Some of the most devastating accidents are those involving drunk drivers. Unable to reason or rationalize, drunk drivers speed, swerve, run red lights, and perform other illegal maneuvers that endangers themselves and all others – other drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists included. In Indiana in the year 2014, there were 5,538 drunk driving-related crashes involving drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .01 percent or higher. While .01 is well below the legal limit of .08 percent, the fact that this many alcohol-related crashes occurred highlights the fact that any amount of alcohol (or other impairing substance) in the blood stream is dangerous when driving.
Proving fault in a drunk driving accident is often straightforward – assuming that the other driver’s BAC was tested at the time of the accident, the BAC evidence can be used to hold the other driver liable for damages.
Drunk Driving: Criminal vs. Civil Cases
It is important to note that the burden of proof that is required in a criminal case is different than is the burden of proof in a civil case. While a driver found to be drinking and driving will almost certainly face criminal charges, culpability in a criminal case is based on proving the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, however, there is a much lower standard, known as “the preponderance of the evidence.” This latter standard simply means that you must prove the the driver did something negligently, or unreasonably irresponsible, and that this negligence was the cause of the accident, and subsequently your injuries. As such, you do not need to prove that the driver was intoxicated past the legal limit (.08 percent); rather, you just need to prove that the driver was intoxicated or operating their vehicle negligently.
The other difference between a criminal and a civil case is that the the criminal case is brought forth by the state, and will have criminal penalties, i.e. license revocation, jail time, fines and fees, interlock ignition device. Civil cases, on the other hand, are brought forth by a plaintiff, and do not carry any criminal penalties. Further, a criminal conviction does not mean that a person will be found guilty in civil court and vice versa; both types of courts are completely independent from one another.
Finally, another aspect of accident involve drunk drivers that you should consider is this: in certain cases, a third party may be held partially liable for your injuries. Per Indiana law, a person who “furnishes an alcohol beverage” to another may be held liable for any injuries caused by that person in the event that:
- The person who furnished the alcohol beverage gave the beverage to a person who was visibly intoxicated; or
- The “intoxication of the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was the proximate cause of the death, injury, or damage” of the plaintiff.
Your attorney can help you understand dram shop laws, and whether or not they apply in your case. If they do, recovering a compensation amount that fully pays for your losses may be easier, as there will be multiple parties against whom to file a lawsuit.