With more people joining the social groups, more people are out social drinking. The traditional theory is that if you only have a couple of drinks then you can drive home without the fear of arrest. That may be partially true but in the world of civil attorneys, one drink may do you in.
Let’s say that you went out with your buddies after work and you have a couple of drinks with your meal. Now you may not be feeling a good buzz, but sometimes alcohol sneaks up slowly when you least expect it. It is time to go home and you feel confident that you can drive safely and not endanger yourself or other drivers. All of a sudden a car goes through a stop sign and you T-Bone it. The impact was directed right at the driver’s door. You are all right, but the driver of the car that ran the stop sign is in serious condition. The police come and as a matter of being thorough, they give you a field sobriety test. You pass the test. But in some states if serious injury occurs you are required to either blow a breath test or surrender a blood sample.
Knowing that you are not legally drunk, you submit to the testing. Your blood alcohol level is well below being drunk and under the impaired limits. You feel that you are okay legally and no charges are being filed against you. A few days after the accident, the driver of the other car dies. You feel bad, but it was not your fault. You were not charged with a crime.
A few months after the accident you get served with papers from the court stating that you are being sued for negligence in the death of the driver. This is a civil complaint and not a criminal action. Since the courts failed to charge you because you were in compliance with the law, you are not worried. But this is where you are wrong.
Criminal courts and civil courts have different requirements on evidence. A civil court is usually more lenient on evidence than a criminal court, and some seem like you can invent the evidence as the trial goes along without much interference from the judge. Remember the O.J. Simpson case? He was cleared of murder by the criminal courts but was found legally responsible in the civil action against him. It was two different sets of rules.
On your court day you find that the plaintiff’s attorney claims that because you only had a couple of drinks, this impaired you from avoiding the accident. If you had no drinks you may have been able to swerve to avoid the crash. Now with no expert being able to say for 100% that it would have made no difference, you are found guilty. You have to pay the family of the deceased money for the rest of your life. It did not matter that they ran the stop sign. What mattered was the “Jury” felt that you should share in the death of the driver. You knew it was illegal to drink and drive, but you did it anyway. Even if it was in moderation you made the decision to drink.
In reality, this does happen many times a year. It can happen to you. The best way to avoid this problem is to not drink and drive. My solution is that when our family and friends gather, and I want to drink, we do it at my place. Now I have no reason to drive. And everyone knows that if you are drinking, you will not be allowed to drive from my house.
This year with the upcoming holidays, please drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive. It is not worth it and you could be saving a life. Maybe yours.