Drunk Driver Kills Two, Injures Seven
One witness said “total chaos” ensued when a driver under the influence of alcohol and marijuana caused a serious car crash outside two busy Louisville nightclubs.
According to police and witnesses, a 37-year-old male driver struck a parked car near O’Dolly’s and La Movida, and then zoomed into a parking lot full of people mingling outside a taco truck. Two people were pronounced dead at the scene, and seven others were rushed to nearby hospitals with serious injuries. Police say that during the investigation, the drivers speech was extremely slurred, he fell asleep several times, and he had a .40 BAC level. He also admitted that he had consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana before driving, according to the arrest affidavit. He now faces various criminal charges.
The car crash scene was “very, very traumatic,” remarked witness Stephanie Roby. “There were several people that tried to help and I’m so sorry that we could not save them,” she added.
Liability in Alcohol-Related Car Crashes
In most of these cases, the time-saving negligence per se (negligence “as such”) rule is available, helping victims obtain maximum compensation for their injuries. In Kentucky, this doctrine applies if:
- Protected Class: The victim/plaintiff must be one of the people that the safety law was designed to protect, and traffic laws, like DUI, protect motorists, pedestrians, and anyone else on or near the road.
- Standard of Care: The law must contain an articulable standard of care, e.g. it’s illegal to drive above a certain speed or while under the influence of certain drugs.
- Cause: Victim/plaintiffs must establish a direct connection between the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) conduct and the car crash damages sustained.
Negligence per se usually establishes liability as a matter of law, unless the defendant successfully raises contributory negligence or another affirmative defense.
Even if the tortfeasor was not charged with DUI, the car crash victim could still argue that the wreck was alcohol-related. First, there is a lower standard of proof in civil court (more likely than not) than in criminal court (beyond a reasonable doubt). Second, impairment begins at one drink, so although it may not be enough to support a DUI conviction, one beer or glass of wine is more than enough to establish liability in civil court.
In high BAC cases, juries often award additional punitive damages that punish the tortfeasor and deter future misconduct. This money is on top of compensatory damages for economic and noneconomic losses. As the above story indicates, most people are barely conscious after reaching a .40 BAC, and the tortfeasor had evidently been smoking marijuana as well. Based on those facts, and on the serious nature of the injuries, many jurors would probably be inclined to award punitive damages. Essentially, the victim/plaintiff must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the tortfeasor consciously disregarded a known risk and callously put other people at risk. There is no punitive damages cap in Kentucky.
Alcohol-related car crash victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Mumfordville, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. After hours appointments are available.