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Personal injury litigation for drunken driving injuries

The West Virginia Gazette reported last month that the federal government will be giving a total of $291,000 to the state of West Virginia for the support of highway safety programs. Most of the money—over $215,000—will apparently fund the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Office’s efforts against drunken driving.

Drunken driving is obviously an important highway safety issue in West Virginia, as it is in other states. When it comes to personal injury litigation, drunken driving can certainly form the basis on which a plaintiff makes his or her claim for negligence. In cases where it is well-established that he driver was intoxicated—and the standard for this is lower in personal injury litigation than it is in criminal prosecution—this can help establish negligence in the case.

In cases where it isn't so clear whether the driver was intoxicated, basing a personal injury case on drunken driving is more precarious. When this is the case, though, it isn't as if the crash victim is without recourse in establishing negligence.

In car accident cases, plaintiffs must show that there was a duty which the other driver failed to abide by and that this failure was sufficiently connected to or causative of harm to the crash victim. Even if it can’t be sufficiently shown that the motorist was operating his or her vehicle in an intoxicated state, failure of some other duty may still be able to be shown. This could include things like: failure to stop at a stop sign or stoplight; straying outside of a lane into an oncoming vehicle; or any failure to exercise reasonable caution in the operation of a motor vehicle.

Those who have been seriously injured by a drunken driver have the right to seek compensation for their injuries, and it is recommended to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to build the best possible case.

Sources: West Virginia Gazette, “State gets $291L for highway safety programs,” Nov. 25, 2014.

Findlaw, “Negligence,” Accessed Dec. 2, 2014. 

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