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Boston Drunk Driving Crashes are Not Accidents

When people talk about drunk driving crashes in Boston, they often call them drunk driving accidents.  While it is okay to use this term, as discussed in a recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, these are generally someone’s fault, and therefore, the proper term should be drunk driving crashes, as this does not indicate a lack of blame. The truth is, these collisions occur because of specific choices made by the driver. The offense of operating under the influence (OUI), as defined in MGL c. 90 s.24, is to drive a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/ or with a blood-alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds 0.08. To do so is not only a criminal offense, it is a breach of one’s duty to passengers, other motorists and pedestrians to use reasonable care on the roads.

Boston car accident lawyer In keeping up with the changing terminology, Waze, one of the most popular navigation apps, has begun using the word “crash” when explaining a road hazard ahead that involves a motor vehicle collision. As our Boston drunk driving crash lawyers can explain, there are essentially to two types of a torts.  At tort is a defined as a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy.  The two types of torts are negligent and intentional.  An intentional tort, as the name implies, involves intentional conduct. This includes assault, battery, false imprisonment (civil kidnapping), arson, trespass to  chattles, conversion of property (theft), the intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and various others.

The other type of tort is negligence.  The basic elements of negligence are duty, breach, causation, and damages.  A duty is a duty of due care, that requires a person to act as a reasonable and prudent person so as to prevent foreseeable harm to foreseeable persons and property.  Breach of this duty of due car can involve conduct that objectively fails this standard or it can involve the violation of a law.  It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so if a suspect is convicted of that crime, it can be used as evidence. in a civil drunk driving lawsuit in Boston.

This type of breach of one’s duty of due care is known as negligence per se.  However, in the Commonwealth,  not every violation of criminal statute or civil ordinance will automatically establish negligence per se.  The law in our jurisdiction requires that the law or ordinance that was broken be drafted with the intent of preventing the type of harm that actually occurred in this case. For example, it is illegal to drive drunk because doing so is very dangerous and could result in a serious or even fatal crash.

Therefore, if a person was driving drunk, and gets an operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUI), that could be used to establish a breach of one’s duty of care under the negligence per se doctrine. On the other hand, if a person was driving without insurance, this is not something that could be used to establish negligence per se in a Boston drunk driving car accident. This does not mean there cannot be a finding of negligence, but the breach of one’s duty must be established aside from the fact that defendant was driving without a valid car insurance policy.

The other elements in a negligence case are causation and damages. Causation can be broken down into two further elements – actual and proximate causation. Actual causation is known as “but for” causation meaning that the accident would not have happened, but for the defendant’s negligent conduct.  However, with but for causation, there is not time limit.  This means that if defendant’s negligent conduct made it possible for damages that occurred 20 years later and was not really foreseeable, there would still be actual causation. Under the American legal system, but for causation is necessary to establish, but it is often not the critical element in a Boston drunk driving car accident or any other negligence cause.

Proximate cause is often much more critical.  To have proximate causation, the defendant’s negligence must be related close in time and foreseeable to the damages caused in these cases. Damages is the final element of the tort of negligence and relates to the harm caused, but it basically translates to the monetary loss suffered by plaintiff. In a drunk driving car crash in Boston, typical damages often include personal injury, property damage (car), medical bills, pain and suffering, cost of future rehabilitation, and other types of “special damages.”

Some damages are considered demonstrable or monetary, such as medical bills, but some type of damages such as pain and suffering are often not so easy to calculate.  If the case goes to trial, the jury will be asked to do just that.  However, if your attorney fights for a fair and appropriate settlement, and is successful, there will likely be a calculation made by insurance adjusters that is eventually approved by your attorney.  Most of these cases do not go to trial, so the jury will not be required to make that calculation.  This is not to say that a jury is not good at what it does, but when the parties are able to reach a fair settlement, the result will generally be preferable to having the case to trial.  On the other hand, in the event that a case can’t go to trial, the best thing a claimant can do is to make sure his or her attorney has the proper experience in taking this cases to trial and will do everything reasonable to get plaintiff the best possible result the facts will allow.

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:

Crash or Accident?, September 2, 2017, By Ben Yagoda, The Chronicle of Higher Education

More Blog Entries:

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