Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a crime in Tennessee, punishable by at least two days in jail and suspension of driving license for one year. The more a person commits a DUI crime, the heavier the penalties become. Although drunk driving itself is already a crime, you might be surprised to know that there are cases when the drunken driver is not required to pay for your car’s damages.

What does it legally mean when the driver is at ‘fault’?

Driving intoxicated increases the chances of getting involved in a crash with another car. It also increases the chances for the driver to be found liable for damages arising from a collision. That being said, ‘fault’ is a different matter altogether. The driver being drunk when the accident occurred does not mean they caused the crash. A court distinguishes cause from circumstantial coincidence, which can prove to be a philosopher’s game for those who don’t know the difference. For instance, the drunken driver happened to be driving along a slippery road, which could cause their car to crash into yours, even if they weren’t drunk.

To establish that the driver or their insurance carrier is financially liable for damages to your car, you would need to show that the damage was the fault of the driver. Under the law, cause is just one of three elements of fault. You also need to prove to the court that it was the driver’s obligation to take care to avoid causing harm to other people and property. This element of fault is called “duty of care.” The third element of fault is “breach.” To prove breach, you would have to show that the drunken driver did something careless or unreasonable.

Drunkenness and accident compensation: proving breach, neglect of duty. and causation

For you to be entitled to compensation for damages involving your car, it is not enough to prove that the driver was drunk. The fact of drunkenness could only be enough to establish neglect of duty and breach, which are just two out of the three elements needed to demonstrate fully that it’s the drunken driver’s fault. In Tennessee, violation of DUI law, regardless of any harmful effect that the intoxicated driver caused, is enough to establish neglect of duty and breach.

But even with drunkenness already establishing neglect of duty and breach, you still have to prove that the driver’s intoxication was the cause behind your car’s accident. As already mentioned with the slippery road example, drunkenness by itself may not always be the cause for the car crash. There’s also the case of rear-end collisions where you were the one who took the wrong turn that caused your car to hit the back of the car right in front of you. In this kind of collision, you are clearly the one who caused the damage to your own vehicle and that of the person in front of you, even if the driver of the car in front was drunk. But if it was the drunk driver who took a wrong turn and hit you from behind, you could establish causation.

It’s always best to hire a lawyer after a collision

Even if the driver of the car that hit yours was drunk, don’t be so confident in securing compensation for the damages. You would have to establish that the accident was their fault first. But proving fault and gathering evidence to satisfy all its three elements takes skill and attention to detail by a lawyer based in Knoxville, Tennessee. By hiring a lawyer after a car accident, you increase your chances of getting back the repair money you deserve.

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