Alcohol-Induced Fatal Crash In Sterlington

An allegedly drunk driver killed one police officer and seriously injured two others during a traffic stop on southbound Highway 165.

According to Louisiana State Police, 44-year-old Tracy Govan, of Monroe, crossed the fog line in a 2014 GMC Sierra, striking three officers who were on the scene. Officer David Elahi was declared dead at the scene; two other officers, whose names were not released, were transported to a local hospital, where they are expected to survive. Mr. Govan now faces a number of criminal charges, including vehicular homicide, improper lane usage, and vehicular negligent injury.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Colonel Mike Edmonson characterized the event as “a tragedy that could have been avoided.”

First Party Liability in Alcohol Crashes

As discussed in an earlier post, in negligence cases, the plaintiff must prove that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was impaired.

Many times, there is direct evidence of intoxication. Breath and blood BAC tests are neither perfect nor infallible, but they are almost always more than reliable enough in civil court because of the lower standard of proof. Bear in mind that impairment occurs at a substantially lower BAC than intoxication, at least in most cases, so even if the tortfeasor “passes” the test for DUI purposes it is still evidence of alcohol impairment.

Furthermore, a negligence case is not a criminal proceeding. Therefore, if the tortfeasor refuses to provide a chemical sample, the plaintiff can use this refusal as evidence of alcohol impairment.

If there is no BAC test, for whatever reason, the plaintiff can rely on circumstantial evidence to prove alcohol impairment. Such evidence includes:

  • Odor of Alcohol: If the tortfeasor had been drinking earlier, the tortfeasor was probably impaired while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Bloodshot Eyes: Any unusual visual impairment normally makes it unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.
  • Impaired Motor Skills: If the tortfeasor has issues retrieving a drivers’ license from a wallet or getting out of the car safely, the tortfeasor probably found it difficult to control the vehicle while driving.

Circumstantial evidence, especially when viewed as individual items, may not be enough to prove intoxication in criminal court, but it is nearly always sufficient to prove alcohol impairment in civil court. Plaintiffs that were injured because the tortfeasor breached the duty of care are entitled to compensation for their economic damages, like lost wages, and noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering.

Negligent drivers must pay for the damages they inflict. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. Home and hospital visits are available.