Are Drunk Drivers Always at Fault in Georgia Car Accidents?

Key Points:

  • Even when the other driver is charged with DUI, his or her insurance company may not automatically pay your Georgia drunk driving car accident injury claim.
  • To recover compensation, car accident lawyers who handle drunk driving accidents focus on proving that the intoxicated driver’s negligent behavior caused the accident.
  • It is not enough to prove simply that the driver who hit you was drunk, you or your accident attorney must also prove that the at-fault DUI driver caused the crash.
  • Police officers, expert witnesses, accident reconstruction experts, and doctors are often hired to help you and your personal injury lawyer prove that another driver was drunk and owes damages for your injuries.

Approximately 10,000 Americans are killed each year by drunk drivers and many more suffer personal injuries. Because of this, the State of Georgia has strict laws and penalties aimed at reducing DUI accidents and punishing intoxicated drivers who cause automobile crashes.

This Georgia legal guide may help you better understand your rights and how you can recover maximum compensation for your injuries.

Injury Payment or Settlement in a DUI Crash Case is Not Automatic

Many people simply assume that a driver charged with DUI is automatically responsible for the accident and resulting injuries but, technically, this is not true.

A drunk driver holding a beer by the wheel

A DUI crash will normally result in criminal punishment. However, to recover compensation, Georgia drunk driving accident victims must usually make a civil claim through automobile insurance to recover damages from the at-fault driver.

To recover compensation for a claim, Georgia drunk driving lawyers and victims must focus on proving not only that a driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they must also prove the driver’s negligent or reckless behavior caused the accident.

What Types of Evidence Can be Used to Prove Another Driver was Drunk?

Evidence that the other driver was arrested for DUI can be helpful to a car accident claimant. But, this evidence alone will not prove that intoxicated driving was the cause. There are at least two ways a Georgia driver can be proven to have been under the influence of alcohol. A driver may be found to have a blood alcohol content above the legal limit of .08 BAC or higher, or a driver may be considered “less safe,” no matter the BAC level.

However, even if a driver is intoxicated by blood alcohol level or is deemed less, safe, you or your car accident lawyer must prove that the DUI drive caused the accident. If, for example, you ran a stop sign in front of a drinking driver, the accident might be considered your fault.

Testimony from the arresting or investigating police officer, witnesses who smelled alcohol or saw bottles or cans of alcohol in the defendant’s car, 911 recordings and police body and patrol car cams can all be used as evidence to show that the other driver may have been intoxicated.

Georgia’s DUI Laws Protect Drunk Driving Accident Victims

Georgia has several statutes related to protecting or citizens from drunk driving accidents. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 provides the criteria for determining whether a driver is “under the influence.”

Under the Georgia statute, it is a criminal offense to drive or be in physical control of a vehicle if a person:

  • Has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher,
  • Has a BAC of .04 percent or higher while driving a commercial vehicle,
  • Has a BAC of .02 percent or higher and are under 21,
  • Is under the influence of any alcohol, drug, or controlled substance, or
  • Has any amount of marijuana or other illegal drug in their blood or urine.

Under Georgia’s “less safe” rule a driver can also be charged with DUI even if their BAC is below the specified limit whenever their use of alcohol or other substances makes it “less safe” for them to drive. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391. A driver in Georgia can also be convicted of DUI if BAC meets or is over the legal limit regardless of whether the driving is actually impaired.

If a drunk driver pleads guilty to or is convicted of driving under the influence, this can be used as evidence by you or your car accident injury lawyer that the negligent driver was intoxicated. This may be valuable evidence in proving who was negligent and can lead to enhanced, or punitive, damages in your civil case.

Understanding How Fault or Negligence Is Determined by Insurance Companies After a Drunk or Drugged Driving Crash

Drunk driving causes many accidents because intoxication interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, act quickly, and make responsible decisions. You would think it should be an open-and-shut case. And, often it is.

However, when an injury claim is filed, the at-fault driver’s insurance company often looks for any reason to avoid paying fair compensation—even if their driver was intoxicated. Sometimes that means trying to blame you for the accident. After you file a claim, the insurance carrier may conduct its own “investigation” to look for reasons to deny your claim or make you a smaller settlement offer.

An adjuster or insurance investigator for the drunk driver may contact you in person or by phone to request a “recorded statement.” This may sound innocent enough. However, it is important that you are careful when speaking to or giving a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster or investigator. Any mistake you make, such as apologizing or saying you are “fine” (when you are not fine) just to be polite, can make your case more difficult to settle.

If you are injured, be sure that seek medical care as soon as you can. Insurance adjusters love to argue that if you did not run straight to the emergency room or doctor, “you are not really hurt.” You, of course, know that this is not true. However, delays in seeking medical care can make proving your injuries more difficult.

It is also important that you or your personal injury lawyer gather certain evidence that will help prove your case, and can even make your case more valuable: obtain all the police reports, patrol car camera recordings, and police body-worn camera recordings. Request all 911 calls, before and after the accident. Law enforcement recordings can help prove that the at-fault driver was weaving or driving recklessly before the crash. On-scene recordings can show that the other driver was impaired, such as by recording their slurred speech or that they are staggering or unsteady.

Other records you should gather include the criminal history of the at-fault driver. Does the driver have a history that includes other DUI arrests or convictions? If so, this can be valuable evidence in determining the amount of punitive damages in your case.

Be sure that you cooperate with any law enforcement investigation. It may be best to coordinate your efforts to assist police and prosecutors, such as by responding to subpoenas and speaking with victim’s advocates, through your car accident attorney’s office. If you fail to appear in Court as a witness after being called to do so, this can sometimes help the defendant-driver, and could even result in the DUI case being dismissed or the driver found not-guilty.

In addition to gathering law enforcement records and recordings, most personal injury lawyers will also investigate drunk driving cases by interviewing eyewitnesses and police officers and trying to determine if the drunk driver purchased or was served alcohol at a local business while in a noticeably intoxicated condition. If so, you may have additional claims against the alcohol provider under Georgia’s Dram Shop Act.

Evidence obtained from your own and the law enforcement investigation should be presented to the at-fault driver’s insurance company, as proof of intoxication and negligence. Do not assume that the insurance adjuster will simply cave-in and pay a large settlement because his or her insured driver was intoxicated. Even if the insurance company has done its own investigation, the carrier is most likely to pay the best settlement when you show them you have done your own investigation as well and can prove your case in Court.

Millar Injury Lawyers Can Help With Your Drunk Driving Accident Case Settlement

If you’ve been hurt by a drunk driver who caused a car accident, we can help. Over the past 30 years our attorneys have represented hundreds of your Atlanta-area neighbors who have been injured by drugged, drunk, or intoxicated drivers. Our consultations are free, and we may be able to tell you what your DUI car or truck accident claim could be worth in a fast and friendly telephone call.

Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

- D. Lo

I would highly recommend this firm and staff to everyone, they were great with my case.

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