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Why notions of fault don’t always apply to drunk drivers

How do we determine who is at fault for a motor vehicle accident? In many cases, victims of drunk driving accidents may be surprised to learn that the traditional cultural notions of “fault” are superseded by motor vehicle statutes. This is significant because insurance companies are increasingly able to challenge notions of liability of fault when the other driver has violated some type of statute.

Here is an example. Say that you and a friend are driving home from dinner when you make an illegal lane change in front of another driver. That driver is legally intoxicated, has lower response times and strikes your vehicle because he or she is not in full control of his or her faculties. You and your friend are seriously injured because of the auto accident — but who is at fault? In today’s Connecticut courtrooms, you might find yourself battling to receive the financial compensation you need and deserve, even as the victim of a drunk driving accident, if complicating factors exist.

In general, “fault” is divided into four categories in the civil courtroom. These include negligence, reckless conduct, intentional misconduct and strict liability. The latter of these is the most serious, and often is enforced when one party creates a uniquely dangerous situation on the roads — think transporting dangerously corrosive materials. No matter who caused the accident, the company that operates the chemical truck could be held liable for related injuries.

Drunk drivers are generally considered to have engaged in intentional or reckless behavior, placing them in the intermediate fault categories. Still, this must be addressed in a court of law. A victim of a drunk driving accident may struggle to overcome barriers employed by the drunk driver’s insurance company to encourage an unfair settlement. Victims need the advocacy and representation of a knowledgeable attorney to prevent the drunk driver from getting off the hook in civil court.

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