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Punishment and liability in drunk driving accidents

Drinking and driving is never a good idea. Even driving a short distance while intoxicated can lead to an accident. The possible result? Serious injuries or even death to a pedestrian or someone in another vehicle. While drunk driving accidents have decreased in West Virginia, thousands of people across the country are still killed by drunk drivers every year.

At an accident scene, police officers have the discretion to test those involved in the crash for substance use. This is especially true if someone was injured or killed. Officers may perform blood alcohol testing or ask drivers to perform field sobriety tests. If any of the drivers involved have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher, then they could be arrested and charged with a DUI.

A DUI is no small matter. For a first offense, a person could face a license suspension of up to 45 days, as well as a $1,000 fine and jail time. The fines and penalties are stiffer for each subsequent offense. In the event of a fatality, the punishment could increase quite a bit. In addition, the family of the deceased victim could file a civil lawsuit against the offender for damages.

In order to prove liability, it's important to obtain as much evidence as possible. This could include police reports and the opinions of experts. If there were any witnesses, their accounts may provide to be crucial evidence as well. All documents and testimony must prove that the drunk driver's BAC was too high to safely drive a vehicle, and that driver was operating a vehicle in a reckless manner that disregarded the safety of others. If these elements can be proven, then a wrongful death claim can be filed to help recover compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages that the victim and the family suffered.

Source: FindLaw, "Drunk Driving Accidents," accessed July 4, 2015

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