Who is Responsible for a Drunk Driving Accident?

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A closeup of a bartender's hand over a counter, offering a drink, and another hand refusing it and hovering over car keys.If you have been involved in an accident, the first thing you should do is call the police. When they arrive, they can test the driver’s blood alcohol content to determine if they were legally drunk at the time of the crash.

Intoxicated drivers are usually the ones responsible for causing the collision.

The driver whose negligence caused the accident is the one responsible for compensating the victims for their injuries and other damages. Negligence is proven when:

  • The driver owed a duty of care to the other people involved in the accident
  • The driver breached this duty of care
  • The breach of care caused the accident
  • The victims suffered damages as a result of the breach of care

When someone chooses to drive while intoxicated, they are breaching their duty of care to everyone else on or around the road. As long as this negligent and reckless behavior is proven, the drunk driver is legally responsible for the collision and the subsequent consequences.

North Carolina has a contributory negligence rule that prohibits anyone who played a part in causing the accident cannot collect compensation for damages.

This rule may seem fair until you realize that someone who was only 1% at fault is not able to claim any compensation from the driver who was 99% at fault.

This is why the collection of evidence is so important. There must be proof that the drunk driver was solely responsible for causing the collision.

Is a Bar Responsible for a Drunk Driver?

There are times when a bar can be held responsible for a collision caused by a drunk driver. According to the Dram shop laws in North Carolina, bar owners and their employees must not serve alcohol to an intoxicated or underage individual.

North Carolina has a specific law, N.C.G.S Section 18B-305, that prohibits the sale of alcohol to intoxicated individuals.

This law states that it is “unlawful for a permittee (bar owner) or employee or for an ABC store (liquor store) employee to knowingly sell or give alcoholic beverages to any person who is intoxicated.” The trouble with this law is that it is difficult to prove criminal intent.

How would the bartender know that the person was intoxicated, especially if there were multiple drinks served to a group where the driver drank the majority without the bartender’s knowledge?

There are many scenarios where the bartender and certainly the bar owner could not have been aware of the level of intoxication of the driver or that person’s intention to drive.

Responsibility of Permit Holders

In order for an establishment to receive a permit to serve alcohol, the permittee must accept the responsibility of refusing service to an intoxicated customer.

The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission issues the permits and enforces the laws upon the permittees. They provide control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption, and possession of alcoholic beverages within North Carolina.

The permit holders are responsible for educating their employees about the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of preventing customers from becoming intoxicated before driving.

How Do Servers of Alcohol Reasonably Know When Someone Is Drunk?

Dram shop laws are in place to discourage servers of alcohol from acting irresponsibly and knowingly over-serving alcohol to people they know are planning to drive afterward. This law is supposed to decrease the number of drunk drivers on the roads.

There are several signs of impairment bartenders and other servers of alcohol look for when determining whether or not somebody is intoxicated.

  • Slurred speech.
  • People who have become uncommonly loud, bragging, arguing, swearing, or complaining.
  • Physical coordination changes include spilling, clumsiness or unsteadiness, carelessness, bumping into tables, clumsiness with money, and unsteady walking.
  • Behavior changes, including anger, sullenness, withdrawal, or excessive happiness.

How much blame can really be given to bar owners and their employees? True responsibility rests on the driver who deliberately got behind the wheel of their vehicle while drunk, but there are times when employees at the bar could have prevented an accident.

In these cases, it is possible to seek compensation from the bar.

Determination of Who Is Responsible for a Drunk Driving Accident

Your drunk driving accident lawyer from Tatum & Atkinson will investigate the cause of your accident. We investigate every aspect surrounding the collision to determine what happened and who was negligent.

  • Police Report – One of the most important parts of your case is the police report. The police officer that comes to your accident documents what happened and gathers evidence from the scene. They record the BAC of the drivers involved, and anything else they feel may be needed later on.
  • Breathalyzer Results – The driver takes the breathalyzer test or has a blood test to determine their blood alcohol content. These tests will show whether the driver was over the legal limit of 0.08 at the time of the crash. The results will be included in the police report and are crucial evidence for proving that the driver was drunk at the time of the accident.
  • Witness Statements – Your lawyer will find statements from witnesses who are willing to testify that the driver was drunk at the time of the collision. These statements will also prove who was actually driving the vehicle in case there are any attempts at denial later. Other witnesses will be able to testify that the driver was visibly drunk while leaving an establishment such as a bar or restaurant.
  • Video Footage – Your lawyer will also collect any video footage of the accident from nearby businesses or homes with outdoor cameras. The videos will show not only what happened but who was driving and how they were acting after the collision.
  • Photographs – The police and your lawyer will take photos of the accident scene. They will include the damages that were caused. You can help, too, by taking pictures of your injuries to prove how serious they were in case they are healed and fade before you go to trial.
  • Accident Reconstruction – There are specialists who can reconstruct your accident so that your lawyer can prove that the other driver was drunk and that they caused the collision that left you injured and caused your damages.

Car accidents are usually caused by the impairment of the drunk driver.

Alcohol reduces a driver’s ability to judge the distance, speed, and movements of other vehicles. It disrupts their ability to focus visually and mentally and substantially decreases reaction times.

Alcohol can also cause drivers to fall asleep while driving or to mistakenly use the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal. There is a good reason why driving drunk is illegal, and that reason is because driving drunk is dangerous.

This is a proven fact that cannot be argued due to the overwhelming amount of evidence and statistics.

Call North Carolina’s Heavy Hitters to Get the Compensation You Deserve

Our team of lawyers at Tatum & Atkinson is serious about getting our clients the best settlement possible as fast as possible. We do not leave you waiting to wonder when we will get to your case.

We know you need your compensation now, and we fight hard to get it for you. Call us right away at (800) LAW-0804 for your free consultation to get the process started after your drunk driving accident.