People intoxicated by drugs or alcohol can’t safely drive vehicles. They’re also breaking the law and should be arrested and convicted because they’re more likely to get into accidents and are a hazard to anyone else on the road. Car accident injury cases are built around negligence claims, and someone who gets behind the wheel while impaired is clearly negligent. There’s also another cause of action that may apply when a law’s broken
If you’re injured in an accident, call The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. You shouldn’t suffer because someone felt they could get drunk, drive, and get away with it.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is a legal theory that’s the basis of a lawsuit against a party that made a serious error that caused the accident. For a successful case, you’d need to show:
- The defendant (the party sued) owed you (the plaintiff) a legal obligation or duty (to do or not do something given the circumstances)
- The defendant failed that obligation or breached that duty
- That breach or failure was the factual and legal (or proximate) cause of the accident and your injuries
- The defendant must pay you damages (a measurement of your harm in dollars) under Kentucky law
Not every mistake that causes harm is the result of negligence. But if the driver is convicted of breaking the law and caused the accident, that can be used to show the defendant is liable for your injuries in a different kind of legal claim.
Can a Person Guilty of a Crime Be Sued for Damages?
Negligence law has developed over the years when judges made decisions in accident cases. This is known as common law. There’s also statutory law based on laws passed by state legislatures. In the case of someone convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), you can use statutory law as a basis of your claim.
Kentucky statute KRS 446.070 states:
“A person injured by the violation of any statute may recover from the offender such damages as he sustained by reason of the violation, although a penalty or forfeiture is imposed for such violation.”
Kentucky statute KRS 189A.010(1) states:
“A person shall not operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in this state:
(a)Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more as measured by a scientifically reliable test or tests of a sample of the person’s breath or blood taken within two (2) hours of cessation of operation or physical control of a motor vehicle;
(b)While under the influence of alcohol;
(c) While under the influence of any other substance or combination of substances which impairs one’s driving ability…”
Using someone’s criminal conviction to show they’re to blame for injuries is known as negligence per se. It applies if the other driver violated a statute and you are in a class of people the statute intends to protect. In this case, DWI laws are to protect the safety of others on the road.
Most DWI charges are resolved through a plea bargain. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to the DWI charge, or a lesser violation, in exchange for an agreed upon, lesser punishment. If this happens, even if there’s no DWI conviction, there’ll probably be a conviction of another traffic-related offense like reckless driving, which can also be used in a negligence per se case.
Will the Driver’s Insurance Company Cover Injuries Caused by Someone Committing a Crime?
Car accident injury lawsuits are driven by insurance coverage. If there isn’t a policy that may cover damages in a case, we probably won’t take it. Most people without insurance don’t have enough assets to cover the damage and even if they do, they may seek bankruptcy protection to limit how much they need to pay. As unreasonable as insurance companies can be, without them a case may not be worth the effort.
Insurance provides financial protection in case of accidents. Auto coverage policies normally have exclusions for criminal acts, and DWI is against the law. The defendant’s policy should cover you anyway because even if the person broke the law, he or she didn’t intend to get into an accident.
Insurance coverage has limits on what it will pay, whether the driver is drunk or not. If you suffer severe injuries and the driver’s insurance is only for the legal minimum, it probably won’t be enough to cover your damages. This is a reason why you should purchase as much uninsured/underinsured driver coverage as you can. This allows you to file a claim with your carrier to cover you if the other driver’s coverage is maxed out.
Have You Been in a Car Accident in Elizabethtown and Need an Attorney?
If you are injured in a car accident and need a lawyer, call The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We’ll talk about the accident, your injuries, the law, and your best options to proceed. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.