Is a Drunk Driver Automatically at Fault for an Accident in New York?

Drunk driving is illegal in New York State and across the country.  This usually means that if a drunk driver causes a car accident, their drunkenness can be used to help prove they were at fault.  But is the fact that a driver was drunk always enough to hold them responsible for a car crash in New York?

Typically, the fact that a driver was drunk will make them at fault for a crash – at least in part.  In some cases, the other driver’s mistakes might have been much worse, and the drunk driver’s intoxication might have played a minimal role in causing the crash.  However, drunk driving is illegal, and this usually means the drunk driver will be declared at least partly at fault for a crash they are involved in.

If you were hit by a drunk driver, call The Carrion Law Firm immediately.  Our New York car accident attorneys fight for injury victims.  Call us for a free case review at (718) 841-0083.

Does Driving Drunk Automatically Make a Driver at Fault for a New York Car Accident?

Any time you are involved in a car crash where one driver was objectively “drunk,” the drunk driver is going to face some level of liability for the crash.  Cases may be more complex when the driver has a low-level BAC, such as a BAC under .05%.  However, any drunk driving that violates the law in New York will typically mean the drunk driver is at fault – at least in part.

New York DUI/DWI and DWAI Laws

New York uses the names driving while intoxicated (DWI), and driving while ability impaired (DWAI) for its drunk driving offenses.  DWAI refers to driving where alcohol plays a factor in the driver being unsafe, but they might not be “drunk.”  This covers situations where the driver’s BAC is .05% to .07% – a relatively low limit.  It also covers situations where a blood test might not have been taken, but the driver is definitely impaired by alcohol.  Contrast this with DWI, which covers cases where the BAC is over .08% – the normal “legal limit.”

If someone is involved in an accident while violating one of these laws, that will definitely be used as a factor in determining who is at fault.  For someone to be held liable for a crash, there usually must be some safety error or actual traffic law violation that led to the crash.  If they were driving under the influence and were involved in a collision because of it, that will often be deemed a partial cause of the crash.  However, it might not be the only cause of the accident.

Comparative Fault in Drunk Driving Accidents

Any driver who was involved in a crash can be deemed partly at fault for that crash.  New York uses a system known as a pure comparative negligence/fault system.  This allows juries to assign a percentage of the blame for an accident to each driver involved in the crash, then order them to pay damages according to their percentage of fault.

Accident lawsuits will always involve the victim and at least one driver.  In these cases, the court could assign partial blame to the victim and partial blame to the other driver, reducing how much the victim gets in compensation.  The court can also assign partial blame to multiple drivers in crashes with 3 or more cars, making each pay their fair share of damages.

One driver’s drunk driving will typically put them partially at fault, but they might not be the only one at fault.  Imagine the victim was hit by 2 drivers: one slightly impaired after a few beers and one driving the wrong direction at 80 miles per hour.  The court could rule that the drunk driver was 25% at fault and the other driver was 75% at fault, for example.

Because of this comparative fault rule, the drunk driver might not be the only one at fault in a DUI/DWI car accident in New York.  Talk to a Long Island car accident attorney for help determining which drivers to sue in your case.

Suing Other Parties for Drunk Driving Accidents in New York

In some cases, the drunk driver might not be the only one you sue in your car accident case.  As we have already discussed, you can sometimes file your claim against multiple drivers if they also played a role in causing the crash.  In some cases, you may even be able to sue the bar or restaurant where the drunk driver got their alcohol.

New York is one of many states with a “dram shop” law (referring to a “dram,” a small measure of alcohol).  In drunk driving cases, the dram shop law allows victims to put partial blame on the bar or restaurant that served the drunk driver then let them get behind the wheel.

This law only allows lawsuits where the bar or restaurant served alcohol to someone who was already visibly drunk.  If someone bar-hopped and was not clearly drunk when they were served, it might be hard to hold the bar liable.  However, your Bronx car accident lawyer can interview the bartenders and get testimony about what happened and whether or not the bar might share liability.

This rule does not absolve the drunk driver of their own personal fault.  These rules simply allow you to add the bar or restaurant to the case, but the driver will still be partly responsible in their own right.

New York also has a law for “social host liability,” but this only applies when a social host (i.e., not a bar or restaurant, but a private individual) serves an underage driver alcohol.

Call Our Drunk Driving Accident Victim Attorneys Today

If you or a loved one was hit by a drunk driver, contact the Staten Island car accident attorneys at The Carrion Law Firm.  For a free case review, call us today at (718) 841-0083.