What happens if there is a car accident and both of the drivers were intoxicated?

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What happens if there is a car accident and both of the drivers were intoxicated?

The accident was 100% the other drivers fault he was arrested for driving drunk and going the wrong way on the freeway which caused the accident. But the driver of my car had a very low alcohol point level and he also had a suspended license but he was still perfectly safe to drive. What could happen to our side?

Asked on January 20, 2012 under Accident Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The question is what would a jury find, if you (or  your driver) either sue the other driver or are sued by the other driver (or his insurer). From what you write, that the other driver  is at fault is clear--arrested for DUI, going the wrong way. But your driver was not without fault, either--also intoxicated and a suspended license. In most states, the negligence, or fault, of the drivers is compared, which affects monetary recovery. For example: say your driver sues for $20,000 and the other side countersues for $20,000 (each is claiming some mix of property damage and personal injury). Say a jury concludes that the other driver is 80% at fault and your driver is 20% at fault--that is, they feel that if he had not been intoxicated himself, he could have possibly avoided the accident. The other driver would recover 20% of $20k, or $4k; your driver would recover 80% of $20k, or $16k; it would net out to $12k recovery for your side.

With your driver being intoxicated, it it is almost certain some degree of fault would be assigned to him.

Note that if driving while intoxicated often means that your insurer does not have to pay; similarly driving without a valid license can let the insurer off the hook. Both sides may have to deal with this without insurance.

That's on the civil side: on the criminal and regulatory side, your driver could certainly face further suspension or loss of his license, fines and penalties, and possibly minor jail time, though the later is unlikely, due to the combination of driving with a suspended license and being intoxicated.


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