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Tennessee Car Accidents Caused by a Drunk Driver

Learn about your rights following a car accident due to a drunk driver

Auto accidents can result in very serious injuries to drivers and passengers alike, regardless of alcohol involvement. However, any subsequent accident injury claims are evaluated differently in alcohol-related cases.

Proving fault is central to all auto accidents in the state of Tennessee since the state has one of the most restrictive comparative fault laws in the nation. Tennessee uses a modified comparative fault which applies a 50 percent bar rule when determining insurance benefits eligibility or the amount of liability of a driver is being evaluated. Passengers can also be evaluated for fault as well, but most cases don’t include personal contribution for the passengers (with the possible exception of getting in a vehicle with a driver that is impaired).

Drunk driving is serious in Tennessee

Tennessee is focused on reducing drunk driving. As recently as 2017, the state experienced an increase in drunk driving deaths by an 11.5 percent rate. This number almost tripled compared to the increases in Alabama and Georgia. This has prompted state officials to prosecute drunk driving as a very serious crime in every jurisdiction within the state.

This also means that accident injury cases involving drunk drivers could include the possibility of punitive damages or wrongful death claims in special cases. Criminal charges are common in a DUI accident case, even before the injury claims are finalized, and it can often be the difference maker when the state wins a conviction. However, this can also be problematic as well because it could reduce the available financial recovery resources when fines come first and insurance coverage is limited.

Impact of comparative fault

The comparative fault percentage of any injured driver will affect their claim significantly. Accidents in Tennessee that are determined 50/50 collisions typically eliminate any financial recovery for either driver, even when an intoxicated driver has totaled your car.

The fact that they are impaired usually only matters if the blood alcohol content (BAC) level is beyond .05 (unless the accident involves a commercial vehicle being operated by an impaired commercial driver). Underage drivers are held to a zero tolerance standard. The .05 standard establishes reckless driving in Tennessee, which will become material evidence in the claim. CDL holders are restricted to a .02 BAC when determining criminal charges.

Additionally, it is also illegal to drive under the influence of certain chemicals—whether they are prescribed or not—and the presence of drugs in the bloodstream is material evidence in the injury claim. Your attorney can focus on all of these potential issues in your claim while minimizing any comparative negligence percentage.

Who can be held liable for drunk driving accidents?

Drunk driver accident cases are often complicated by the fact that multiple parties could be found liable when all case elements are evaluated. Drunk drivers are commonly involved in accidents with multiple vehicles, which can result in several drivers being assessed a fault percentage, which means other parties could also be held liable.

Cases involving commercial vehicles can be even more complicated. Even when the accident is clearly the fault of one drunk driver, evidence regarding where they had been and what they had been doing can matter significantly if they had been at a business that serves alcohol.

In addition, dram shop laws in Tennessee allow those injured in an accident with a drunk driver to pursue damages from any establishment that may have served the drunk driver an excessive amount of alcohol.

Punitive damages for drunk driving injury cases

It’s not unusual for a drunk driver accident case to find its way to court. Sometimes the defending parties want a trial, and sometimes the injured claimant wants whole damages as assigned by a jury. Punitive damages can only be awarded after a trial and then the amount is capped at $750,000 in Tennessee.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident involving a drunk or drugged driver, then it is vital to have experienced and aggressive legal representatives looking out for your interests because it can be the difference between being properly compensated or possibly not receiving any compensation at all. Technicalities can matter, and the right personal injury attorney will understand how to craft a solid case for presentation to the court. Cases against drunk drivers are challenging because they are almost always defended vigorously by the defendant's insurance company. You need a professional legal team handling your case.

It’s vital to have an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney, like the team at Gilreath & Associates, who understands how to handle a claim involving an intoxicated driver for a successful outcome. Contact us today for your free consultation.


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Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilreath & Associates offer free and personal consultation to help you evaluate your legal options.
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