Havant Personal Injury Solicitor, Vicki Wright, comments on the impact of alcohol in RTAs
We all know that driving whilst under the influence of drink/drugs is illegal and as recently reported in The News, has led to a Portsmouth man, who was driving whilst twice over the legal limit, being jailed for causing serious injuries when his van ploughed into four pedestrians. There is no excuse. Drinking and driving can cause serious injuries both to the driver but more significantly, to innocent drivers and in this particular case in Portsmouth, to four innocent pedestrians who sustained very serious injuries.
The driver was punished in the criminal court. But what is the situation regarding compensation for injuries causes in circumstances where alcohol is involved?
It goes without saying that where the driver of a vehicle is intoxicated and sustains injuries, that is his own fault and he/she will not receive compensation. But what about their passenger/s? In general terms, the position is that a driver or motorcyclist owes his passenger/s a duty of care and as such, depending on the circumstances of the accident, may well be held entirely to blame for their injuries. If, however, the passenger gets into a vehicle when they know or think that the driver has been drinking and if they sustain injuries as a result of a subsequent accident, their compensation will be reduced usually by 20%-25%. The same applies to situations where the passenger was so drunk that he/she was unable to assess whether the driver was drunk or not. The passenger may argue that they were not aware the driver was over the limit. Such arguments will depend upon the circumstances of the case but if you get into a vehicle when the driver has been drinking, any compensation you receive will almost certainly be reduced.
Where innocent pedestrians are struck, there are two potential routes, namely an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) which compensates victims of a violent crime; and/or a claim against the driver’s insurer or the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) if he/she is not insured.
But what is the situation where the pedestrian is drunk and is struck by a vehicle? Drivers owe pedestrians a duty of care. If the driver sees that a pedestrian he/she is approaching appears drunk and, for example, is staggering on and off the pavement, the driver has been put on notice of the position and if they fail to take appropriate action, could be held partially responsible for subsequent injuries if an accident occurs. If, on the other hand, the pedestrian appeared to be walking along the pavement normally and then suddenly lurched into the path of the car, it would be difficult for the pedestrian to argue that the driver was responsible for any injuries sustained.