Frequently Asked Questions
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Drunk Driving Accidents

  1. What should I do if I'm involved in a car accident with a drunk driver?
  2. Who can sue in a drunk driving accident case?
  3. What if the person who injured me was found to be driving under the influence, but I feel like I also was probably at fault. Can I bring a lawsuit?
  4. How impaired must a defendant be for there to be a presumption under the law that the defendant was negligent?
  5. What damages can I recover in a wrongful death or serious personal injury case stemming from the negligence of a defendant who was driving under the influence?
  6. How long do I have to bring my case against a person who was driving under the influence?
  7. I was involved in an accident where the other driver was using an illegal drug. Do these same rules apply to my situation?
  8. My wife was involved in a car accident with a drunk driver who had just left a bar. Is there any way to sue the bar?
  9. I was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver, and I was injured when he crashed into a fence. Can I sue him?
  10. Do I need an attorney to pursue my case against a defendant who was driving under the influence?

Questions & Answers

What should I do if I'm involved in a car accident with a drunk driver?
Answer:
Cooperate fully with the police at the scene at the accident. Be sure to get as much information from the police as possible about the identity of the other driver, their address and the name of their insurance company. You will want to be sure to be checked out by a competent physician to get an early assessment of the injuries that are caused by the accident.

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Who can sue in a drunk driving accident case?
Answer:
Generally speaking, any injured person has the right to bring a claim against the drunk driver for the injuries they sustain in the accident subject to the limitations of the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act.
In addition, in the event that somebody is killed as a result of a drunk driver, his or her heirs and next of kin have a right to bring a claim against the drunk driver and any bar or restaurant that served the drunk driver intoxicating beverages.

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What if the person who injured me was found to be driving under the influence, but I feel like I also was probably at fault. Can I bring a lawsuit?
Answer:
Under Minnesota Law, fault is determined on a percentage basis. The mere fact that you may have some percentage of fault in causing an accident doesn’t necessary mean that you cannot bring a claim. Under Minnesota Law, if you and the drunk driver contributed equally to the happening of an accident and then you have the right to bring a claim to recover your damages subject to the limitations contained in the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act. These limitations generally relate to the severity of your injury and the amount of medical expenses you incurred as a result of the accident.
If you are found to be more at fault then the drunk driver then you cannot recover any damages for your injuries.

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How impaired must a defendant be for there to be a presumption under the law that the defendant was negligent?
Answer:
In reality, there is never a presumption that a drunk driver is negligent. Under Minnesota Law, an individual operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration in excess of .10 % is in violation of Minnesota Statutes Section 169.121. A violation of this statute is prima facia evidence of negligence but does not rise to the level of creating a presumption of negligence. In effect, prima facia evidence means that the mere fact someone is intoxicated is sufficient to allow a finding of negligence by the jury after considerations of all the other factors involved in the accident.

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What damages can I recover in a wrongful death or serious personal injury case stemming from the negligence of a defendant who was driving under the influence?
Answer:
In addition to standard compensatory damages covering loss wages, medical bills, pain, suffering and disability there is a possibility of bringing a claim for punitive damages against a driver who was found to be operating a motor vehicle while drunk. In a wrongful death case, the surviving heirs and next of kin are allow to recover their loss of means of support as well as the value of the loss of advice and companionship stemming from the death of a loved one. In such a case, it is also possible to bring a punitive damages claim against the individual who was driving while drunk.

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How long do I have to bring my case against a person who was driving under the influence?
Answer:
In Minnesota, there is a six years statute of limitations for claims alleging negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle by an intoxicated person. However, these cases may sometime involve claims against the bar or restaurant that served the intoxicating beverages. Under those circumstances, Minnesota Law provides a two years statute of limitations from the date of the injury.
In the case of the wrongful death of an individual arising out of an accident with a drunk driver, Minnesota Law provides that a claim must be brought against the drunk driver within a period of three years.

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I was involved in an accident where the other driver was using an illegal drug. Do these same rules apply to my situation?
Answer:
Generally yes. However, there is no set limit of concentration of illegal substance in ones blood stream that creates the prima facia evidence of negligence. However, evidence of the use of illegal drug is admissible to the extent that it has an effect on a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.

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My wife was involved in a car accident with a drunk driver who had just left a bar. Is there any way to sue the bar?
Answer:
Yes, the Minnesota Civil Damages Act provides that a licensed bar or restaurant that serves a person illegally either when they’re intoxicated or under age, is subject to liability for damages caused by the intoxicated driver.

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I was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver, and I was injured when he crashed into a fence. Can I sue him?
Answer:
Yes, there may be some allocation of fault to you for having gotten into a motor vehicle with somebody who was intoxicated but generally speaking, if his intoxication caused him to drive in such a fashion that he was negligent and failed to use reasonable care and you were injured as a result, the law allows you to make a claim against him.

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Do I need an attorney to pursue my case against a defendant who was driving under the influence?
Answer:
Under Minnesota Law, an injured person is not required to hire an attorney in a case against a drunk driver. However, an attorney can provide expertise in developing the case to establish a good liability claim against the driver. In addition, an attorney can be extremely helpful in working with your doctors to provide clear and detailed medical reports outlining the nature and extent of the injuries that you’ve suffered in an accident. You can be assured that the drunk driver and the insurance company will have lawyers on the case from the beginning. By hiring a lawyer yourself, you level the playing field and increase the likelihood that you’ll receive fair treatment.

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