Liability for Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers


Between 2003-2012 there were 3,699 motor vehicle deaths in Georgia due to someone driving drunk.  Also one in three traffic fatalities in the United States is due to a drunk driver.  When a drunk driver causes an injury or death, the person injured is entitled to not only the compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering but also punitive damages from the drunk driver.  Most insurance policies will also pay the punitive damages the drunk driver is responsible for paying.  Although most punitive damages awards in Georgia are capped at $250,000.00, a punitive damages award against an intoxicated driver is not capped at any specific amount. fn  This means that a jury can award as much money as they believe will punish the drunk driver for his actions.

Another alcohol related lawsuit that needs to be investigated when a drunk driver is involved is a Dram Shop lawsuit.  Places that serve alcohol owe a duty to ensure that they do not serve alcohol to an intoxicated person whom they have reason to believe will be driving himself or herself after consuming the alcohol.  This applies to bars, restaurants, and convenience stores in Georgia.  If the intoxicated driver causes injury or death to someone (even a passenger in the same vehicle) the place that sold the alcohol will be responsible for the injuries or death caused by the drunk driver.

If a bar, restaurant or convenience store sells alcohol to a minor without asking for proof that the person is 21 years old then that provider will be responsible if that minor caused an injury or death while intoxicated from the alcohol sold to him or her.  When alcohol is sold to a minor it doesn’t matter if the person is intoxicated when making the purchase.  The simple fact that alcohol is sold to a minor makes the provider of alcohol responsible for the actions of the intoxicated minor.

It is important to speak to an attorney soon after an accident involving a drunk driver.  The preservation of evidence (e.g. surveillance tapes and receipts) is crucial to proving a Dram Shop case.