Legal Options In Alcohol-Related Wrecks
Thanks to a decades-long crackdown against drunk drivers, the number of alcohol-related crash fatalities in California has declined since the 1980s. But it is still alarmingly high. Alcohol is one of the most powerful depressants available. It slows motor skills. Additionally, alcohol gives people an inflated sense of well-being. As a result, they take more chances than they ordinarily would. This combination is very dangerous for any driver.
Arguably, alcohol-impaired individuals know they should not get behind the wheel. Furthermore, inexpensive alternatives, such as an Uber, are usually available. Yet these individuals choose to drive anyway. That choice intentionally risks the health and safety of other motorists. As a result, a San Jose car accident attorney can usually obtain substantial compensation for alcohol-related crash victims.
Negligence is basically a lack of care. Most noncommercial drivers in California have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible and drive defensively. Commercial operators, such as the aforementioned Uber drivers, usually have a higher duty of care. These individuals are practically insurers of safe conduct for the passengers in their vehicles.
Consuming alcohol violates this duty of care. Studies show that alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. Evidence of alcohol consumption includes:
- Physical symptoms, such as slurred speech or bloodshot eyes,
- Tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) statements about alcohol consumption,
- Erratic driving prior to the wreck, and
- Tortfeasor’s previous schedule.
The burden of proof in a negligence claim is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest burden of proof in California law.
Here’s how this burden of proof works. If a tortfeasor recently visited a restaurant, bar, or other place which serves alcohol, it’s more likely than not that the tortfeasor had at least one drink there. In this situation, the tortfeasor must affirmatively disprove alcohol consumption, perhaps by producing an itemized receipt which shows no alcohol purchases or producing a credible eyewitness who supports the tortfeasor’s no-alcohol-consumption assertion.
Occasionally, third parties, such as party hosts, are vicariously liable for car crash injuries, under a negligence theory like negligent undertaking.
Negligence Per Se
Ordinarily, California civil law establishes the standard of care in these cases. Sometimes, a criminal law, such as a provision in the Vehicle Code, sets the bar. If that’s true, the negligence per se shortcut could apply in an alcohol-related wreck. Normally, tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a penal safety law, like the DUI law, and
- That violation causes injury.
In some situations, negligence per se is only a presumption of liability. Victim/plaintiffs must introduce additional evidence to prove legal responsibility.
Evidence, like the aforementioned circumstantial evidence, is always important in negligence claims, even if it’s not needed to prove liability. There’s usually a relationship between the amount of evidence presented and the amount of compensation awarded.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Count on an Experienced Lawyer
Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Jose, contact Solution Now Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.