CLAIMS AGAINST DUI DRIVERS OR BARS
Mark Post Law Pursues Civil Claims against DUI Defendants that hurt someone and against Bars or other Over-Serving Businesses
Unfortunately, too many drivers get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These drivers pose a serious risk to all drivers on the road. Some of the most serious and terrifying cases personal injuries we have had involve drunk driving wrecks, which often happen at high speed. Ordinary Georgia car wreck law applies to drunk driving accidents, but also provides additional penalties that can be brought against these reckless actors. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f), impaired drivers are subject to punitive damages (damages which are designed to punish and deter bad actors like drunk drivers). Also, unlike ordinary damages in regular car wrecks, these damages can be “uncapped” in Georgia, and exceed the normal $250,000 limit on ordinary punitive damages claims. Additionally, these punitive damages cannot be discharged in bankruptcy like ordinary debts. We know how to apply pressure on insurance companies who understand their significant exposure when their insured causes a wreck under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sadly, insurance companies often rush to find victims of drunk drivers and try to settle their claims quickly, before a drunk driving victim understands their rights. BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT WHO YOU TALK TO AFTER BEING HIT BY A DRUNK DRIVER. Part of our process in evaluating your rights as the victim of a drunk driver involves doing research into the driving history of the at-fault drunk driver. If the person that hurt you had prior DUIs or other charges involving reckless conduct, more severe penalties, and higher awards, are justified. Again, do not settle until you know your rights when hit by a drunk driver.
In addition, just because a person wasn’t charged with DUI, doesn’t mean they automatically escape liability for their reckless conduct. [A] trial court has discretion to admit even minimal evidence of alcohol consumption where the only evidence of intoxication was that the defendant driver’s breath smelled of alcohol after the accident. Schwartz v. Brancheau, 306 Ga. App. 463, 467–68 (2010) “Nevertheless, we held that while “[t]he mere odor of alcohol by itself is weak evidence of intoxication[,] … it does have a logical connection to that issue, and should be considered by the jury[ ] … in deciding whether a person is intoxicated.” Id.
Schwartz involved a claim against a drunk driver involving underinsured motorist coverage. The insurance company tried to keep out evidence of alcohol, arguing that since no punitive damages could be assessed against an underinsured motorist carrier, the evidence was inadmissible. The Court disagreed and allowed the evidence in, even in the absence of recoverable punitive damages. Insurers may mislead you about the law. We can help you know your rights and take action against dangerous drivers and the big companies that try to protect them.
BARS OR OTHER OVER-SERVING BUSINESS
In cases against drunk drivers, the driver is not the only source of recovery.
Georgia law imposes special duties upon businesses that serve alcohol. These businesses are referred to as “dram shops”. Georgia’s dram shop law prohibits a business from serving a person alcohol when a person is visibly intoxicated and the business knows the patron is likely to drive. The second prong of this test, proving that a business knew a patron was going to drive, is almost always the most difficult aspects of such claims. That is why it’s essential to know your rights early and to put businesses on notice that they must preserve all videos, receipts, and credit card information early. Dram shop claims are legally difficult, but your rights against a business that overserves a drunk driver who injures you or a family member should be explored in the event of death or permanent injury. Too often drunk drivers carry very limited insurance coverage that will not fully compensate you or your family in the tragic event of serious or catastrophic injury. As set forth on our results page, we understand how to successfully assert personal injury dram shop claims here in Columbus and throughout South Georgia.