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Impaired driving can have tragic consequences. Intoxication continues to be a frequent factor in car accidents, despite extensive public awareness campaigns against drinking and driving. Every year, the number of drunk driving accidents goes up during the holiday season, leading to an increase in serious personal injuries, and in the worst cases, loss of life.

Drinking and driving is easily preventable by having a designated driver. Unfortunately, sometimes designated driver car accidents do happen. Here is some of the key information you need to know if you are hurt in a motor vehicle accident involving a designated driver.

personal injury lawyer drinking and driving

Determining responsibility for the accident

You have the right to make a claim for compensation if you’re injured in a car accident or truck accident where you were a passenger. Your personal injury claim is against the at-fault driver and anyone else responsible for the accident. Let’s consider some different scenarios:

  • If the accident was caused by your designated driver (for example, a single car accident, or an accident caused because the designated driver was distracted), your claim is against the designated driver.

  • If the accident was caused by another driver (for example, another driver runs a red light and collides with the vehicle you are riding in), your claim is against the other driver.

  • In some cases, both the designated driver and another driver share responsibility for the motor vehicle accident, so you must sue both drivers.

  • Depending on how the accident occurred, there may also be fault on the part of other parties, such as a city/municipality for failure to properly maintain the road or keep it reasonably clear of snow and ice. You would need to sue the municipal authority when that is the case.

  • Impaired driving is arguably a breach of an automobile insurance policy. Their auto insurance company may refuse to provide coverage in a personal injury lawsuit. You will still have access to the statutory minimum of $200,000 through the at-fault driver’s insurance and may have access to additional coverage through your own car insurance through the OPCF-44R endorsement or Family Protection Coverage. Read more about auto insurance in our blog.

A Barrie motor vehicle accident lawyer at our law firm can review your case and ensure that the right people are named as defendants in your lawsuit.

Understanding the realities of a personal injury claim

After reading the previous section, you may be wondering: what if my spouse, friend, coworker, or relative was my designated driver? It does not sit well with many to think about suing a friend or loved one. Some accident victims hesitate to bring a personal injury claim—or refuse to bring a claim altogether—for that reason.

First, it’s important to know that the ultimate determination of fault will depend on the evidence, such as police reports and eyewitness statements. Your designated driver may be named in the lawsuit when it is initially filed, but there may not be a finding of liability made against them once all the evidence is considered.

It’s also important to understand that when you bring a personal injury claim, you are bringing the claim against the defendant in name only. Assuming the designated driver has insurance in place, it is that driver’s auto insurance that pays to cover your damages. Their insurance company also pays the legal fees associated with defending the claim. That means your designated driver will not be personally responsible for your damages or legal fees.

What if my designated driver was intoxicated?

A designated driver is supposed to commit to remaining sober. They should not be the least drunk person in the group. If you suspect or know that the designated driver has been drinking, choose another option, such as calling a cab to get you home from the holiday party or staying overnight and driving home the next day.

If you are injured in an accident caused by a designated driver who turns out to have been intoxicated, it can give rise to some complications that impact insurance coverage. Impaired driving is a breach of an automobile insurance policy. Their auto insurance company may refuse to provide coverage in a personal injury lawsuit. You will still have access to the statutory minimum of $200,000, but if you suffered serious or catastrophic injuries, the at-fault driver will be personally responsible for damages over that amount.

Another note: Do not let a person who has been drinking be the “designated driver” of your vehicle. If you knew they were impaired and let them drive your car anyway, your insurance company may deny you coverage and may deny claims of other third parties hurt in the accident.

Can a passenger be at fault for a motor vehicle accident?

It’s rare for a passenger to be at fault for causing a motor vehicle accident, but it is possible. For example, if a passenger yanks on the steering wheel and that causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle, the passenger will be either wholly or partially at fault for the accident.

“Contributory negligence” is much more common in passenger injury cases. If the passenger did something or failed to do something that could have prevented or lessened the severity of their injuries, the passenger will be found “contributorily negligent.” A prime example is failing to wear a seatbelt. When a finding of contributory negligence is made, a percentage of fault will be assessed against the passenger, and the damages the passenger receives will be reduced by that percentage. A skilled car accident lawyer can help build a case to push back against allegations of contributory negligence (for example, by obtaining an expert report that concludes seatbelt usage would not have lessened or prevented the type of injuries sustained).

Reach Out To An Experienced Car And Truck Accident Lawyer in Ontario

Barrie law firm Littlejohn Barristers is here to help if you have been injured in a car or truck accident. We are a dedicated team of professionals with over 30 years of combined experience.

Contact us today at 705-725-7355 to find out how we can help you in your fight for just compensation. Our office is in Barrie, but our lawyers are proud to serve Midland, Collingwood, Orillia and surrounding Ontario areas.


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