Are Drunk Drivers Always at Fault in a Crash?

Everyday drivers get behind the wheel despite the fact they are under the influence of alcohol. This scenario creates a high risk situation for the driver as well as other drivers and pedestrians who they come into contact with. Drinking and driving is a prevalent problem in the United States; approximately 16,000 people die each year in a drunk driving related car crash. Driving under the influence is a serious offense and comes with serious consequences such as the loss of your driver’s license, fines and fees, and even jail time.

But is the impaired driver always at fault in a drunk driving related car crash? Believe it or not, no. It is possible that individuals who drive under the influence may encounter partial responsibility or may not have any legal liability whatsoever. 

Who Is at Fault?

The most important issue is finding out who is at fault and who will be held responsible for personal injuries and property damages. If you are in a car crash where the other driver has a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit, just proving that this driver was legally drunk does not automatically prove they are at fault.

The truth is, a person’s blood alcohol content may or may not have been the main factor of the crash, and proving that someone was impaired will not guarantee you will win a lawsuit. 

Here are some examples of when a driver under the influence may be responsible for a car crash:

  • Imagine a crash where a drunk driver is stopped at a red light, and the driver of the car behind them is too distracted to notice the line of stopped traffic. That distracted driver rear-ends the drunk driver, bringing the police to the scene. Although the drunk driver might be arrested by the police for driving under the influence, it’s unlikely they could be held responsible for the accident.
  • A drunk driver kills a pedestrian after being overserved at a bar, the family of the pedestrian may file a wrongful death case against that establishment, not the driver. Although the driver will inevitably be in serious legal trouble, they may not necessarily be held responsible for the crash, but the establishment who served the drunk driver will be. 
How To Prove Negligence

Duty of Care

Obviously, to be at-fault in a collision, someone has to be driving a car involved in the crash. As a driver of a motor vehicle, you have a duty to demonstrate reasonable care anytime you operate a motor vehicle. You are obligated to take reasonable measures to avoid hurting anyone or destroying property.

Breach

Has the driver carried out an action that knowingly put others in harm's way? Most people consider drinking and driving to be a breach of a duty. People know it’s dangerous and demonstrative of reckless or irresponsible behavior.

Causation

Being behind the wheel of a car, even if intoxicated, isn’t enough to be liable in a crash. There needs to be evidence they did something illegal in addition to being under the influence.

Injuries & Damages

The crash must result in another person being injured or having property damaged. 

Proving Liability 

Since a driver’s intoxication alone isn’t enough to prove negligence, the breach, causation, and injuries or damages resulting from those components have to be tied together.

Contact Us

Crashes involving a drunk driver happen daily and each of these incidents are different. At Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. our team of attorneys specialize in car crash cases. If you or a loved one has been victimized by a drunk driving related crash, contact us today. 


Sources: 

https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/auto-accident/drunk-driver-automatically-at-fault.html

https://pb-law.com/2021/01/19/are-drunk-drivers-always-at-fault-in-an-accident/