Court Rules Drinking & Driving Did Not Bar Recovery for Collision on an Unsafe Road


September 23, 2013

Sometimes drivers who are injured in car accidents presume that they cannot bring a legal claim for financial compensation because they assume that they were at-fault.  While insurance companies routinely contend that unsafe driving by an injury victim was a factor in causing a collision, this does not necessarily mean that someone who is seriously injured in a car crash is without a legal right to financial compensation.  A recent decision by the state’s highest court in another jurisdiction provides compelling evidence that car accident injury victims should always seek legal advice following an accident when they suffer injury even if they believe they might have caused the crash.

The Supreme Court in the State of Washington recently ruled in favor of two injury victims after it had been established that both the driver and the passenger who suffered injury had been drinking.  The court found that the injury victims had the right to make a claim against the public entity based on the road being unsafe, despite their consumption of alcohol prior to the collision.  The court concluded that the two vehicle occupants suffered far more serious injuries because a utility pole was located to close to the roadway in violation of safety regulations within the state.  The court reasoned that the parties may not have struck the pole with nearly as much force if it had been located the required minimum distance from the road.

Although the drivers had been consuming alcohol prior to driving, a public entity still has a legal obligation to provide roadways that are reasonably safe and free of hazards.  The regulation requiring a safe distance between the roadway and utility pole provided evidence of the anticipated potential danger.  The fact that the driver and passenger had been drinking did not automatically relieve the government entity of liability for the hazard which may have led to more devastating injuries.  While we certainly strongly encourage drivers to abstain from consuming alcohol before driving, the point is that the determination of fault for causing a car accident can be murky and complicated.

While the outcome of the case might have been different had there been evidence that the driver was actually impaired, drinking prior to driving or riding with someone who has been drinking does not necessarily prevent one from recovering damages.  The insurance company for the defendant in a case like this one can certainly be expected to argue that the driver was impaired and that such impairment was the cause of both the accident and the injuries suffered by the vehicle occupants.  However, our experienced Atlanta car accident attorneys have obtained financial compensation for many clients faced with the allegation that our client was negligent. 

If a driver of a vehicle is determined to have violated a traffic safety law or otherwise have driven unsafely, this can result in a smaller recovery but it will not necessarily preclude obtaining a settlement or verdict.  If you or someone close to you has suffered serious injury or a loved one has died in a car crash in Atlanta or the surrounding vicinity of Georgia, you should seek legal advice even if you think you may be at-fault.  Our Georgia motor vehicle accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast. 

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.