Few circumstances feel more senseless and preventable than suffering injuries in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Despite decades of public awareness campaigns and ratcheting up of criminal penalties, impaired driving continues to plague our nation’s roads, including right here in Kentucky.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 10,000 people die each year in alcohol-impaired driving accidents, a number that generally accounts for more than 25% of the country’s annual traffic-related deaths. Here in Kentucky, in 2018, there were 4,736 collisions that involved alcohol, resulting in 124 deaths, 1,5885 injuries, and 3,038 incidents of property damage. While the numbers vary from year to year, the Bluegrass State has sadly not seen any consistent decreases in alcohol related collisions.
Kentucky victims of drunk drivers often have rights to seek compensation from the “at fault” parties in a crash. In this blog post, we discuss the rights those victims may have not just against the drunk driver, but also against someone who served alcohol to that driver. To learn more about your rights after getting hurt in a Kentucky drunk driving accident, contact an experienced Kentucky drunk driving accident injury lawyer today.
In Kentucky, a driver is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle when the driver:
The consequences for driving under the influence will depend on (a) whether the individual has any prior offenses; (b) whether the driver is under the age 21; and (c) whether any aggravating circumstances, such as excessive speeding, are involved. Drunk drivers generally face criminal sanctions that include jail, fines, and suspension of their driving privileges.
Although important, however, criminal prosecutions of drunk drivers do not necessarily “fix” the harm the driver did to accident victims. Those victims still have huge bills to pay, have still lost time at work, and still face a painful, uphill battle to recover from their injuries. To receive compensation for the devastation inflicted on their lives, Kentucky drunk driving accident victims generally need the services of an experienced drunk driving accident injury attorney who can help them pursue “civil” legal options against the parties at fault.
Who can Kentucky drunk driving accident victims take legal action against for compensation? It all depends on the facts and circumstances of the accident. Of course, in most drunk driving accident cases, the drunk driver has liability to the accident victim. In Kentucky, however, a bar or restaurant might also have legal liability under what is known as Kentucky’s “dram shop law.”
The most obvious party to look at for responsibility is the drunk driver. Anyone driving under the influence of alcohol who causes a crash will, almost always, have legal liability for damages to the crash victims. In a lawsuit, those victims might recover damages from the driver’s liability insurance policy, or even from the driver’s personal assets. However, the sad reality is that oftentimes these sources do not necessarily cover all of the huge costs and devastating losses suffered by a drunk driving accident victim.
Under Kentucky’s “dram shop law,” drunk driving accident victims may have the ability to seek money damages from a bar or restaurant that served the drunk driver. Not always, but often enough that it can make a big difference for accident victims struggling to regain their lives after a catastrophic drunk driving crash.
Under the dram shop law, a person licensed to sell or serve alcohol under state law can face legal liability for the harm caused by a drunk driver if it served alcohol to the driver before the crash and:
So, in a nutshell, a drunk driving accident victim may have the right to sue a bar or restaurant (or someone else with a license to serve alcohol) if that establishment served someone who was obviously drunk – slurring words, say, or falling off of a bar stool – and the customer then drove and caused an accident.
You might wonder: if a bar that serves someone who is stumbling drunk faces liability to an accident victim, then why shouldn’t the same rule apply to a private citizen who serves alcohol to a guest in their home?
We have the same question. For now, however, the answer is not totally clear. No Kentucky statute directly addresses that situation. Some Kentucky court cases have held that victims of drunk driving accidents caused by a driver who got drunk in a private setting, like someone’s home, might be able to sue if a “special relationship” existed between the driver and the person who served the driver alcohol (such as, possibly, if the driver was a minor). Speak with an experienced Kentucky drunk driving accident injury lawyer if the drunk driver who harmed you drank alcohol before the crash at a party or other private setting, especially if the driver was underage.
If someone – a drunk driver, a bar or restaurant, or someone else entirely – owes you damages for injuries you suffered in a drunk driving accident, you may have the right to recover:
These are merely examples of the types of damages a Kentucky drunk driving accident victim may recover from parties with legal liability, of course. Consult with an experienced Kentucky drunk driving accident lawyer to learn about your specific rights.
Few things cause more fright and distress than getting hurt in a car accident. Clients come to us after a drunk driving crash feeling as if their lives have gone into a terrifying spiral. They need legal help, certainly; but many also need general guidance to figure out what to do.
We understand and empathize with that frightening confusion. So, let us offer you some basic, general tips for steps to take after a Kentucky drunk driving accident that can protect your health, wellbeing, and legal rights. (These are general suggestions, of course – speak with a skilled lawyer for specific advice about your situation.)
Once you have taken care of your medical needs – which, again, is the most important consideration after a Kentucky drunk driving accident – also keep these additional tips in mind:
No one can predict when a drunk driver might turn their lives inside out. Victims of a senseless, tragic drunk driving crash can take some comfort, however, in knowing that experienced, caring legal professionals are available to help guide them through this difficult time.
If a Kentucky drunk driver has injured you or a loved one, contact a compassionate, dedicated drunk driving accident injury attorney today for a free case evaluation.