ANOTHER REASON NOT TO DRINK AND DRIVE
By: Barry L. Edzant, Esq.
Since we have been old enough to understand the perils of drinking and driving, it has been drilled into our heads that not only is it illegal to drink and drive, but it is immoral, extraordinarily dangerous, and for lack of a better term, just plain stupid.
We also are very familiar with the legal and financial responsibilities for getting caught while drinking and driving. These include suspension of our driver’s license, severe penalties and fines, jail time, community service, probation, and others. If an accident is caused while drinking and driving, the penalties are even more serious for causing bodily injuries and property damage to ourselves and others.
However, despite all of the warnings, education, statistics, and risks, people continuously drink and drive at an alarming rate, leading it to be one of the highest causes of death in the United States.
As if we needed any more reasons, another very compelling reason not to drink and drive is a rarely used but potent idea of "restitution" to a victim of an automobile accident involving a drunk driver. If, as a result of drunk driving the drunk driver causes bodily injury to another person, the court must award full restitution to the victim for the victim’s medical expenses, loss of earnings, and property damage, as well as other out-of-pocket losses.
But, wait a minute, you say. My automobile insurance will pay for the victim’s medical expenses, loss of earnings, and property damage. This is true enough. However, the court must award restitution for the out-of-pocket expenses, regardless of whether the drunk driver’s insurance has paid for any of the victim’s damages. In other words, the victim theoretically can receive a double recovery for his or her injuries, one from the insurance company of the drunk driver, as well as from the drunk driver personally. The drunk driver is not allowed to use the fact that his or her insurance paid the victim monies for the wrongdoing of driving while intoxicated. To do so would be to insure ourselves for our criminal wrongdoings, which cannot be done.
It also does not matter that the victim’s own insurance company may have covered some of the victim’s losses. The drunk driver is still mandatorily responsible to pay for the victim’s losses.
The amount of damages ordered by a court to pay a victim can be financially crippling to a drunk driver, and cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
There you have it, another excellent reason not to drink and drive. While those who chose to drink and drive probably will not take into consideration the severity of his or her actions, at least now the innocent victims have one more avenue of recovering for their injuries and damages.
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