Survey: Drunk Drivers Abound On Area Roads

Lafayette ranked second on a list of the 100 cities with the most fatal alcohol-related crashes; Shreveport was no. 39, New Orleans was no. 40, and Lake Charles was no. 47.

Last year, eight of the thirteen fatal vehicle collisions in Lafayette were alcohol-related. That 61.5 percent mark was second only to Cape Coral, Florida (70 percent). Moreover, the per capita death rate in Lafayette (0.627) was more than twice as high as the rate in number three Providence, R.I.. Most of the cities on the list, like Lafayette, have populations under 200,000 and are not in urban areas. Study authors theorize that such communities have a higher number of impaired drivers, because of less-developed public transportation, as well as hospitals that are generally smaller and have fewer resources than the ones in big cities.

Vineland, N.J. and Dayton, Ohio rounded out the top five.

Circumstantial Evidence in Alcohol-Related Crashes

In serious crashes, authorities often do not have the chance to administer BAC breath or blood tests. In criminal court, defendants are much more likely to obtain not-guilty verdicts in these non-test cases. However, there is a much lower standard of proof in civil court (a preponderance of the evidence as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt), so negligent drivers can be held liable based on:

  • Erratic Driving: Drivers that weave in and out of traffic often do not have complete control of their mental and/or physical faculties; the same is often true of operators that ignore traffic control devices, drive very quickly, or drive very slowly.
  • Odor of Alcohol: In criminal court, such odor normally only proves consumption, but in civil court, because of the lower standard of proof, consumption is tantamount to impairment.
  • Bloodshot Eyes: Any abnormal visual impairment, especially at night, is normally enough to establish driving impairment.

Additionally, if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) came from a place where alcohol was served, such as a bar or a party, the jury can conclude that, more likely than not, the person had been drinking.

Direct Evidence in Alcohol-Related Crashes

If the tortfeasor was charged with DUI, the negligence per se (negligence “as such”) rule typically applies. In these cases, the judge finds negligence as a matter of law if the tortfeasor violated a safety statute, like DUI or speeding, the victim was among the people that the statute is designed to protect, and the tortfeasor’s statutory violation caused the victim’s damages. Particularly in high BAC cases, such as .16 or above, negligence per se matters essentially create a presumption in favor of additional punitive damages. The jury must award these damages if the plaintiff prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded the safety and property of other people on the road.

There are several ways to establish liability in alcohol-related crashes. For a free consultation with an assertive Lake Charles personal injury attorney, contact Hoffoss Devall. We do not charge upfront legal fees in most negligence cases.