Driving under the influence (DUI) is illegal in every state. So, anyone who’s convicted of a DUI will face penalties that might include fines, jail time, and license suspension. But when a DUI involves an accident, the driver may also be liable for injuries and property damage that result.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol doesn’t mean you’re automatically at fault for an accident. It’s entirely possible for the cause of the accident to be unrelated to the driver’s intoxication.
For a driver to be found liable for injuries or property damage resulting from an accident, the party seeking payment must prove the intoxicated driver was at fault. Legal fault has three components:
In the context of driving, the “duty of care” basically means drivers are required to always operate their vehicle with reasonable care. A “breach” of that duty would simply mean the driver did something—or failed to do something—that was unreasonable or careless. Finally, “causation” is established by proving a direct link between the breach of care and the injuries or property damage.
Some states have “negligence per se” laws that alter the equation. In these states, the duty of care and breach are automatically established by proving that the driver violated the state’s DUI laws. So, in states that have negligence per se laws, the party seeking damages just needs to prove the defendant was guilty of driving under the influence and causation.
If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, you should get in contact with an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. The consequences of a DUI can be severe, especially when the offense involved an accident. A qualified DUI lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and advise you on how to best handle your situation.