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Sandy Springs Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Being involved in a car crash can be a very traumatic experience for you and your loved ones–it can cause emotional distress, life-altering injury, hefty medical expenses, property damage, and even death. Drunk driving crashes can be even more devastating because they are so preventable.
The good news here is that victims of drunk driving accidents can pursue legal action against the drunk driver. If you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries or wrongful death from an intoxicated driver, a Sandy Springs drunk driving accident lawyer can help you recover damages and receive financial compensation for your losses. The drunk driving accident attorneys at Ashenden & Associates are here to help. Our legal team has experience suing drunk drivers in motor vehicle accident cases and can help you file a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Call us at (770) 394-8909 to schedule a free case evaluation.
What is Considered Drunk Driving in Georgia?
According to Georgia law, anyone driving with an elevated blood alcohol content or any amount of illegal drugs in their system is considered to be driving while under the influence and can be arrested. The legal limit of blood alcohol concentration varies for different groups. The legal limit for anyone under 21 years old is a BAC of .02% or higher. For adults over 21, a BAC of .08% or higher is considered drunk driving. For a commercial driver, such as a truck driver, the limit is .04% BAC or higher.
How Many Americans Die From Drunk Driving Accidents Every Year?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 31% of all car accident fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers. On average, drunk drivers have caused over 10,000 deaths yearly over the past decade. In 2019, 5,620 drunk drivers were arrested in Georgia. That same year, 353 Georgia residents died from DUI accidents, making up 3% of all drunk driving fatalities in the U.S. that year.
For some, these statistics are all too real. If your loved one has passed away due to a DUI accident, contact the Sandy Springs drunk driving accident attorneys at Ashenden & Associates today and receive a free legal consultation.
Drunk Driving Penalties in Georgia
If someone is found operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, they could face criminal charges, including fines and jail time. The charges they face, however, depend on how often they’ve been found guilty of drunk driving, and repeat offenders face more serious consequences.
In Georgia, if this is someone’s first offense as a drunk driver, they could face imprisonment of up to a year, a fine anywhere between $300 and $1,000, license suspension for up to a year with a $210 license reinstatement fee, and a minimum of 40 hours of community service.
Suppose they incur a second offense within five years of the first offense. In that case, they face a minimum mandatory 48 hours in jail, a possible 90 days to one year in jail, a three-year license suspension, a $210 license reinstatement fee, a fine between $600 and $1,000, a minimum of 30 days of community service, and a mandatory clinical evaluation. If they are found to have a substance abuse problem, they may be required to attend a substance abuse treatment program at their own expense.
Suppose someone incurs a third offense within 5 years of their second offense. In that case, they face a minimum mandatory 15 days in jail, a possible 120 days to one year in jail, a fine between $1,000 and $3,000, a minimum of 30 days of community service, and a mandatory clinical evaluation. Just like someone’s second offense, if they are found to have a substance abuse problem, they may be required to attend a substance abuse treatment program at their own expense. Additionally, they would have their license plate seized by the court and sent to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety, and they would be declared a habitual violator. They would also have their name, photo, and street address posted in the local newspaper, all at the offender’s expense.
Most drunk driving accidents are misdemeanor crimes, but some can be classified as felonies. A DUI can be a felony if the drunk driver has three or more DUI convictions in the past 10 years, flees from an officer at the scene, or causes serious bodily harm or death to another person or an unborn fetus.
Common Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Like any auto accident, DUI crashes can cause a wide range of injuries, including very serious injuries. Drunk driving accident victims can suffer from any of the following injuries, including:
- Deep bruising;
- Road rash and degloving;
- Soft tissue damage, or damage to the muscles and tendons;
- Internal bleeding;
- Nerve damage, including spinal nerve damage;
- Organ rupture;
- Broken bones;
- Facial or bodily disfigurement;
- Traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion;
- Spinal cord injury and/or paralysis;
- Crush injuries; and
Drunk Driving Civil Cases vs. Criminal Cases in Georgia
Even if someone doesn’t cause an accident, driving drunk is still against the law. If a police officer pulls someone over for reckless driving or excessive speeding, and they suspect that the driver is drunk, they can issue a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test to determine whether or not they were drunk driving. If they were driving drunk, they would be arrested, and their case would be tried in criminal court, where the consequences can include fines and jail time.
If the driver does cause a crash, they can face the same criminal penalties, but any victims of the drunk driving accident can sue the drunk driver for damages. This would take place in civil court, like in any other personal injury case. Our Sandy Springs drunk driving accident lawyers can help you file a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver to receive fair compensation for the damages they caused.
Georgia Dram Shop Laws
In addition to suing the driver responsible for the drunk driving crash, you can also sue the bar that over served the drunk driver. These are called “dram shop” laws and are made to prevent Georgia bars from serving alcohol to people who are intoxicated if they know that person will be driving soon.
For example, if a bartender is serving someone drink after drink, and that person drunkenly asks the bartender for another drink “for the road,” that bartender and bar could then be held liable if that person got into a car accident.
Since everyone behaves differently when intoxicated, and people have varying levels of alcohol tolerance, it’s difficult to prove that a person was “clearly intoxicated” when the bar continued to serve them alcohol. Regardless, if a third party was found to have served a lot of alcohol to someone they knew would soon be driving, and that person gets into a drunk driving accident, they could owe any DUI accident victims financial compensation for medical bills or lost wages.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit if My Loved One Died in a Drunk Driving Accident?
Regardless of the cause of the crash, fatal car accidents can be devastating to the victim’s family. Fatal drunk driving accidents can sometimes be more devastating due to their preventable nature, and the family of the DUI accident victim can help hold the negligent driver accountable for the car accident in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death claims can be filed if someone loses their life due to negligent or criminal actions. This includes medical malpractice, unsafe working conditions, defective products, negligent actions such as distracted driving, and criminal actions such as drunk driving. If your loved one passed away as a result of someone’s decision to get behind the wheel while drunk, a civil DUI accident lawyer can help you sue for compensation for your losses.
Proving Negligence in a Drunk Driving Accident
To prove negligence in a car accident, the person suing for damages, or the plaintiff, must be able to prove the four elements of negligence were present. The four elements of negligence are:
- Duty of Care, which is someone’s duty to behave in a safe and responsible manner;
- Breached Duty of Care, which means the person did not behave in a safe and responsible manner;
- Causation, which links the negligent act to the injuries the person is suing; and
- Damages, which are the losses the plaintiff suffered as a result of the accident.
Just like in any other auto accident personal injury claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove the other driver involved behaved negligently. If the person responsible for the accident was guilty of driving drunk, the accident victim could use their DUI conviction as proof of negligence. This could help prove the drunk driver had a duty of care and then breached that duty of care.
To prove causation, the victim must prove that the intoxicated driver’s actions directly caused the injuries they suffered. Police officers at the accident scene will have gathered statements and evidence to determine the cause of the accident, and the victim could use the police report as evidence to help prove causation.
Drunk Driving Accident Damages
Drunk driving accident claims can help victims and their families receive financial compensation for the damages the driver caused by the accident. Damages caused by car accidents often include lost wages, lost earning potential, medical expenses, and personal property damage.
Victims of drunk driving accidents can also seek punitive damages. In cases where someone acts in a willfully harmful way, like choosing to drive drunk, they can be fined for punitive damages, which are meant to punish them for their dangerous behavior and discourage intoxicated driving in general.