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Liability after a Tennessee Drunk Driving Accident

Recently, a Tennessee car accident led to a man being charged in criminal court. The car crash occurred on I-55 and I-240 and killed a 13-year-old girl. At the time of the accident, the man was driving on a suspended license and didn’t have insurance. He collided with an SUV parked on the side of the road. The thirteen-year-old was taken to the children’s hospital in critical condition, and later died from her injuries. Others were taken to the hospital while not in critical condition.

Inside the man’s truck were empty beer cans and vodka bottles. Someone who knew the man told the press that the man was disabled and helped people in the neighborhood find jobs.

If you are injured or a loved one is killed in a drunk driving accident, you may be able to recover damages through a civil suit. As with other types of car accident cases, you’ll likely need to show the drunk driver’s negligence by proving: (1) the drunk driver owed you a duty, (2) breach of duty, (3) actual and proximate causation, and (4) actual damages. It’s unusual for juries to award punitive damages for car accidents. However, punitive damages are sometimes awarded in drunk driving cases in order to punish the defendant and deter future misconduct. In order to obtain punitive damages you’d need to show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted recklessly, fraudulently, intentionally or maliciously.

However, there may also be others responsible for a drunk driving accident. For example, under Tennessee Code section 57-10-102, under restricted circumstances, someone who is hurt by a drunk individual can seek out damages from the vendor that sold the alcohol. Dram shop claims can be pursued in Tennessee where: (1) the vendor sold alcohol to an intoxicated person, (2) the person who bought the beverage was a minor under age 21 or was visibly intoxicated and (3) the beverage sale directly caused injuries. However, for dram shop liability to be found, the jury must find that these elements exist beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a higher standard than must be met for ordinary negligence, or for dram shop liability in other states where either the preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence standard would apply.

However, in Tennessee, the alcohol needs to be sold to the drunk driver. Social hosts who serve free alcohol to social guests do not incur dram shop liability. Therefore if you were injured by a drunk driver who got drunk at a wedding you probably couldn’t sue the hosts, though you could still sue the drunk driver. There is criminal liability for social hosts that serve minors alcohol, but even someone injured by a minor that was drinking at a social event cannot hold the social host accountable in civil court.

Damages you may be able to recover in a dram shop claim include lost wages, medical bills, household services, property damage, and pain and suffering. You only have one year from the date of injury to file a dram shop claim.

After a drunk driving accident, experienced Tennessee auto accident attorney Eric Beasley may be able to aggressively pursue damages on your behalf from all possible sources. For more information or to discuss the circumstances of your case, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Dismisses Truck Accident Case Where Plaintiff Failed to Preserve Evidence, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, May 2, 2018.

Tennessee Court Reminds Plaintiffs To Be Wary of Statute of Limitations, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, January 4, 2018.

Sixth Circuit Overturns Harsh Pleading Standards in Auto Accident Case, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, December 6, 2016.