Baltimore auto accident lawyer

How Does DUI Impact Car Accident Claims in Maryland?

Drunk driving is incredibly dangerous and leads to thousands of car accidents each year.  These accidents are often bad, with victims facing serious injuries or even dying because of the other driver’s intoxication and reckless decisions.  In many cases, the fact that the other driver was drunk can be used to help the victim’s case.

If the other driver was drunk, that can help you prove they were at fault.  In your own civil case, their intoxication can be used as proof that they were at fault for the crash.  If they are convicted in a separate criminal case, that conviction can also be used to help you prove your case.  Their intoxication might also increase your damages because the accident will be worse, but it could also be grounds for additional punitive damages to pay you more and punish the defendant.

For help with your potential case, call the Maryland car accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.

Proving Drunk Drivers Are at Fault for Car Crashes in Maryland

In a car accident, the driver who was doing something dangerous or negligent at the time of the crash is usually the one at fault.  Negligence has a specific legal meaning and requires the victim to prove that the driver violated a legal duty and caused their injuries because of that breach of duty.  Since drunk driving is illegal, a DUI can supply fault in a car accident case.

Under Md. Code, Transp. Art., § 21-902, it is illegal to drive under the influence.  More specifically, there are multiple sections of this DUI statute that deal with driving while under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of alcohol “per se,” under the influence of drugs, or under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol.  A “per se” DUI means that the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over .08%, and they are considered too drunk to drive even if it is not actually affecting them or making them observably unsafe.  That’s why .08% is usually referred to as the “legal limit.”

Simply by driving under the influence, a driver violates this law.  This law is in place to help keep people safe, so it is considered a legal duty, a violation of which can be used to prove negligence.  As such, if a driver was drunk or high when they were involved in an accident, they are likely to be considered at fault for the crash.

This kind of fault is the kind our Baltimore car accident lawyers can use, along with other traffic violations, to prove that a driver was the one responsible for the crash.

Proving a DUI for a Civil Injury Case in Maryland

To get a jury to believe that the accident was caused by the other driver’s drunk driving, you need to prove they were driving drunk.  In most cases, if police are called to the scene of an accident and the driver appears intoxicated or high, they will arrest them for DUI and perform testing to show that they had drugs or alcohol in their system at the time of the accident.  However, this will not necessarily result in a DUI conviction, and we might need to prove the driver’s drunk driving on our own to win your case.

Record of Conviction

If the driver was convicted of DUI in a separate criminal case, then we can use that verdict in our civil case.  Since the burden of proof is higher in a criminal case (the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard), we can use a conviction to prove that they were driving drunk, making that a non-issue in your civil injury case.  However, since the burden is higher in a drunk driving case – and since there are potentially diversionary programs the driver can use to avoid a conviction – we might need to supply evidence of DUI on our own.  Even so, there might be an official plea on record that we can use to prove they admitted to drunk driving instead of using a conviction.

Police Blood Tests and Expert Opinions

If the police did take a blood test or use a breathalyzer, we might be able to obtain those records and use that information to prove their intoxication in court.  We might also be able to rely on a police officer’s observations about the driver’s level of intoxication.  However, it is possible that the officer might need to be certified as an expert first by the court before we can have them opine on whether or not the driver was drunk.

Your Observations

If it comes to it, we might be able to present your own observations about the driver’s state to show the jury the information they need to come to their own conclusion that the driver was drunk.  For example, if you saw the driver stumbling out of their car, you saw empty beers fall from the driver’s side, or you heard them slurring their speech, that can all be used as evidence that they were drunk.  Similarly, the odor of marijuana, bloodshot eyes, and slow reaction times can be used as evidence that they were driving under the influence of marijuana.

Admissions by the Drunk Driver

We can also use anything the driver says against them.  For example, if they told you they were “only buzzed,” that would be an admission that they were under the influence to at least some degree.  If they say they “only had a few” or specifically said something as incriminating as “I’m wasted,” then we can also use that against them to prove they were drinking.

Call Our Maryland Car Accident Lawyers for Help with Your Accident Case

If you were the victim of a DUI accident, call the Towson car accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras for a free case review at (410) 694-7291.