According to numbers compiled by the Colorado State Police, over one-third of the state’s driving fatalities in 2017 were the result of impaired driving. Despite strict laws against driving while under the influence of any intoxicating substance, drunk and impaired drivers still get behind the wheel every day, endangering their own lives and the lives of all those they encounter.
DUI/DWAI LAWS IN COLORADO
Colorado law creates two categories of impaired driving. A person with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher can be convicted of Driving Under the Influence and face a jail sentence on up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, and a nine-month suspension of their driver’s license. A blood alcohol content between .05% and .08% can lead to a conviction of Driving While Ability Impaired, which carries a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $500. The police may impose additional penalties upon drivers who refuse blood tests after a lawful stop. In addition to these criminal penalties, intoxicated drivers who injure or kill others may be charged with criminal assault or homicide.
CIVIL LIABILITY LAWS IN COLORADO
In addition to the criminal penalties for driving while intoxicated, an intoxicated driver who causes an accident can face civil liability for any injuries or property damage resulting from the accident. Making a case for civil liability for personal injury or property damage involves two steps: First, it must be established that the responsible party was negligent. Negligence exists when someone owes a duty of care to others and breaches that duty.
When operating a vehicle on public roads and highways, all drivers owe a duty to other drivers, passengers, and any other parties whom they might reasonably expect to be harmed by their negligent or intentional actions. Any intentional or careless act that causes injury to any of those parties is a breach of that duty and can result in civil liability.
After a car accident, all drivers involved in the incident are tested for the presence of alcohol, THC, illegal drugs, and even prescription medications. Evidence of blood alcohol levels above the limits for DUI and DWAI convictions will go a long way toward establishing fault in an accident case, as it is presumed that driving while impaired is a negligent act. The presence of THC above the legal limit, the presence of any illegal substance, and the presence of mind-altering prescription medications may be evidence that a driver was impaired at the time of the accident. Evidence of impairment alone, however, does not necessarily establish civil liability. Once it is determined that a driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it must be established that the impairment was a direct cause of the accident.
Do not assume that your case will be simple just because a driver was found to be impaired. Even an impaired driver may try to show that other factors caused the accident. The impaired driver might argue that another driver was speeding or texting and that those behaviors contributed to the accident. Allegations that you were also partially at fault for an accident could lead to a reduction in your final settlement or award. This is known as the doctrine of comparative negligence. Insurance companies may use this information to convince you to accept a much lower settlement than you deserve. Make sure you have an experienced accident lawyer on your side before talking to an insurance adjustor. The attorneys at Springs Law Group are tough negotiators and are not afraid to go to court if necessary. Insurance companies and their attorneys know this, and that helps us get the best results for our clients with the least hassles.
DUI/DWAI ACCIDENTS AND MARIJUANA IN COLORADO
The state of Colorado treats marijuana the same as alcohol in DUI cases. Smoking in a vehicle or in a public place is prohibited, and possession of marijuana in a vehicle is prohibited the same way in which open containers of alcohol are prohibited. A level of five nanograms or more of THC in the blood will lead to a conviction for DUI, with the same penalties as those for driving with a BAC of .08% or more.
Since marijuana stays in the blood longer than alcohol and is metabolized differently, the question of impairment can be more difficult in a marijuana-related accident case than in an alcohol-related case. A driver in a civil case may be able to introduce evidence that he was not impaired, even with a positive blood test for over 5 nanograms of THC.
However, other evidence may be used to show that the driver was impaired at the time of an accident. Witnesses may have observed the driver behaving erratically. Facebook or Instagram posts may have shown the driver smoking before he got in the car. Field sobriety tests conducted by the investigating officer at the scene can show impairment.
Since the standard of proof for civil cases is lower than for criminal cases, it is not necessary to find a driver guilty of DUI or DWAI in order to prove that he was impaired in a civil action. The presence of alcohol, THC, or any other intoxicating substance, including prescription medications, together with evidence that the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle at the time of the accident was impaired, can overcome the first hurdle in establishing liability.
CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS IN COLORADO SPRINGS
In an accident case in which fault may be an issue, especially when comparative negligence may be alleged, it is important to talk to a Colorado Springs car accident attorney with the specialized knowledge and expertise that a DUI/DWAI case requires. You will find that experience with Springs Law Group. Call 719-421-7141 for a free consultation.