It is traumatic to be the victim of a serious car accident for all the obvious reasons: physical pain, lost wages, and the loss of enjoyment in your life. For many, dealing with this trauma goes down even more bitterly if the at-fault driver was drunk at the time of the accident.Is Handling a Drunk Driving Case Different from Other Car Accident Claims?
The question of whether handling a drunk driving car accident case is different from any other type of auto tort claim in Maryland depends on whether or not the defendant is disputing liability. If the driver claims that he/she was not at-fault for the accident, any evidence of the driver's intoxication should be admissible to prove fault in the accident. But if the drunk driver concedes liability for the accident, our judges will not allow evidence of the fact that the driver was drunk into evidence in the plaintiffs' case. Obviously, this is maddening for many crash victims because it would seem, at the very least, to be an element of the damages: knowing that your pain and suffering could have been avoided if only the driver had not made the decision to drink to excess and drive. But the Maryland courts do not see it that way.Drunk Driving Passenger Claims
Our law firm has also handled and taken to trial a number of drunk driving accident claims where the drunk driver's insurance company claims they should not be obligated to pay because it was negligent for the accident victim to get in the car with a drunk driver in the first place. These cases are very fact specific but we have generally had a good deal of success in fighting off this claim at trial. (Here is one example that resulted in an $8 million verdict.)How to Prove the Other Driver Was Drunk?
First, there are presumptions under the law that you are drunk if you have a BAC or a drug test that demonstrates you are not competent to drive because you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. So if you have a test that shows a .08 BAC, you are presumed to be under the influence of alcohol §11-174.1 of the Maryland Transportation Article. Still, you often need a toxicologist to explain what this means and the impact it would have on the driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle in the context of the accident that happened in your case. Because there must be some causal connection between the allegedly intoxicated state of the individual in question and his or her behavior. In other words, if a guy gets stone drunk while waiting at a red light and you get rear-ended in an accident, his intoxication is not going to be related to the crash. Sometimes, you can get by without having a toxicologist link it all up but there is rarely wisdom in not having an expert on hand.
There are three Maryland cases you should read if you are faced with this issue:
- Wilbur v. Suter, 126 Md. App. 518, 730 A. 2d 693 (1999). Baltimore City trial court excluded evidence contained in a report from the fire departent that the plaintiff drank several beers before the fire that was the subject of the case. Maryland's intermediate appellate court affirmed this decision and explained that “in order for evidence of intoxication to be admissible is for the proponent of the evidence to demonstrate some causal connection between the allegedly intoxicated state of the person in question and his or her conduct or behavior."
- Mitchell v. Montgomery County, 88 Md. App. 542, 596 A.2d 93 (1991). In this case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals recognized this issue of whether intoxication led to a negligent act or omission
- Quinn Freight Lines, Inc. v.Woods, 13 Md. App. 346, 352, 283 A.2d 624 (1971). The court ruled that mere evidence of intoxication is, in itself, sufficient to show negligence.
In spite of everything we have said, the settlement value of drunk driving claims is just higher. There is a psychology to bringing a claim against a drunk driver. The insurance adjuster, the defense lawyer, no one wants to be a part of the case. Why? Because you can't pretend to be on the side of justice when you represent a drunk. So these cases tend to reach higher settlements.
Accordingly, you want to pound the drunk driving theme at every turn. In the lawsuit, you can use this kind of language:
Defendant was driving way too fast just before the occurrence. If that wasn't enough, he was drunk. He had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .24, well over the legal limit. The Defendant knew that he was drinking and that his ability to operate a motor vehicle safely would be dramatically impaired. He chose to drive drunk anyway. This was a proximate cause of the accident and Ms. White's injuries.Do We Represent Drunk Drivers?
Absolutely not. If you were driving drunk, you have come to the wrong place. Our lawyers absolutely do not represent drunk drivers. We do provide representation to people who were injured by drunk drivers.Hiring Our Lawyers to Handle Your Drunk Driving Accident Claim in Maryland
Our law firm focuses primarily on serious injury motor vehicle traffic collision claims. Many of these claims involve victims who have been harmed or killed by intoxicated drivers who never should have been on our roads. If you or someone you care for has been badly injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free consultation online.Related Information
- County-by-county breakdown of drunk driving arrests in Maryland
- Frequently Asked Questions (from DWI/DUI accident victims)
- Can you get punitive damages in drunk driving cases?
- More thoughts on punitive damages in the drunk driving context
- Take a look at car accident claims in Maryland (an overview)
- Contributory Negligence (foundation of defense in many drunk driving car accident claims in Maryland)
- Does a guilty plea establish negligence?
- Overview and average settlements and verdicts)