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Evidentiary Issues in Serious Drunk Driving Car Accidents in Boston

Drunk drivers who end lives need to be held to account. That of course includes criminal charges, which police and prosecutors take very seriously. However, it also includes the right of victim/ survivors of the victim to pursue a claim for damages in civil court.Boston Drunk Driving Accidents

Although the standard of proof differs in criminal cases versus civil cases, there may still be evidentiary issues with which to contend. Although one does not necessarily need to be intoxicated to be negligent, proving intoxication of a defendant in a crash can establish negligence per se, which means a person is negligent by virtue of violating the law. However, this doctrine can only be applied in narrow circumstances (i.e., plaintiff can show she was in a class of people the legislature intended to protect when the law was written).

Drunk driving can, however, be used to establish comparative negligence. That is, defendant may be assigned a greater portion of responsibility for a crash owing to their impairment.

Because proving impairment of defendant is key to these civil cases, it’s important your drunk driving injury lawyer gather all relevant facts for use as evidence.

Boston Drunk Driving Accident

According to a recent news article from the Boston Globe, a 12-year-old girl was allegedly hit and severely injured by a defendant who is supposedly a repeat drunk driver.  Authorities have said the crash, which occurred in South Boston, was the fault the fault of a 78-year-old man from Attleboro, Massachusetts who was intoxicated at the time of the tragic accident.

As for the alleged facts of the accident, Massachusetts State Police (MSP) said the defendant was driving a Ford Explorer at around 4:30 p.m. when the incident occurred.  He was allegedly driving when the lost control of the vehicle and crashed into the victim.  Witnesses say he was traveling at around 60 miles per hour, and the area in which he was traveling had a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour.

At this point, witnesses say the defendant lost control and crashed into a parked car.   This caused the axle to crack on his Explorer, and this, in turn, caused the wheel connected to that broken axle to fall off.  Once the wheel fell off, he allegedly lost complete control of his vehicle, and he crashed into another vehicle.  After that, he spun out and crashed into the 12-year-old girl who was severely injured in the alleged South Boston drunk driving car accident.

Defendant then allegedly tried to flee from the scene, and this became a hit-and-run Boston  drunk driving accident. He then crashed into yet another vehicle.  This third vehicle into which he crashed was reportedly half a football field in distance away from the initial crash scene.  He then traveled an additional 500 yards before he eventually stopped his vehicle, authorities said.

When troopers approached his vehicle, they smelled what they described as an overwhelming odor of alcohol. He then allegedly told them that he had a couple of beers at lunch.  This is actually one issue that comes up in both OUI defense cases and Boston drunk driving accident cases.

When a person drinks alcohol, they are typically drinking it in the form of an alcoholic beverage. Even a liquor drink, such as bourbon, is considered an alcoholic beverage the same that a pina colada or rum runner would be.  The reason for this is because alcohol is a colorless and odorless liquid at room temperature and a gas when heated.  There is no smell of pure alcohol.  The smell we typically associate with liquor is really the impurities of alcohol that are what gives a drink its distinct flavor.

When you see a commercial for bourbon while watching the New England Patriots game, you hear about how the whiskey was made from malted barley and then distilled and aged in a certain kind of charred wood barrel for years, and that is why that particular brand is better than all others, according to the narrative on the ad.  All of those flavors, when speaking from a scientific perspective, are nothing more than impurities to the alcohol.  That is not only what gives the alcohol its color and taste, but also the smell.  The point of this is that if you drink bourbon, you will smell like bourbon. If you drink one beer, then you will smell like beer.  In fact, you will probably have a strong odor of alcohol emanating from your breath.

Passing “The Smell Test” 

This is the kind of information they tend to put in police reports, as was the case here.  The problem with this is that, while it will tell you that the suspect likely had something to drink before driving, it doesn’t prove that suspect was intoxicated. While many people say you can’t drink and drive, and this is good advice, because it’s dangerous and could kill someone, the law actually says that you cannot drive while intoxicated. The reasons this is important in terms of drunk driving car accident lawsuit is because when you go to try the case, you want to make sure your experienced personal injury lawyer will understand to approach the case from the totality of the circumstances and make sure there are other ways to prove that a person was intoxicated.  It should also be noted that, while a person may not be at or above the legal limit for alcohol consumption, which is 0.08 grams of ethanol (drinking alcohol) per hundred milliliters of blood, doesn’t mean they cannot be found liable in a civil drunk driving accident lawsuit.

The reason for this is because the system was established in such as way that if a person is over the legal limit, they will be per se intoxicated for the purpose of the OUI statute.  In case you were wondering that stands for, it is Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor or Drugs, but it is the same as what most other states call a DUI or DWI.  Per se means that something is true as a matter of law, generally without the need for further proof or evidence.  In other words, if a person blows a breath test result of 0.09 then they are per se intoxicated for the purpose of the OUI statute. However, a person can have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of well below that and still be intoxicated for the purpose of establishing negligence in Boston drunk driving accident case.

We should point out the differing standards of proof in criminal cases as compared to civil cases. In a civil case, the much lower preponderance of the evidence standard.  This means that it is must be established that it was more likely than not that a defendant acted negligently and that negligence caused damages to a plaintiff to whom he or she owed a duty of care. Conversely, the standard of proof in criminal cases is reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of proof. It means no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except defendant committed the crime.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

No bail for alleged drunk driver accused of striking 12-year-old girl, August 7, 2017, By Travis Andersen, Boston Globe

More Blog Entries:

Former NFL Quarterback Vince Young Given Probation for Drunk Driving, Feb. 7, 2017, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog