Phoenix Drunk Driver Injury Attorney
Legal Representation for Drunk Driver Accident Victims
Injury or death caused by drunk driving can be the most upsetting of all types of personal injury case. The fact that an innocent victim has suffered severe or fatal injury due to someone else’s irresponsibility often outrages members of the community as well.
At Breyer Law Offices, P.C., our Phoenix car accident lawyers aggressively pursue claims against those who drink irresponsibly as well as the nightclubs, bars, and restaurants that improperly serve them. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has stated that 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving accidents in 2012. Although laws cannot replace loved ones, they do help by providing a means of recovery for victims and their families.
Arizona’s Drunk Driving Laws
In Arizona, it is illegal to get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. Individuals must be below this limit for at least two hours before driving or being in control of a vehicle. When a driver has a commercial driver’s license or CDL, the blood alcohol level must be 0.04% or below.
It is also illegal to operate a vehicle if you are impaired in any way. This means that while your blood alcohol level could be below 0.08%, if you are still impaired, you cannot legally drive or otherwise operate a car or other vehicle.
A person under the legal drinking age (21) who has been driving under the influence of any amount of alcohol could be convicted of breaking the law; and if a lawsuit is filed, that conviction could serve as evidence of wrongdoing.
Drugged driving is also a crime in Arizona. This most often falls under the category of driving under the influence. In Arizona, it is illegal to drive with any illegal drug in your body. Nowadays law enforcement has the resources to prove that a person is under the influence of drugs, just as they do with alcohol.
Criminal vs. Civil Cases
When a person breaks Arizona’s drunk driving laws and causes an accident, it is likely that he or she will be arrested and have criminal charges filed. After an arrest, that person may have to appear in criminal court and be prosecuted by the state’s attorney. He or she may face jail time and will likely be given fines.
A personal injury claim, by contrast, is filed in civil court. These claims simply allow injured parties to claim compensation for the injuries they sustained. If the defendant is ordered to pay reparations for damages, these are not fines; they are simply making up for the expenses, and pain and suffering, that the plaintiff endured as a result of the car accident.
Claiming Insurance vs. Personal Injury
When an individual is injured in a car accident that involved a drunk driver, he or she has several options. The injured person can file a claim with an insurance company, or file a personal injury claim.
Arizona is an "at-fault" state, meaning that one driver can, and in most cases, will, be assigned all or the majority of the blame in a car accident. When the at-fault party is determined, injured parties can then go through the at-fault driver’s insurance in order to claim accident benefits, such as repairs to a vehicle. This is significantly different than the no-fault system many other states use, in which each involved person needs to go through his or her own insurance company to claim benefits.
A personal injury claim is different from benefits provided by an insurance company. When people file these suits, they may take the at-fault party to court for things such as medical expenses, lost wages from being unable to work, and expenses for any repairs needed for their vehicles.
Many times, accident victims want to know whether or not they can claim punitive damages in a personal injury case involving drunk driving. The answer is yes; by law, punitive damages can be claimed; but they are incredibly difficult to get. A good lawyer will know best how to get you the most compensation available.
Proving Negligence in a Drunk Driving Case
In cases that involve negligence, the plaintiff, or the person filing the claim, must be able to prove that the person being sued was negligent. This can be done with toxicology reports, but not always. In cases where a toxicology report is not available, it can be helpful if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant:
- Had red or glassy eyes
- Had slurred speech
- Smelled like alcohol
- Had been driving negligently such as driving too slowly, weaving between lanes, driving on the wrong side of the road, speeding, or running traffic lights or stop signs
Often, having eyewitness accounts can help prove negligence. And while victims are able to sue the drunk driver under general negligence laws, in many cases, the drunk driver is either uninsured or underinsured and does not have enough assets to support a lawsuit.
Dram Shop Liability
Even if there’s no way to regain financial loss from the drunk driver, there are often ways to pursue recovery against the person or establishment that provided alcohol to the drunk driver. People who serve alcohol can be liable under Arizona state law for damages that result from the consumption of alcoholic beverages. (A.R.S. § 4-311.) Liability can be obligatory under either set state laws ("dram shop acts") or under general negligence law. Dram (or "liquor") shop acts are laws that entail legal responsibility for the carelessness of sellers of alcohol in selling to people who are under the legal drinking age or are clearly intoxicated. (A.R.S. § 4-311.) A bar, restaurant, or liquor store can be held responsible for destruction caused as a result of this alcoholic consumption if it sold alcohol to an underage individual or someone who was clearly intoxicated. (A.R.S. § 4-311.)
Legal responsibility can also be attached to "social hosts." A social host can be anyone who is serving alcohol in a social environment like a house, a party, or even a work function. The social host is not obligated to monitor guest’s alcohol consumption unless he or she can reasonably notice a problem and stop it. However, in the state of Arizona, the social host cannot be held liable, unless alcohol was served to an underage individual who then hurt or killed somebody. (A.R.S. § 4-301.)
Talk to the Attorneys at Breyer Law Offices, P.C.
It is vital that all measures be taken in a timely manner to protect evidence, investigate the accident in question, and allow doctors or other expert witnesses to carefully assess any injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered because of an accident involving a drunk driver, CLICK HERE to submit a Simple Case Form.
Your first consultation with one of our Phoenix drunk driver injury attorneys will be free of charge, and if we take your case, our work will be done on a contingency basis, meaning we only get paid if you are awarded money or recover funds. Don’t wait! You could very well have a legitimate claim and be entitled to reimbursement for your injuries, but the claim needs to be filed before the expiration of the statute of limitations.