Breaking Down An Alcohol-Related Car Crash

October 3rd, 2017 by Farhan Naqvi in Traffic Laws

Since at least the early 1990s, law enforcement at all levels has been on a campaign to decrease the number of intoxication-related vehicle collisions. Yet despite the proliferation of tough new laws and law enforcement tools, alcohol is still a factor in a third of the fatal collisions in Nevada.

Even though it is widely available, alcohol is a powerful drug that impairs judgment and motor skills. Unless these skills are operating at peak efficiency, it is simply unsafe to operate any heavy machinery, including a motor vehicle.

Circumstantial Evidence

There is a significant difference between intoxication in criminal court and impairment in civil court. People are intoxicated if their BAC exceeds .08, which is about three drinks for most people. But impairment starts with the first drink, so consuming any amount of alcohol constitutes negligence in civil court.

So, evidence that cannot establish intoxication in criminal court is sufficient to establish impairment in a negligence case. Such evidence includes:

  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Erratic driving, and
  • Unsteady balance.

In fact, because of the low standard of proof in negligence cases (more likely than not), evidence that a tortfeasor (negligent driver) just left a place where alcohol was served may be enough to prove that, more likely than not, the tortfeasor had been drinking.

Direct Evidence

Alcohol-related damages are even easier to establish if the tortfeasor had a BAC above the legal limit because, in these situations, the negligence per se shortcut applies. This doctrine applies if the tortfeasor:

  • Violated a safety law, and
  • Said violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

The negligence per se rule applies in other situations as well, such as those involving speeding or failing to yield the right-of-way. In some cases, negligence “as such” may only be a presumption of negligence, as opposed to conclusive evidence.

The civil jury decides all questions of fact, even criminal law issues such as DUI. SO, if the jury concludes that the tortfeasor was intoxicated, the negligence per se rule kicks in, even if the tortfeasor is found not guilty of DUI on a technicality.

Damages Available

In most cases, medical bills are the largest component in the economic damages category. An attorney can arrange for victims to receive medical help with no upfront cost, and also negotiate with the provider for a lower fee. Other economic damages include lost wages and property damage.

In Nevada, car crash victims are also entitled to noneconomic damages for items such as loss of consortium (companionship), pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.

Many alcohol-related crashes also involve punitive damages. For example, if the tortfeasor had a very high BAC or a history of DUI incidents, the tortfeasor arguably intentionally put the safety and property of other people at risk. A punitive damages cap may apply in some cases.

Connect with a Tenacious Attorney

Car crashes often cause serious injuries and create intricate legal problems. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.


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