Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

I am here to help you.

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Direct and Circumstantial Evidence in Renton Alcohol-Related Crash Claims

Posted Friday, May 12, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns caused vehicle traffic to plummet in 2020. Nevertheless, the number of fatal alcohol-related car crashes increased substantially. Mostly because of lax or nonexistent traffic enforcement, drivers developed several bad habits, including drinking and driving. Like many other bad habits, the pandemic-related drinking and driving habit has proven easy to form and hard to break.

Even if the victim survives, drunk drivers normally cause serious injuries, such as broken bones and head injuries. These injuries are normally permanent, at least to an extent. Therefore, a Renton personal injury lawyer can normally obtain substantial compensation in court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

*Direct Evidence*A bill to reduce Washington’s BAC limit recently failed in the State Senate. So, this limit, as in most other states, is still .08. In criminal court, prosecutors normally use breath tests to prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt.

A criminal conviction doesn’t matter to a Renton personal injury lawyer. If emergency responders charge a tortfeasor (negligent driver) with DUI, the negligence per se rule could apply. According to this doctrine, tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if:

* - *Safety Law Violation: An arrest is as good as a conviction in civil court, at least in this context. Such arrests are common if the tortfeasor is legally drunk. Most law enforcement agencies in and around King County have mandatory DUI arrest policies. The days of “go forth and sin no more” are long gone in this area. - Causes a Crash: Alcohol is a depressant that affects motor skills and judgment ability. These characteristics might be good at parties or if the person is drinking in a safe environment. But they’re very dangerous when the person tries to operate heavy machinery, like a motor vehicle.

Jurors often award very high compensation in DUI collision cases. Arguably, these tortfeasors knew they should not get behind the wheel, but they did so anyway and deliberately put other people at risk.

*Circumstantial Evidence*Three or four drinks make most people legally drunk. But the aforementioned poor judgment and reduced reaction time effects begin with the first sip of alcohol. In other words, many drivers are impaired but not intoxicated. An attorney uses circumstantial evidence to prove negligence, or a lack of care, in these situations. This evidence usually includes physical symptoms, such as:

This evidence could also prove third-party liability. More on that below. Additional evidence of impairment includes erratic driving before the wreck and the tortfeasor’s previous schedule. If they recently went to a place that serves alcohol, it is more likely than not that they had at least one drink while there.

More likely than not, or a preponderance of the evidence, is the burden of proof in negligence claims. Individually, the physical symptoms listed above do not establish impairment or even consumption. But the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Washington has a dram shop law. RCW 66.44.200 states that a person cannot sell liquor to a person who appears to be under the influence of alcohol.

Third-party liability is important in alcohol-related crashes. Frequently, the victim’s injuries are so severe that an individual tortfeasor does not have sufficient insurance to cover all economic and noneconomic losses.

*Rely on a Savvy King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Kent, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC.