DUI: Injuries Caused by Drivers Under the Influence
According to the CDC, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired traffic crashes in 2016 – an average of 29 per day. Alcohol is a factor in nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths. More than a million drivers are arrested each year for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other drugs. Even more frightening are the CDC's collected self-reports of impaired driving, confessing over 110 million impaired driving events per year. Crashes related to drug and alcohol impairment cost the U.S. public $44 billion each year.
Many impaired drivers involved in alcohol or drug-related crashes have been arrested for previous DUI incidents. One examination of Georgia drivers convicted of DUI between 2007 and 2011 showed that fully one-third had a previous DUI arrest or conviction.
Georgia DUI Laws
Most states, including Georgia, prohibit operating a motor vehicle if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Drivers with a BAC at or above this level are automatically considered impaired under the law. Georgia drivers under age 21 are considered legally impaired if they have a BAC of 0.02% or higher; commercial drivers have a limit of 0.04%.
A driver with a BAC under 0.08% can still violate Georgia DUI laws if they are "under the influence" of alcohol, drugs, or other substances and cannot drive their vehicle safely. The prosecution usually relies on driving and field sobriety tests to prove a driver was operating a vehicle while mentally or physically impaired.
In Georgia, DUI can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. Depending on the charge, the penalty can include fines, jail time, and public service obligations. Additionally, the Department of Driver Services can suspend or revoke an impaired driver's license. Multiple convictions and more serious charges will result in more significant penalties.
Recovering Damages in a DUI-Related Auto Accident
If you've been in a car accident caused by a driver who was intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you deserve to be compensated.
Georgia has a victim compensation program available to individuals injured by drunk drivers. This program can provide financial reimbursement for medical and counseling expenses, funeral expenses, and other economic support. However, its awards often cover just a fraction of the losses sustained by the other drivers and passengers involved in an accident.
In a civil lawsuit, injured individuals can pursue compensation for their full damages. This can include quantifiable damages like medical bills, car repair bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. If you have been injured by someone driving under the influence, you may also be entitled to seek punitive damages, a special kind of damage award intended to punish the driver for their wrongdoing and deter them from repeating it. This can increase the amount of an injured person's recovery dramatically.
Third-Party Liability in a Georgia DUI Car Accident
Although the wrongful act of driving under the influence often overshadows the liability of third parties for a DUI-related accident, it may still be possible to pursue alternate channels for recovery. An employer may be liable for negligently hiring or retaining a driver if they knew or should have known the driver was unsafe, for example.
A person injured by an impaired driver may also be able to bring a "dram shop" claim against a commercial establishment (like a bar, restaurant, or liquor store), a private resident, or a social host. This kind of claim requires an injured party to show the provider of alcohol:
- "Willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully" served alcohol to a person under 21 years old.
- "Knowingly" served alcohol to a person who was noticeably intoxicated.
- Knew that the minor or intoxicated person would soon be driving a motor vehicle.
You can recover the same types of general damages in a negligence or dram shop claim as you can in a lawsuit against the impaired driver. However, it can be difficult to actually collect compensation if a driver doesn't have the assets to pay a judgment against them. Commercial establishments that sell alcohol and businesses that employ drivers often have insurance policies or reserve funds that cover these situations.
Hire an Experienced Georgia Car Accident Lawyer
If you've been in an accident caused by a drunk or impaired driver, seek legal representation immediately. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine the best way to pursue a complete physical and economic recovery, including costs for past and future medical care, wage loss, pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages.
The lawyers at The Cooper Firm understand how difficult it can be to put your life back together after an accident involving a drunk or impaired driver. We will be your advocate every step of the way through negotiation, litigation, and resolution of your case.