Drunk Driving Threatens Innocent Georgia Motorists

On December 3, 2021, a driver suspected of driving under the influence fled from a traffic stop and engaged troopers in a high-speed chase that resulted in him running a red light and crashing into two vehicles. All the occupants of the vehicles were rushed to the hospital; some of them needed to be extricated. On November 15, 2021, two people lost their lives, and a third person was in critical condition on Interstate 285 in southwest DeKalb County when the drunk driver reared-ended their vehicle. The at-fault driver escaped the accident with non-life-threatening injuries.
Drunk driving is one of the highest causes of traffic fatalities in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that drinking and driving kill 28 people in the United States – about one person every 52 minutes. These figures amount to over 10,000 people killed every year, i.e., at least 10,000 families are shattered annually due to avoidable reasons.

If you or your loved one was injured in a drunk driving accident, you are entitled to compensation for your hurts. Please get the services of an aggressive drunk driving accident attorney to take up the case on your behalf and recover the compensation you deserve. This article examines how drunk driving threatens innocent Georgia motorists and what you can do to get compensation for your injuries.

Accidents from drunk driving

When a driver gets drunk and gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, they significantly increase their chances of causing an auto accident. Drunk driving accidents tend to be pretty severe because of the impairment alcohol causes for drivers.

The United States defines an impaired driver as someone who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of higher than or equal to 0.08%. But the funny thing about alcohol is that people respond to it differently.

The Center for Disease Control outlined the effects of alcohol on people at varying degrees of concentration. Note that the outline is a general guide, as people metabolize alcohol at different rates. For example, a person with a BAC of 0.02% may show significant impairment, while one with a BAC of 0.08% may not show as much impairment.

A 0.02% BAC typically has the following effects:

  • A decline in visual functions
  • Reduced capacity to perform two tasks at the same time
  • 05 percent BAC
  • Reduced coordination
  • Reduced ability to track moving objects
  • Difficulty steering
  • Reduced response to emergency driving situations
  • 08 percent BAC
  • Lack of concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Speed control
  • A reduced ability to process information
  • Impaired perception
  • 10 percent BAC
  • Reduced ability to manage lane position and brake
  • 15 percent BAC

Inability to control the vehicle with a significant lack of attention span
A drastic decline in the ability to process visual and auditory information

Common drunk driving accidents

With these types of effects, it is no wonder that drunk drivers are, more often than not, involved in one kind of auto accident or the other. Common accidents caused by drunk driving include:

Rear-End Collisions

With reduced coordination and ability to track moving objects, drunk drivers typically suffer impairment in gauging distances accurately. Thus, if the driver ahead of them suddenly stops or slows down, they cannot react quickly enough and end up rear-ending the car in front of them.

Head-On Collisions

Because they suffer a reduced ability to manage lane positions, drunk drivers tend to drift into lanes of oncoming traffic and cause head-on collisions.

Hitting a Pedestrian

A drunk driver can run down a pedestrian because of a drastic decline in their ability to process visual and auditory information.

Liabilities of drunk drivers who cause accidents in Georgia

Georgia has strict drunk driving laws, and they have two primary functions. First of all, they curb the menace of drunk driving and protect innocent Georgia motorists. Secondly, they safeguard the rights of victims of drunk driving accidents. Under Georgia law, a driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered driving under the influence of alcohol. Thus, they may be charged and, if found guilty, will face the penalties for drunk driving.

The penalties for drunk driving in Georgia include the following:

Fine, or jail term, or both;
Suspended driver’s license for up to five years;
Community service
Taking part in a substance abuse program at the defendant’s expense
Possessing a crime record

Fines and jail terms differ based on whether the defendant is a first-time offender or repeat offender.

First-time offenders face up to one year in jail and a fine of at least $300 and no more than $1000. Second-time offenders within five years will net at least 48 hours in jail and between $600 and $1000 in fines. Third-time offenders within five years will face 15 mandatory days in jail and $1,000 to $5,000 in fines.

In addition to the above penalties, defendants in drunk driving accidents and their insurance providers may be held liable for all injuries sustained by accident victims. Furthermore, they are responsible for compensating the victims for economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to compensation for all actual and out-of-pocket expenses incurred by a victim (plaintiff) while getting treated for their injuries. They include medical bills, lost income, future medical bills, cost of lifestyle changes, transportation for medical treatment etc.

Non-economic damages compensate the plaintiff for the intangible hurts they suffered due to their injuries. This typically includes:

Pain and suffering,
Loss of consortium (if the victim was married, their spouse could demand this)
Emotional trauma
Future loss of income, etc.

Punitive damages in Georgia drunk driving cases

In addition to economic and non-economic damages, plaintiffs may get an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded when “the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, 3 fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.” OCGA § 51-12-5.1

Punitive damages are typically awarded not to compensate the plaintiff but penalize or deter a defendant. Georgia laws dictate that when deciding whether to impose punitive damages, the jury in a drunk driving case should consider the defendant’s conduct that led to the accident and consider the at-fault driver’s record. If the defendant had previous DUIs, these would weigh heavily against them. This is because a repeat offence indicates the defendant’s conscious indifference to the consequences of their actions.

Another angle to punitive damages in Georgia drunk driving cases is that the plaintiff may also tell the jury about any subsequent episodes of drinking and driving in which the defendant engaged. The court’s reason is that if a driver continues to drive drunk after injuring someone, they show a grave indifference to the consequences of their actions and should be punished severely. Langlois v. Wolford, 246 Ga. App. 209, 214 (2000) and Craig v. Holsey, 264 Ga. App. 344, 347 (2003).

Usually, Georgia laws cap punitive damages at $250,000 for auto accidents, but this cap is removed in drunk driving accidents. OCGA § 51-12-5.1 (f) states that there should be no limitation regarding the amount of punitive damages awarded against a defendant (the active tort-feasor) in a drunk driving case.

Get expert legal help for drunk driving accident injuries

If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident in Georgia, please reach out to an aggressive Georgia drunk driving accident injury lawyer who will fight for you to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.