When a person becomes injured or worse, passes away, as a result of a driver who chose to drink and then attempt to drive, the surviving family members have the right to pursue financial compensation. While no amount of money can ever replace the life of a beloved family member, as with any wrongful death, financial compensation does provide a measure of stability and assistance in easing the burden of funeral expenses, final medical bills, and lost wages that may have been earned over the course of the victim’s life–this compensation provides for the lives of their loved ones. This is why, after a drunk driving tragedy, retaining legal counsel to assist with filing a civil liability action in order to obtain damages is extremely important.
The legal consequences that surround drunk driving accidents and the injuries as well as wrongful deaths that they cause can range from large fines and suspended licenses to serious prison time–each case is unique. Drunk driving accidents often cause the most harm to any passengers in the vehicle and other motorists on the road than they do to the drunk driver. This is because it’s scientifically proven that the alcohol coursing through an intoxicated driver’s system prevents the body from becoming rigid during a collision, preventing many common injuries that occur during a motor vehicle crash.
Probable Cause, in brief
It’s important to know that while we will not delve into the criminal aspect of drunk driving within this particular article, based on the results of what’s known as a BAC test (a Blood Alcohol Concentration test), “probable cause” does come into play.
Probable Cause has is easily defined, and should be well understood when one becomes the victim of an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident. Probable Cause means an officer cannot arrest a motorist without reasonable suspicion to first administer the standard Blood Alcohol Concentration test. After this, if the results conclude that the motorist in intoxicated, the probable cause is then given to the police to make an arrest based on the motorist driving under the influence. At this point, they can then be charged with a DUI.
As we explained in-depth in Civil Liability in DUI Driving Accident Cases: A Personal Injury Point of View: Probable Cause does not directly concern the area of Personal Injury Law as there is a criminal aspect to such litigation, however the principle itself (the arrest of a motorist who caused serious bodily harm or even the death of a passenger in their vehicle, or of another motorist, or pedestrian due to their reckless behavior), can be indispensable when the injured victim or their family retains legal counsel.
A Board Certified lawyer will certainly want to know whether Probable Cause was a factor (and that attorney will know exactly what to do with such pertinent information)!
The legality of BAC testing
When it comes to pursuing litigation on behalf of an injured victim or a victim who passed away as the result of a drunk driver’s reckless, careless behavior on the road, the question of the Blood Alcohol Level of the driver behind the wheel, thusly responsible for the accident, will come into play. While this is also a criminal (“defendant”) aspect that must be dealt with, it will certainly play a part in the Discovery phase of Personal Injury litigation on behalf of the injured party (the “plaintiff”).
To refresh, Discovery in litigation simply means:
The entire efforts of a party to a lawsuit and his/her/its attorneys to obtain information before trial through demands for production of documents, depositions of parties and potential witnesses, written interrogatories (questions and answers written under oath), written requests for admissions of fact, examination of the scene and the petitions and motions employed to enforce discovery rights.
It’s important that victims, their loved ones, and their legal counsel involved in drunk driving accident litigation thoroughly research the laws surrounding Blood Alcohol Testing in the state the accident occurred. As each state has different–or no laws regarding BAC testing at all–it’s also important that accident victims seek experienced legal advice from a trusted and reputable lawyer who has not only “seen” alcohol-related cases, but has taken them to trial–and won.
There are two types of Blood Alcohol Testing:
- Mandatory BAC: some states require any motorist or passenger who dies as a result of a drunk driving-related accident to have a BAC. According to government websites providing this information, only half the states in the country have this requirement.
- Discretionary BAC: Many states have what’s known as “discretionary” Blood Alcohol Concentration testing. This leaves the testing decision up to the medical examiner or other state official overseeing the case.
As The Law Resource is based in South Florida, we can share that the state of Florida does not have specific BAC laws, and thus it is a state that leaves any testing requirements up to law enforcement and state officials who are placed in charge of the case. However, as we previously discussed, if an officer on the scene of an accident has reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired and/or under the influence of alcohol, they may use their professional discretion to require the driver to submit to a BAC.
If we make the decision to ignore a situation in which someone we’re with and care for drinks and drives because they insist they are “fine”, we, ourselves, could become liable (responsible) for any accident that occurs if they end up behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, motorcycle, or boat. If that drivers causes bodily injury or is the cause of a fatality to another motorist, pedestrian, or passengers in their car the laws involving these types of cases this are clearly laid out by state––and the consequences are severe.
Please refrain from getting behind the wheel after consuming even one drink. It’s not worth your life or the life of anyone on the road. When a designated driver cannot be relied upon, always use Uber or Lyft to get home safely.