Drunk driving is one of the most common causes of collisions on the road today, despite the well-established laws prohibiting motorists from getting behind the wheel while being intoxicated. The accidents that result from drunk driving are usually severe and may result in painful injuries or even death for those involved. Drunk drivers are prone to swerve, make unsafe lane changes, fail to yield the right of way, speed, or even drive on the wrong side of the road. Although no amount of compensation can truly make you whole after being hurt, it can help you and your family get back on your feet. At the A.W. Smith Law Firm, our Columbia drunk driving accident lawyers have assisted many victims and families throughout Missouri. If you have been struck in this type of crash, it may be critical to enlist a car accident attorney to pursue the compensation that you deserve.
If you have been injured in a collision involving a drunk driver, you probably can bring a civil negligence action against him or her to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. Negligence is a legal theory that examines whether the defendant exercised the appropriate level of care at the time of the crash. In general, each motorist is required to operate his or her vehicle with the same level of care and skill that a reasonable and prudent person would use in a comparable situation.
This includes not only driving safely in light of the existing weather and road conditions but also complying with any applicable traffic rules and regulations. According to Missouri law, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. If a motorist is under the age of 21, the maximum BAC level is 0.02%. If the plaintiff is able to establish that the defendant violated a statute at the time of the collision, such as Missouri’s drunk driving law, a rebuttable presumption arises that the defendant was acting negligently at the time of the crash.
After demonstrating that the defendant failed to exercise due care, the plaintiff must next show that the defendant’s negligent behavior was the direct cause of his or her injuries. In a drunk driving case, this means the plaintiff would need to show that he or she would not likely have been hurt had the defendant not been intoxicated behind the wheel. Finally, the plaintiff must submit evidence showing the amount of damages to which he or she may be entitled in the lawsuit. Common examples include medical bills, missed paychecks, loss of future earning capacity, diminished quality of life, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Missouri also allows a plaintiff to seek punitive damages by showing that the defendant’s conduct constituted a complete indifference to or a reckless disregard for the well-being and safety of other individuals. The plaintiff must prove this according to clear and convincing evidence.