When a motorist decides to get behind the wheel after becoming intoxicated, they endanger not only their own lives, but also the lives of everyone else on the road. Driving while intoxicated is a criminal offense for this reason, and those who choose to engage in this type of dangerous behavior are subject to substantial criminal penalties as a result. However, these types of penalties often do little to assuage the pain that their victims may experience. Therefore, those guilty of driving while drunk may also be subject to civil penalties for their actions.
Many car accident attorneys find that a substantial subset of their cases are brought against drivers who were intoxicated at the time of the accident. In fact, of the more than 30,000 automotive fatalities which occur each year in the U.S., around a third of them are the direct result of drunk driving. Criminal penalties have been effective in helping to reduce the number of drunk drivers on our nation’s roadways, but civil penalties are often necessary to limit the amount of damage that drunk driving accident victims may have incurred.
One highly publicized recent DUI accident lawsuit involved John Goodman, the founder of International Polo Club, who was found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of nearly three times the legal limit hours after his car struck a vehicle driven by Scott Wilson, forcing the other man’s car off the road and into a nearby lake, where Wilson was unable to escape from his car and drowned as a result. Wilson’s parents sued Goodman for the death of their son, and the case was recently settled for a reported $46 million.
Several issues of note in this particular settlement are helpful for understanding DUI accident lawsuits. First, this particular settlement was substantially higher than most DUI injury or even wrongful death lawsuits, as a result of the perpetrators considerable personal fortune. Second, part of the settlement is being paid for by the club which over-served Goodman, allowing him to become so intoxicated that his driving represented a threat to others. Finally, Goodman’s actions following the accident, in which he failed to contact police and, according to witness testimony, called his girlfriend instead, were likely influential in making the final settlement so large.
Many DUI accidents are much less severe in nature. However, regardless of the specific circumstances in which they occur, a DUI accident that causes injury to others is almost without exception grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.