Recently, a 35-year-old Jennings man entered a guilty plea to drunk driving and traveling at speeds of more than 120 miles per hour before causing a deadly crash in St. Louis. The accident resulted in the death of a 45-year-old man, whose vehicle was rear-ended by the drunk driver. The force of the collision pushed the victim’s car into a concrete barrier, which caused it to overturn and catch fire.
The drunk driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the crash was 0.195, which is more than twice the legal limit.
Each day, drunk driving accidents around the nation kill 29 people, and alcohol impairment accounts for more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities in the United States. The annual cost to society of alcohol-related crashes is around $44 billion, including costs for lost productivity, legal expenses, medical costs, emergency services, insurance administration, and property damage. These deaths are more tragic because they are preventable.
If you were injured or have lost a loved one due to a drunk driving accident, talk to an experienced auto accident lawyer today at The Cagle Law Firm about your eligibility to seek compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
How Does Alcohol Impair an Individual’s Ability to Drive?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol impairment begins to occur after only two drinks. With a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent, individuals begin to have difficulty rapidly tracking an object and experience a decline in their ability to master two tasks at once. At 0.05 percent—about three alcoholic drinks in and still within the legal limit—individuals will also experience reduced coordination, inattentiveness, difficulty steering, and a decline in their ability to react appropriately in emergency driving situations.
By the time one reaches the legal limit of 0.08 percent, which equals about four alcoholic drinks, a person will experience declines in concentration, short-term memory, speed control, information processing capability, and impaired perception. At a blood alcohol content of 0.15, which is about seven alcoholic drinks, a driver would have a reduced ability to maintain his or her lane and to brake appropriately, as well as substantial impairment to vehicle control, attention to driving tasks, and necessary visual and audio processing.
These drinks comparisons vary from person to person and it is never advisable to drive after consuming ANY alcohol.
The alcohol in a person’s system is measured by the weight of the alcohol within a certain amount of blood. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC. BAC is administered either by a breathalyzer or by a blood test. Because a person’s risk of crashing increases substantially when his or her blood alcohol concentration reaches 0.08 percent, it is illegal to drive in any of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. In fact, Utah has decreased its legal limit to 0.05 percent, and other states, including Washington and Hawaii, may soon follow suit.
Profile of a Drunk Driver
While there is no true profile of a person who drinks and drives, as anyone with access to a motor vehicle and alcohol is capable of driving while impaired. According to statistics of fatal crashes over time, there are certain groups of people who have been and are likely to drink and drive. Here are a few examples:
- Men. Male drivers account for around 80 percent of alcohol-impaired drivers.
- Young men. While men between the ages of 21 to 34 only account for 11 percent of the population, they’re responsible for an estimated 32 percent of drinking and driving.
- People who are between the ages of 26 to 29.
- Repeat offenders. Individuals who get caught drinking and driving have typically driven drunk over 80 times before their first arrest.
- Those who are binge drinking, which involves consuming a high number of drinks within about two hours.
It is never too late to change a statistic. Don’t drink and drive regardless of your gender, age or past driving history.
Is Alcohol Impairment a Frequent Cause of Accidents in Missouri?
Alcohol or substance-impaired driving contributed to 21 percent of all 2017 traffic fatalities in Missouri. That year, 198 people were killed and 607 were seriously injured in crashes that involved at least one impaired driver. Additionally, many of the impaired drivers were also under the age of 21. A four-year study from 2013 to 2017 revealed that 76 fatal crashes and 232 serious injury crashes involved an alcohol-impaired driver under the legal drinking age of 21. As a result of these crashes, 99 people lost their lives and 324 were seriously injured.
Missouri’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws include the following provisions:
- If an individual’s BAC reaches 0.08 or higher, no additional evidence may be needed to convict him or her of a DUI charge.
- If an individual is found to have a BAC level of 0.15 or higher, he or she may face an enhanced charge of aggravated DWI.
- As a result of Missouri’s Zero Tolerance Law, individuals who are younger than 21 can be charged with DWI if their BAC is 0.02 percent.
- A first-time DWI offense is considered a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to $500.
- Repeat offenders may face increased jail times and fines. For example, a second-time DWI offender must serve a minimum of 10 days in jail.
- A first-time conviction for a DWI offense may result in the suspension of the individual’s license for 90 days. However, drivers can immediately apply to have their license reinstated for restricted use if an interlock device is installed.
- A second DWI generally results in the revocation of an individual’s license for one year. A second DWI within a five-year time frame could result in the individual losing his or her license for up to five years.
- Those possessing commercial driver’s licenses who are convicted of DWI with a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher are prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle for one year.
- If an individual who is suspected of drunk driving refuses to submit to chemical tests, he or she stands to lose his or her driver’s license for one year.
Is Compensation Available for Individuals Injured in Drunk Driving Accidents?
If you were injured by a drunk driver, you may ask for compensation for your injuries through a third-party insurance claim with the negligent driver’s insurance or—if you’re not offered a fair settlement for your claim—through a personal injury lawsuit. Here are some highlights of Missouri’s personal injury laws:
- To obtain compensation, you must show negligence on the part of the at-fault party. Legal intoxication creates a pretty strong case for negligence. Additionally, you must prove damages.
- To file a lawsuit against a drunk driver and/or his or her insurance carrier, you must do so within five years of the date of your accident.
- If you’ve lost a loved one due to a drunk driving accident, consult an attorney regarding your eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit, which you generally must file within three years from the date of the decedent’s death.
- Some of the compensation you can receive through a personal injury lawsuit includes past and future medical bills related to injuries you sustained in the accident; repair or replacement costs of your vehicle or other property that was damaged; lost wages and loss of future earning potential; costs of hiring someone to do household tasks that you are no longer able to do yourself because of your injuries; permanent disability or disfigurement; and emotional distress.
- There may be more than one liable party in your case. Missouri law can hold bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other establishments liable if they overserve a patron who later causes a drunk driving crash. This is a Dram shop law and is specific to each state. However, evidence must show that the server at the establishment knew that they were serving alcohol to a visibly drunk individual who was likely to drive. An experienced drunk driving accident attorney can provide more information as to whether there are additional parties who you can attempt to hold liable for your damages.
- If you wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit, some of the compensation you may receive includes funeral and burial expenses; medical bills related to the decedent’s final injury; the value of wages that the decedent would have likely earned if he or she had lived; pain and suffering of the decedent just prior to death; and loss of consortium, companionship, or support by surviving family members.
- Wrongful death suits may be filed by family members, including spouses, children, dependent grandchildren, parents, or surviving siblings.
Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving Accidents
The drunk driver who caused my accident died in the crash. Does that mean there is no compensation available to me?
If the driver was insured, his or her insurance policy should still compensate you for the damages you sustained in the crash. Additionally, you can sue the decedent’s estate for damages, though the process is a bit different than a standard personal injury lawsuit. Your attorney can help you better understand this process.
The drunk driver who caused my accident is now in jail. Does this prevent me from seeking compensation?
No. The driver is likely in jail because he or she was convicted of a criminal charge. A personal injury lawsuit is a matter of civil law, not criminal law. A person can face both criminal charges and a personal injury lawsuit.
What if the driver was impaired by drugs instead of alcohol? Do I still have a case?
Yes. Missouri’s impairment laws also cover impairment from illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs.
The drunk driver who caused my accident is under 18 years old. Can I sue them?
You will likely be filing your personal injury lawsuit against the insurance company on behalf of the driver. that provided the policy on the car. If the child’s parents own the car, then you will seek compensation under the parents’ policy. If the minor is the registered owner of the car but has no insurance, you may file the suit against the parents.
If I hire a personal injury lawyer for my drunk driving case, does this mean that the case will definitely go to court?
Not necessarily. While litigation is a possibility with any lawsuit, the large of personal injury lawsuits are settled before they ever go to court. Once your attorney determines the at-fault parties and insurances involved, he or she will begin the process of negotiating a settlement or filing a petition. If the at-fault party’s insurance company fails to settle, then your attorney may file a lawsuit on your behalf. However, there are still opportunities for the case to settle even after you’ve filed a lawsuit. Each case is unique and your attorney will discuss the best way to pursue your claim.
So I have up to five years to file a third-party claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company in Missouri?
No. You must file a claim with the driver’s insurance company promptly, or as soon as possible after the accident occurs. You should have an attorney do this on your behalf. The five-year statute of limitations applies to a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations is the date on or before in which your lawsuit must be filed, so no, you do not want to wait until you are close to the deadline. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide further information about the statute of limitations for your case.
Do I have to hire a personal injury lawyer if I was injured in a drunk driving accident?
No, you do not. However, having a personal injury lawyer working on your case presents the best opportunity to maximize your compensation and receive a settlement that takes into consideration the expenses you have already incurred for your injuries as well as the expenses these injuries will cost you in the future. As in most scenarios, hiring someone who is an expert is the best advice. For instance, you do not hire a plumber to address electrical work in your house. Unless you are a lawyer, you don’t want to represent yourself. And, if you are an attorney, you know you should not represent yourself in order to maximize your claim.
Call Our Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Today
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver or someone who may have been impaired, we would like to help you understand your legal options. Contact The Cagle Law Firm today for a consultation and free case review. You can reach us at (314) 276-1681 or send us a confidential email through our online contact page.