Drunk Driving Accident Victims (DWI/DUI)
It is a crime to drive under the influence of alcohol or other impairing drugs in Tennessee. There is a presumption that if you drive with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more, you are too impaired to operate a motor vehicle. A drunk driver who causes injuries may be subject not only to criminal proceedings and penalties, but also a civil suit for damages filed by the crash victim. If you are a car accident victim in the Knoxville area, knowledgeable lawyer Mark Hartsoe may be able to help you bring a claim for the compensation that you need.Bringing a Negligence Claim against a Drunk Driver
Ordinarily, a plaintiff in a car accident case must establish four main elements to prove negligence: the defendant's duty, a breach of duty, causation, and actual damages. However, violating the Tennessee criminal statutes that prohibit driving under the influence is considered negligence per se. This means that an accident victim who is injured by someone convicted of drunk driving may not need to prove the usual elements of negligence. Instead, there may be a presumption that the drunk driver was negligent by virtue of his or her intoxication. In that case, the victim will only have to prove causation and damages.
Unlike car accident cases caused by distracted or even aggressive driving, which generally provide only compensatory damages to a victim, he or she can potentially also seek punitive damages from a drunk driver. The punitive damages are intended to serve as a punishment and a deterrent.
Tennessee law favors holding drunk drivers individually responsible, rather than holding bars or other establishments liable for serving the drunk driver under what is called a "dram shop" law. Under Section 57-10-101, the proximate cause of injuries is the consumption of alcoholic beverages, not the sale of them. This immunizes many establishments that serve beer, wine, or liquor from suit.
However, under T.C.A. § 57-10-102 there are exceptions to this general preference. If a plaintiff is able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury of 12 people that an establishment's sale of alcohol to a drunk driver was the proximate cause of a personal injury or wrongful death, and either the drunk driver was known to be under the age of 21 or the drunk driver was obviously and visibly intoxicated at the time of the sale, it is possible to recover damages from the entity that sold the alcohol.
In some cases, it may be appropriate to pursue a bar, restaurant, or retailer. For example, if the drunk driver is not insured, a helpful way to seek the necessary compensation might be to pursue the establishment that knowingly sold him or her the alcohol, the consumption of which directly caused the accident.Contact a Motor Vehicle Collision Lawyer in Knoxville to Pursue Compensation
Drunk driving accidents can be devastating. People who have been hurt by intoxicated drivers in Knoxville or the nearby communities should consult a motor vehicle collision attorney without delay. Even if a drunk driver is not convicted in a criminal trial, it may be possible to hold him or her liable in civil court due to the typically lower standard of proof. The Hartsoe Law Firm can pursue every potential avenue of relief in a drunk driving accident case. For a free initial consultation, call 865-804-1011 or contact us via our online form.