medical services or treatments needed to treat the injuries
  • Lost earning capacity in case the victim’s injuries cause permanent disabilities or diseases that render them unable to work or earn what they earned before getting injured
  • Property damage, including the cost to replace or repair the vehicle you were operating when the drunk driving accident happened
  • Burial and funeral costs, in case of wrongful death

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are damages that are difficult to assign an exact dollar value to  because these compensate injured victims for the ways their injuries have affected their life.

These usually include:

  • Emotional distress
  • Physical suffering and pain resulting from the injuries and the pain linked to medical treatment
  • Loss of life enjoyment if the victim’s injuries prevented them from doing things that they previously enjoyed before getting injured
  • Loss of companionship, which translates to the loss of intimacy with a spouse. This can also apply to the loss of relationship with a child if the victim was a parent
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Permanent disabilities and impairments
  • Permanent disfigurement or scarring
  • Mental anguish and issues such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression, among others

In addition, if a drunk driving accident claim proceeds to trial, juries may award exemplary or punitive damages to claimants as punishment for the liable party. Take note that punitive damages do not pay for the negative effects and expenses of a victim’s injuries but punish the defendant for particularly negligent and reckless behavior.

How Much Compensation Can I Receive from a Drunk Driving Accident Claim?

Robert Bohn

Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer, Robert Bohn

How much money an injured victim can recover will vary from one case to another because of the unique circumstances of each drunk driving accident. To determine how much you can recover, consult an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer to review your case.

During the review, the lawyer will take into account:

  • All the accident-connected expenses you’ve incurred to get an estimate of your economic damages.
  • Your specific pain and suffering damages and how the accident has affected your life.
  • The severity and nature of your injuries.

Motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers can cause incredible trauma to innocent people. If you sustained injuries in a drunk driving accident, contact a skilled car accident attorney to learn about your legal options.