The Thanksgiving holiday is a time to spend with family and friends. This also means a time of social gatherings that frequently involve alcohol. Unfortunately, many people will improperly decide to drive after consuming alcohol. Because of this, the National Safety Counsel estimates that over 400 people will be wrongfully killed and almost 50,000 seriously injured in car crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Statistics from the Center of Disease Control also show that over 10,000 people are killed each year in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, which is almost one-third of the total traffic-related deaths in the United States.
In our State of Colorado, over 1,700 of those deaths were caused in drunk driving car accidents. Thousands more were seriously injured in those Colorado drunk driving car accidents. If you or a loved one were seriously injured or wrongfully killed in a car accident, call our Colorado Springs car accident lawyer to learn how we can help recover compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, lost earnings, medical bills, wrongful death, and other damages.
Proving a Drunk Driving Car Accident in Colorado
Generally, personal injury victims will prove their claim by asserting a negligence claim against the defendant. Drunk driving car accidents are no different in that regard. But drunk driving accident victims will also be able to use a powerful vehicle and traffic law statute to help them prove their case against a drunk driver.
Common Law Negligence
First, like all car accidents, victims will assert a common law cause of action for negligence against the defendant. Common law is judge-made law, or law that as evolved over the decades of court rulings and public opinion. Negligence is the breach of a duty which causes damages to another. A motorist will be negligent when he or she fails to use reasonable care in the use and operation of his or her vehicle that causes injuries to another. Driving drunk or otherwise impaired will almost always result in a breach of this duty to use reasonable care. This means that a victim may be able to recover compensation where he or she proves that the defendant-motorist was intoxicated which caused the car accident.
Statutory Violation of DUI/DWAI
Second, drunk driving victims will also be able to assert a statutory-based cause of action for negligence per se against the defendant. The doctrine of negligence per se allows a personal injury victim to automatically prove negligence against a statute-violator who causes damages that the statute seeks to prevent against a person that the statute seeks to protect.
In Colorado the applicable statute is Colorado Revised Statute (CFS) section 42-4-1301. This section governs driving under the influence and driving while impaired with excessive alcohol content. Under subdivision (1)(a), “[a] person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle under the influence of alcohol . . . commits driving under the influence[,]” which is defined as “driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol . . . that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” This section requires that a defendant-motorist be intoxicated to a substantial degree after the crash, which can be more difficult to prove in the intoxication is borderline. Motorists who fail sobriety tests or are clearly intoxicated will satisfy this section, but it can be more difficult for a personal injury victim to prove.
However, the definition of driving intoxicated is broader under subdivision (1)(b) which lowers the threshold to “driving while ability impaired.” This is defined more favorably for a personal injury victim, and is “driving a motor vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol . . . that affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, and due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” Personal injury victims are able to use this section easier to prove that their car accident was caused by a driver who has been intoxicated and even slightly unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. The fact that there was a drunk driving crash just establishes this section was violated as “safely operat[ing] a motor vehicle” would include avoiding crashes and driving sober.
Furthermore, if the police or hospital staff are able to obtain a BAC of the defendant-motorist, subdivision (2)(a) provides that “[a] person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle when the person’s BAC is 0.08 or more at the time of driving or within two hours after driving commits DUI per se.” This section allows a personal injury victim to also prove his or her negligence per se claim if the defendant’s BAC was 0.08 and the defendant causes the Colorado drunk driving car accident. This is because the defendant will already have been automatically deemed a drunk driver under the statute by virtue of his or her BAC. This is a strong tool for a personal injury victim to use in proving his or her claim.
Victims of a Colorado Drunk Driving Car Accident Should Call the Colorado Springs Car Accident Lawyer at the Springs Law Group
Drunk driving is a preventable cause of a car accident, but all too often results in serious personal injuries. In the worst cases, a family may be faced with the untimely death of a loved one. If you or a loved one has been serious injured or wrongfully killed in Colorado due to a drunk driver, please know that our law firm can help you in this difficult time. Our compassionate and knowledgeable lawyers will answer your questions and review your claim. If we accept your case, we will conduct a full and thorough investigation to get you the relief you need. This is all free of charge, and you will only pay us if we recover compensation for you.