Drunk drivers cause nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities nationally, or about 10,000 people each year. It’s surprising this figure isn’t higher when you consider research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates there were 112 million trips made by drunk drivers in 2010 alone.
We know persons injured by drunk drivers – or survivors of those killed – may seek compensation through the impaired driver’s insurance company or against the accused himself. In fact, personal injury judgments stemming from drunk driving cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, like many other kinds of debts. The law takes it pretty seriously.
But what if you are the drunk driver, and you were injured? In most cases, you may have a difficult time securing any significant recovery for damages in Florida unless you can prove your intoxication was not a major factor in the crash. For example: You were impaired, but the other driver ran a red light and caused the crash. Perhaps the other driver was impaired too.
Our Broward County accident lawyers know in these situations, comparative fault would come into play. That is, the court would consider to what extent your impairment contributed to the crash. When both drivers share part of the fault, neither is barred from recovery, but damages may be reduced by the percentage of fault. So in the aforementioned example, a jury may award the impaired driver $100,000, but find the impairment contributed 40 percent to the crash, meaning he or she would only be eligible to collect $60,000.
Still, it can be tough to prove intoxication didn’t play a factor in a crash. This was recently the issue central to Giles v. Eagle Farms, Inc. This was a workers’ compensation case, where the impaired driver in a single-vehicle crash sought compensation – including medical coverage – for injuries sustained in a work-related accident.
In Idaho, where this case was heard, the law holds workers injured on the job can’t recovery for those injuries if intoxication was a primary factor in causing the injury.
Here, a worker was returning from a job around 3:30 a.m. after being called out to repair a sprinkler system. With a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.11 percent, he drove his vehicle more than 120-mph in a 50 mph zone around a sharp curve while reported sending a text and not wearing a seat belt. He was ejected from the vehicle and sustained serious injuries.
This driver had a lot of risk factors happening here, and there was no question he was negligent. However, the issue of whether he could collect workers’ compensation damages hinged on whether his impairment was central to the crash.
He presented testimony from an expert witness who opined the speeding and texting – particularly the speed – where the more significant factors in the crash, compared to his impairment. However, an expert witness for defendant company asserted alcohol impairment would have slowed response time to such a degree it was a primary factor in the wreck.
Ultimately, the Idaho Supreme Court sided with the employer, finding alcohol was central to the crash and therefore, the driver’s injuries were not compensable.
Drunk drivers who are injured face an uphill battle when securing any form of compensation. Still, it’s worthwhile to consult with an experienced lawyer to explore all potential options.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Giles v. Eagle Farms, Inc. , Nov. 28, 2014, Idaho Supreme Court
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