Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk driving is a violent and senseless criminal act that claims hundreds of lives and devastates many thousands more in Georgia every year. Federal statistics reveal nearly 1 in 3 fatal crashes involve a driver who was drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Stephen M. Ozcomert, drunk driving accident attorney serving Atlanta, is committed to fighting for the rights of drunk driving accident victims and their families and holding accountable negligent motorists.

Because drunk driving is against Georgia statutes, it could be deemed negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law. To further establish liability for the crash, we will need to prove this deviation from the state’s Uniform Rule of the Road proximately (directly) caused the crash that resulted in your injuries. Drunk driving may also be grounds to seek punitive damages, which is compensation over and above your actual losses. Although it is paid to you, it is intended to punish the offender. There is no limitation regarding the amount that can be awarded in punitive damages.

In addition to the drunk driver, we may seek to hold accountable:

  • The owner of the vehicle, under principles of negligent entrustment or family purpose doctrine.
  • The bar or bartender that served the driver alcohol, under Georgia dram shop laws, if the driver was underage or he/she was noticeably intoxicated and it was known he/she would soon be driving a vehicle.
  • A social host who served alcohol to an underage child (social host liability).

Our injury lawyers are committed to carefully examining the facts of your case and helping to maximize recovery from every possible avenue.

Impaired Driving Injuries and Deaths in Georgia

O.C.G.A. 40-6-391 stipulates a person may be charged with impaired driving if they are in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any drug “to the extent it is less safe for the person to drive” or when one’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours of being in actual physical control of the vehicle.

Death by drunk driver is not as common as it was in the 1980s, but it’s still a serious problem – one that, by all measures, we should be making greater headway on given that our cars are getting safer, our laws tougher and awareness higher.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) repots more than 10,000 people are killed in crashes caused by impaired drivers annually. More than 1 million people are arrested annually for crashes involving drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or narcotics – which is only 1 percent of the drivers who self-report episodes of driving drunk every year.

Crashes involving narcotics – particularly marijuana – have been rising in recent years too, as states have legalized cannabis to varying degrees and prescription drug abuse has become more prevalent.

NHTSA from one recent year indicate that 29 percent of all traffic deaths in Georgia involved a driver whose blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.01 or higher. Twenty-six percent had a BAC of 0.08 or above, which is the legal limit in this and all other states.

Nationally, the percentage is 32 percent. One person dies every 51 minutes in a crash involving alcohol.

The annual economic cost of all drunk driving crashes in the U.S. is estimated to be about $132 billion, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Alcohol metabolizes at a rate of roughly one drink per hour. Of course, this is affected by a myriad of other factors, including one’s height, weight, whether they’ve eaten recently and their individual body chemistry. The problem is, far too many don’t know their personal limit before they get behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound machine.

Liability for Drunk Driving

Holding drunk drivers accountable is a top priority at our Atlanta injury law firm. Although we often hear the term “drunk driving accidents,” the reality is there is nothing accidental about the choice to get behind the wheel not sober.

When it happens, the first place to look in terms of liability for damages is the drunk driver. Georgia is a “fault” state, which means drivers are responsible to pay for accidents they cause. The not-at-fault individual will file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance for damages. To collect, a plaintiff must prove the driver in question was at-fault.

State law requires motorists to carry a minimum:

  • Bodily injury liability - $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
  • Property damage liability - $25,000.

Insurers must also offer a minimum of $50,000 in uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, which can be rejected by policyholder. UM/ UIM coverage will provide a safety net in case the at-fault driver is not insured, not identified or lacks enough insurance to fully cover your damages.

If the drunk driver who struck you was underage or had been served alcohol just prior to the crash while visibly intoxicated, we may be able to recover damages from the bar, restaurant or club that served the drinks, per O.C.G.A. 51-1-40, Georgia’s dram shop law. For the dram shop law to apply, plaintiff must show:

  • Bar served, sold or otherwise furnished alcohol to individual;
  • Bar knew or should have known individual was underage or noticeably intoxicated;
  • Bar knew individual would soon be driving;
  • Intoxicated individual caused injury to third party, proximately caused by the consumption of alcohol served by bar.

Georgia also imposes social host liability, per O.C.G.A. 51-1-18. The statute allows custodial parent(s) the right to take legal action against any person who sold or furnished alcohol to that parent’s underage child for the child’s use without permission from the parent.

If the driver was on-the-job at the time of the crash, we might pursue a claim of vicarious liability against the employer. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which is Latin for “let the master answer,” employers can be responsible for the negligent acts of employees acting in the course and scope of employment.

Finally, we may examine whether the vehicle owner (if different from the driver) bears any burden. In general, the federal Graves Amendment passed in 1995 prohibits liability lawsuits against rental car companies for negligent injuries caused by customers unless it’s shown the company’s actions or negligence somehow contributed to the injuries. However, other vehicle owners may be responsible under various direct or vicarious liability theories.

Our drunk driving injury lawyers serving Atlanta can help you determine the best approach.

If you have been injured in a Georgia DUI accident, contact Atlanta Car Accident Attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert at (404)-370-1000.