Alcoholic beverages are common in social settings. But drinking quickly becomes a problem if a person decides to drive. Among car accidents in the United States, a tragic portion of them are due to the intoxication of one of the drivers in the accident.
Alcohol affects virtually every faculty needed to operate a vehicle safely. Someone who drives drunk is more likely to hit other motorists and pedestrians. Because of the driver’s impaired state, they are less likely to take evasive maneuvers to lessen the impact of an accident, which often means more severe injuries.
Someone who drinks and drives may face criminal consequences. However, at the same time, victims can seek compensation from the drunk driver to cover their accident expenses and impacts. You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after a drunk driving accident to understand your legal options.
How Alcohol Impairs Driving
Every person reacts to alcohol differently, and the effects can take more time to appear for some people than others. Regardless of how much someone has been drinking, they should not get behind the wheel. Any amount of alcohol can negatively impact a person’s ability to drive and increase the risk of an accident.
Alcoholic beverages slow reflexes, such that a driver might not react quickly or at all to changes in the road. An impaired motorist might not process when you brake suddenly in time.
Alcohol can also impair vision. After even a couple of drinks, one’s sight may become blurry, and one can lose peripheral vision. The vision impairments alone create a risk of serious injuries, especially for less visible road-users, like pedestrians at crosswalks. An alcohol-impaired driver can't accurately judge the distance between cars or to road signs.
Alcohol also raises the amount of a specific stimulant in the brain, which elevates impulsiveness and lowers inhibitions. A driver is more likely to make reckless decisions as a result. Any amount of alcohol can affect your ability to concentrate. Many drunk drivers start to feel drowsy as well. These effects can happen at any level of impairment, but become worse with increased alcohol in a person’s system.
The Legal Limit for Blood Alcohol Content
In the United States, a standard drink is the equivalent of 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. You could find this in 12 ounces of beer or five ounces of wine. Of course, the beverage and number of drinks determine how much alcohol concentration you consume.
Eventually, the number of drinks will put you over the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit, and driving could result in criminal penalties. Each state sets its own BAC, and the limit could also vary based on age or occupation. Most states adhere to a BAC limit of 0.08 percent if the person is over the age of 21. The maximum BAC differs for persons under 21 and commercial vehicle drivers. If an impaired person is pulled over by law enforcement, they will normally be required to take a blood alcohol test or a Breathalyzer to determine if they are above the legal BAC limit.
You should review the laws of your state to know the legal limits. And if you were in an accident with an impaired driver, you should work with your attorney to find out what their BAC was at the time of the accident, as this can help you establish your compensation claim.
The Penalties for Drunk Driving
Each state has different laws for DUIs and penalties. Common consequences include fines and jail time. A person could pay $400 or $1,000, and a prison sentence could last 90 days or several months. Many states have harsher penalties for repeat offenders.
A drunk driver could face a driver’s license suspension or revocation as well. Revocation or the duration of a suspension depends on the state and the number of offenses.
While most DUI charges occur on a state level, some are federal. If you were in an accident with a drunk driver on federal land, the drunk driver might need to appear in federal court. The penalty could be a fine of up to $5,000 and up to six months in prison.
Damages From a Drunk Driving Accident
You have the right to file a claim for compensation if you were a victim of drunk driving, referred to in legal language as damages. You can get damages for the period in which you are unable to work while recovering from your accident injuries. If your injuries will cause you to lose future income, you could receive compensation based on an estimate of what those future lost earnings will be.
Damages may also include current and anticipated future medical bills. Some people require continuous rehabilitation for severe injuries, which can add up to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars over a person’s lifetime.
You can also recover damages for non-monetary impacts, like pain and suffering. An accident with an intoxicated driver and the aftermath is a traumatic experience that can leave victims with psychological and emotional harm, like PTSD.
Some drunk driving accidents, tragically, result in a person’s death. If you lost a loved one to a drunk driving accident, you could recover damages for such things as loss of income, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Your vehicle can sustain serious damage in a drunk driving accident, and can easily be totaled. You should have a mechanic look over your car to make sure it is safe to drive and to address any issues. You can seek compensation for any necessary repair or replacement of your vehicle.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
While you may expect a drunk driver to fess up and pay, this doesn’t always happen. Furthermore, their insurer might fight against paying you the full amount you deserve. A lawyer can help prove the drunk driver’s liability so you are not left responsible for expenses from an accident that was not your fault. Your attorney can investigate to discover critical evidence about how the accident occurred, such as by tracking down a Breathalyzer test that police took of the other driver at the accident scene.
With an attorney by your side, you can rest assured you have a professional at your side to handle insurers and see to it that the drunk driver's insurance company treats you fairly. Your lawyer can collect evidence and demand an insurer negotiate a fair settlement.
If you were injured or lost a loved one in an accident with a drunk driver, do not hesitate to contact a drunk driving accident attorney near you for assistance.