Georgia Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers Protecting Georgians
Driving drunk is dangerous, despicable, and oftentimes deadly.
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, one thousand five hundred and seven people died on Georgia roadways in 2019. According to crash stats published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018, 29% of all traffic fatalities involved drinking and driving. Drunk driving is a problem that makes Georgia’s roadways more dangerous for all drivers and passengers. If you or someone in your family is the victim of a DUI/DWI accident, contact a Georgia Drunk Driving Accident Attorney at Tobin Injury Law as soon as possible.
Teens and adults hear the creed “Don’t drink and drive,” so often, yet many choose to continue to drive after drinking. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, three people are killed every two hours in accidents that involve driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The statistics tell a grim story but can’t do justice to the grieving families, those who suffer catastrophic injuries or suffer serious physical and financial harm because of someone’s choice to drive while impaired.
Georgia Laws Against Drinking and Driving
Georgia Code Title 40 Motor Vehicles and Traffic § 40-6-39 states that a driver cannot be in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, any drug, glue, aerosol or toxic vapor that renders it unsafe for them to drive.
A person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) must not exceed 0.08 within three hours after operating a motor vehicle. For those operating a commercial vehicle, or any vehicle that requires a CDL, the blood alcohol content cannot exceed 0.04. Georgia also has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21, meaning a BAC of 0.02 or higher will result in a DUI charge.
For drivers that exceed the legal limit of alcohol or are under the influence of other controlled substances, criminal penalties vary depending on the nature of the arrest, injuries, or deaths that might have occurred, and whether it is a first or subsequent offense.
Drunk Drivers Can be Held Liable for Compensatory and Punitive Damages
Criminal penalties are common and costly for drinking and driving. However, there are many situations when criminal penalties are not enough to act as a deterrent. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), between fifty and seventy-five percent of drivers whose license is suspended because of a D.U.I. continue driving.
Drunk drivers in Georgia can be held financially responsible for the injuries and damage they cause. Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two, constitutes criminally reckless conduct. The criminal court system handles criminal penalties, but drunk drivers may also face a separate civil court case.
Motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers, including those that involve motorcycles and pedestrians, tend to be far more catastrophic and are associated with a higher incidence of serious injuries and fatalities. One-fourth of the deaths from motorcycle accidents in Georgia involved riders with a BAC at 0.08 or higher.
Anyone involved in a car accident can recover compensatory damages from an at-fault driver. Compensatory damages, under Georgia law, are intended to repay the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff. Examples of compensatory damages include:
- Pain and suffering—Georgia courts have established several factors for determining pain and suffering, such as interference with everyday living, the loss of enjoyment of life, and health impairments.
- Lost wages—Recovering from an accident often means time off from work. Serious injuries can also result in the loss or reduction of earning capacity for the foreseeable future.
- Medical expenses—Past and future medical expenses related to the injuries sustained during the accident can be recovered.
- Disability or disfigurement—Disfigurement, scarring, or disability that robs the injured party of their body deserves compensation.
Punitive damages are governed by O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1 in civil cases. The dual purpose of punitive damages is penalizing a defendant for egregious wrongdoing while seeking to serve as a deterrent. In most motor vehicle accident cases, punitive damages are capped by Georgia law at $250,000. The rule is different for accidents that involved driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f), there is no cap to punitive damages against an at-fault driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When punitive damages are included in a civil trial against a drunk driver, the victim’s attorney can show the at-fault driver’s driving record. In most motor vehicle accident civil cases, the at-fault driver’s driving record is not admissible as it is classified as “character evidence” under Georgia law. However, in drunk driving cases, the rules are different. Georgia courts have held that the driving record is relevant for a jury to render an informed decision about punitive damages. The jury has to decide if the at-fault driver’s actions are so egregious as to warrant punitive damages.
Georgia courts have held that when a jury is deciding whether to impose punitive damages, the jury can consider the at-fault-driver’s prior episodes of drunk driving. Moreover, not only can the attorney for the injured party bring up previous DUIs, but the lawyer can also reference subsequent episodes of drunk driving. Courts have reasoned that if a driver chooses to drive drunk even after injuring someone, that shows the driver was indifferent to the consequences of his drinking and driving. Langlois v. Wolford, 246 Ga. App. 209, 214 (2000). Subsequent episodes of drunk driving show the drunk driver’s willful disregard for the dangers of drinking and driving.
Georgia’s Dram Shop Liability Law
Dram shop laws are designed to allow victims of drunk driving accidents to seek compensation from establishments such as bars and restaurants or other third-party vendors who sold alcohol, liable for damages. The criteria for holding an establishment liable include:
- That they willfully and knowingly sold or served alcohol to a minor under the age of 21
- Knowingly served alcohol to a person that was noticeably intoxicated
- The establishment or third-party knew the minor or intoxicated person would be driving a motor vehicle
Only victims of the accident, and not the drunk driver, can pursue a dram shop liability claim. O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40 rolls dram shop liability and social host liabilities into one statute.
Most business insurance policies exclude dram shop liability claims and often require businesses to purchase a separate alcohol liability rider to cover such claims. A skilled personal injury attorney will evaluate whether you have a potential dram shop liability claim if you were injured by a drunk driver. Dram shop liability cases can be handled concurrently with civil litigation against the at-fault driver.
Statute of Limitations for a Drunk Driving Lawsuit
The same statute that governs other personal injury claims applies to drunk driving lawsuits. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33 holds that victims have two years to file a claim in court. However, the statute of limitations is tolled (paused) during the time that the drunk driver is facing criminal prosecution for up to six years. The clock on the two-year statute of limitations does not start until after the criminal matter is resolved or six years have passed.
What To Do if You are Injured in a Drunk Driving Accident in Georgia
At Tobin Injury Law, we work closely with you to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Insurance companies need to know that you have an attorney prepared to take a case to trial if necessary. Tobin Injury Law will work toward a settlement while preparing for trial.
Call a Georgia Drunk Driving Accident Attorney at Tobin Injury Law
Reach Out to Our Team Of Legal Professionals. Contact our firm at 404-JUSTICE (404-587-8423) for a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Our experienced team will help you understand your rights and what to expect as your case moves forward.