Driver Charged With Fourth DUI After Injury Collision

A Leesville man is in the Beauregard Parish Jail because he was allegedly intoxicated when he rammed into a woman and two children on U.S. Highway 171.

According to Louisiana State Police, 48-year-old Brian Hayes was southbound 171’s right lane near the Louisiana 112 intersection when he illegally changed lanes and sideswiped a vehicle waiting in the turn lane. The impact seriously injured 29-year-old Erica Fowler, of DeRidder, and two children whose names were not released. All three were rushed to a nearby hospital, while authorities took Mr. Hayes into custody at the scene.

Investigators suspect that Mr. Hayes, who had three prior DUI convictions on his record, was once again driving while impaired.

First Party Liability in Alcohol Crashes

Apparently, officers did not administer a Breathalyzer test or field tests in this case, possibly because Mr. Hayes was too injured to provide consent and/or perform the test. In criminal court, non-test cases are much harder for prosecutors to win, because the law is less favorable and there is less evidence available. The standard of proof is quite high as well. The prosecutor must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

However, in civil court, the standard of proof is much lower. In fact, the plaintiff need only prove that the tortfeasor (negligent actor) was legally at fault for the alcohol crash by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. If I have two equally-sized stacks of paper in front of me and move one sheet from the left to the right, one stack is larger than the other one, and that is the picture of preponderance of the evidence.

As a result, it is much easier to prove impairment by alcohol, drugs, or any other substance with circumstantial evidence like:

  • Odor of alcohol,
  • Unsteady balance,
  • Slurred speech, and
  • Bloodshot eyes.

Any one of these things – especially an odor of alcohol – is generally sufficient for a jury to conclude that the tortfeasor was impaired.

Third Party Liability in Alcohol Crashes

Unlike most other states, Louisiana does not have a dram shop law or a social host liability law. However, third-party providers can still be held liable for damages in alcohol crash cases under a negligent undertaking theory. To establish liability, the plaintiff must show that the:

  • Tortfeasor voluntarily assumed an additional duty of care,
  • Victim relied on the tortfeasor’s assumption of duty, and
  • Tortfeasor made the situation worse by abandoning his or her duty.

Assume Danny Defendant becomes intoxicated at a bar, an employee offers to call Danny a cab, and the employee never makes the call. Danny gets tired of waiting, attempts to drive home, and collides with another vehicle. In that situation, the bar owner may be liable for damages.

The tortfeasor may not be the only person or entity responsible for damages in an alcohol crash case. For a free consultation with an experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorney, contact Hoffoss Devall. An attorney can arrange for victims to receive ongoing medical care, even if they have no money and no insurance.