The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reports that every day approximately 30 people die in drunk-driving accidents, which equals to one person every 50 minutes. While experiencing an accident can be traumatic in itself, the victim's trauma may increase further after realizing that the accident was caused by a drunk driver. Driving as an activity requires complete focus, concentration, vision, and skill. A drunk driver may lack all of these necessary qualities and become a threat to other vehicles and travelers on the road. Drunk driving can also result in criminal liability. If you suffered injuries in an accident related to drunk driving, learn how a Tennessee drunk driver accident attorney at Labrum Law Firm at (615) 338-9500 can help you with your case.
Effects of Drinking on Driving Ability
Drinking affects a person's judgment and impacts the focus, driving skills, and vision. The following may happen to a drunk driver at the time of driving:
- Lessened vision
- Slow reaction to external factors
- Lack of focus
- Lack of control over the vehicle
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Poor ability to recognize risks and threats on the road
Tennessee Drunk-Driving Laws
In Tennessee, drunk driving or driving under influence is considered a serious crime and a punishable offense under the law.
- The law prohibits persons aged 21 and above from driving any automobile if their BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) is higher than 0.08%.
- For driving commercial vehicles, the limit is set at 0.04%.
- For persons below 21 years of age, the BAC limit is set at 0.02%.
The BAC is usually calculated through a breath test or a “Breathalyzer”, blood test, or urine test. External factors including the quantity or type of liquor consumed, the biological gender, mental condition at the time of drinking, ongoing medications, body weight, and what a person last ate may also affect the BAC test results.
Criminal Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents
Tennessee has strict laws in place to control and punish drunk driving.
- A first-time offender has to serve a mandatory jail term of 48 hours. The offender may also face a jail term of up to 12 months, driving license suspension, and a fine between $350-$1,500.
- A second-time offender may face 45 days of mandatory jail term, a fine between $600 to $3,500, vehicle confiscation, and driving license suspension.
- A third-time offender may face 120 days of mandatory jail term, a fine between $1,100 to $10,000, and a total suspension of driving license.
- Fourth and subsequent drunk driving offenses are considered felonies and are punished accordingly.
Further, drunk driving accidents that result in injuries or death can lead to charges of vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, or aggravated vehicular homicide.
Claiming Compensation for Injuries Due to a Drunk Driver
While a drunk driver may face criminal charges, the victim of a drunk driving accident can also file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver. The compensation claim may involve three types of damages:
These involve financial compensation for medical and hospital expenses, loss of wages, damages to property, pain and suffering, loss of limb or total disability, or wrongful death. In case of wrongful death, the legal heirs can also obtain costs for burial and funeral expenses and pre-death medical expenses.
In rare cases, punitive damages may be imposed to punish and deter the drunk driver from engaging in similar behavior again. These damages may also act as a deterrent for other drivers. The court may impose punitive damages if the BAC level was very high, if there were exceptionally egregious injuries, or if there was incredibly reckless driving.
Third parties involved in the accident may also be required to pay compensation to the victim. For example, the shop owner who sold alcohol to the drunk driver may be held liable under Tennessee's Dram Shop Law. A trucking company could also potentially be held liable for an accident caused by its drunk driver.
If you suffered injuries in an accident related to drunk driving, learn how a Tennessee drunk driver accident attorney at Labrum Law Firm at (615) 338-9500 can help you with your case.
Dram Shop Law
In Tennessee, the “Dram Shop Law” allows the seller of the alcohol to remain potentially responsible and legally liable for a drunk driving accident that occurs as a result of one of their patrons leaving their establishment in an inebriated state. The shop, bar, or person who sold alcohol to the drunk driver can possibly be held responsible if the following conditions are fulfilled:
- The vendor sold the alcohol to the driver.
- The vendor sold the alcohol to a person who was “visibly intoxicated” or below 21 years of age.
- The sale of the alcohol was the proximate cause of the accident.
Avoiding a Drunk-Driving Accident
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) suggests adopting the following practices to avoid a drunk-driving accident:
- When going out in a group, designate a non-drinking driver before drinking.
- Do not allow your friends to drive if they are drunk.
- After drinking or consuming other intoxication, call a taxi or ridesharing company such as Uber or Lyft, to reach home.
- When hosting a party, plan in advance to remind your guests to designate a sober driver.
Steps to Take After a Drunk Driving Accident
If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident, consider taking the following steps:
- Seek immediate medical help
- Record all information including the driver's behavior at the accident site, cause of the accident, time and place of the accident. If possible, take pictures of the entire accident scene or. Preserve your medical and hospital bills and receipts and any other accident-related expenses.
- Report the accident to the police.
- Consider contacting an attorney to learn more about your legal rights.
Learn How a Tennessee Drunk Driver Accident Injury Attorney Can Help
Proving fault in drunk driving accidents can require compilation of evidence, dealing with multiple parties, and expert opinions. Further, insurance companies may try to provide settlement packages that do not fairly compensate victims. If you suffered injuries or losses in an accident related to drunk driving, contact our legal team today to learn how a Tennessee drunk driver accident attorney at Labrum Law Firm at (615) 338-9500 can help you with your case.