Articles Posted in Drunk Driving

New Mexico drunk driving accidents are too common, claiming upwards of 100 lives per year. To combat the threat drunk driving poses, lawmakers have enacted strict drunk driving laws that prevent drivers from getting behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink. Additionally, in some cases, New Mexico imposes liability on bars and restaurants that over-serve customers who go on to cause serious accidents through the state’s Dram Shop statute.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving an allegedly drunk driver who caused an accident after drinking several alcoholic drinks during a round of golf. The question the court had to answer was whether the golf course could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, based on the state’s Dram Shop statute. While the New Mexico Dram Shop statute differs from Florida’s in several ways, the basic concepts are similar.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s wife was killed when she was struck by an allegedly drunk driver. The driver was on his way home after a round of golf at the defendant golf course. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the golf course, claiming that it should be held responsible for his wife’s death because employees of the golf course over-served the driver to the point of intoxication.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion discussing the negligent entrustment theory of liability. The plaintiff in the case was a man who was injured when a drunk driver struck him while he was driving. The relevant claim was against the driver’s employer, which had allowed the driver to use a company vehicle. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s case should be permitted to move ahead toward trial because there was sufficient evidence to put the employer on notice as to the driver’s history of DUI convictions.

Broom and MopsThe Facts of the Case

As mentioned above, the plaintiff was struck by a drunk driver. That driver had arranged to borrow a vehicle from his employer. The employer allowed the driver to borrow the vehicle, despite the fact that it was clearly prohibited by company policy. While the employee was borrowing the vehicle, he had a few drinks and was involved in a DUI accident with the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the driver’s employer, arguing that the employer was negligent in allowing the defendant to use a company vehicle. In support of his claim, the plaintiff pointed to several drunk driving convictions that the employee had incurred prior to being hired. In its defense, the employer explained that the employee only told the employer about one of the DUI convictions in the interview. The employer ran a background check that went back three years, and nothing came back.

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Drunk driving has long been a major problem on New Mexico roads. Despite the strict criminal sanctions that drunk drivers face, the fact remains that New Mexico is among the states with the highest death rate due to drunk driving. In hopes of curtailing the drunk-driving epidemic, one New Mexico lawmaker has proposed a bill that would act to completely prevent repeat DUI offenders from purchasing alcohol.

Beer MugAccording to a local news source discussing the recently proposed bill, a second-time DUI offender would be prohibited from purchasing alcohol. Specifically, the bill states that “an offender shall forfeit the privilege to purchase, possess or consume intoxicating liquor in the state for one year.” Those who continued to re-offend may face lifetime alcohol restrictions under the newly proposed bill.

If the bill is passed into law, all second-time and subsequent DUI offenders will be provided driver’s licenses that are visually distinct from regular adult driver’s licenses and resemble licenses for those under the legal drinking age of 21. The impetus for the bill is the lack of DUI enforcement on New Mexico roads. The article claims that New Mexico has one of the lowest arrest rates for drunk drivers, despite having one of the highest rates of drunk driving per capita.

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An ongoing investigation into the deadliest hot air balloon accident in United States history has revealed that the pilot of the balloon had seven different potentially mind-altering drugs in his system at the time of the crash. According to a National Transit Safety Board press release noted in a recently published national news article, several drugs were found in the blood of the balloon operator after he died, along with all 15 passengers on board the craft, when it struck high-voltage power lines during a descent, caught fire, and ultimately crashed into a field near Lockhart, Texas. Although authorities have not determined the exact cause of the tragic event, it appears that drug intoxication may have played a role in the deadly accident.

Hot Air BalloonsA Dangerous Combination of Psychoactive Substances Was Present in the Pilot’s Blood

According to the report, the substances found in the man’s system included drugs used to treat anxiety, severe pain, depression, muscle spasms, attention deficit disorder, and insomnia, among other ailments. Even though the report states that the pilot was legally prescribed the drugs found in his system, several of the substances he had consumed would prevent an airplane or helicopter pilot from legally operating an aircraft, although hot air balloon operators are not subject to the same regulations as other pilots. Taken individually, these types of drugs could impair a pilot’s ability to safely control a hot air balloon, but when several different psychoactive drugs are taken together, the effects can multiply, and a dangerous level of impairment becomes even more likely.

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All fatal traffic accidents are tragic. However, those that involve a drunk driver and a young victim feel particularly devastating. Lawmakers and police do everything they can to enact and enforce laws that deter drunk driving, but there is no substitute for good judgment. In fact, drunk driving is such a problem in New Mexico that between the years of 2002 and 2013, over 1,200 people lost their lives due to alcohol-related accidents. Furthermore, New Mexico’s per capita rate of death in drunk driving accidents is 30% higher than the national average.

CocktailSadly, nothing can be done to bring back someone who lost their life in a drunk driving accident. However, the family of the victim may be able to hold the responsible party accountable through a civil wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death cases in New Mexico are technically brought by the administrator of the deceased’s estate. However, they are brought for the benefit of the surviving family members, usually a spouse, children, or grandchildren. In order to prove a New Mexico wrongful death case, the person bringing the lawsuit must show that the defendant’s negligent act caused the death of their loved one. In the case of a drunk driving accident, this is often proven through evidence of the driver’s intoxication.

23-Year-Old Man Killed in Wrong-Way Drunk-Driving Accident

Earlier this month, a young man was killed in a drunk driving accident on Interstate 25. According to one local news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred at around 11:30 in the evening in Santa Fe.

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Earlier this month, a Maryland appellate court issued a written opinion involving the death of a young boy who had been drinking at a friend’s home. In the case, Kiriakos v. Phillips, the court determined that under a traditional negligence analysis, an adult who knows that minors are consuming alcohol on their property has a duty to those who may be injured in an accident involving the intoxicated minors.

CocktailThe Facts of the Case

The Kiriakos case presented two cases consolidated for the purpose of appeal. The second case, Dankos v. Stapf, presents a clear factual scenario of when liability may arise. In the Dankos case, Dankos was with several friends drinking at one of his friends’ houses. The friend’s mother, Stapf, was present and didn’t do anything to stop the children from drinking. Importantly, she also didn’t do anything to stop them from driving.

On the next morning, one of the other intoxicated teens and Dankos left the Stapf home. The driver of the car was involved in a serious accident, and Dankos died as a result. The Dankos family filed a negligence lawsuit against Stapf, arguing that her negligence in allowing the minors to consume alcohol in her home contributed to their son’s death.

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Despite nationwide education on the prevalence of deaths due to alcohol, drunk driving accidents are still commonplace across the United States. When individuals are injured in an accident with a drunk driver, they may bring a personal injury lawsuit against the driver for their damages. However, many people do not know that in certain, very limited circumstances, they may be able to collect damages from the person who served alcohol to the drunk individual.

bar-shots-2-1536476Like many other states, New Mexico has a dram shop law that governs certain types of alcohol-related accidents. Dram shop laws allow an injured individual to bring a lawsuit against a person who serves or sells alcohol to a person who then goes on to cause an injury to someone else.

Someone injured in New Mexico may be able to bring a lawsuit if the plaintiff establishes that the vendor sold or otherwise provided alcohol to a person who was drunk. Additionally, in the interest of fairness, the intoxication must be “reasonably apparent” to the person providing the alcohol, or the person must have known that the individual was intoxicated.

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When a bar, club, or restaurant over-serves a customer to the point of intoxication, and then that customer goes on to cause a drunk driving accident, intuition tells us that the driver should not be the only one held responsible. In fact, there are laws in most states that allow for the victim of a drunk driving accident to look to the establishment that over-served the person who caused the accident for liability. These laws are historically called “Dram Shop laws.”

pub-by-night-1233587Roughly 30 states have these statutes, allowing an injured plaintiff or their representative to bring a suit against the party who sold alcohol to the alleged wrongdoer. Out of those 30 states, about 22 have statutory limitations regarding what degree of liability can be brought against the provider. New Mexico is one of the 22 states that limit the provider’s liability.

The New Mexico “Dram Shop” statute states that a party who sells or provides alcohol to an individual who caused an injury may be held liable if the plaintiff can meet very specific elements. First, the party must have actually served or sold the alcohol to a person who was intoxicated. That individual’s intoxication must also have been “reasonably” apparent to the person who provided them the alcohol, or the person must have known that the individual was intoxicated.

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The risk of an alcohol-related accident is heightened during the holiday season since many people are frequenting parties and bars to celebrate. In New Mexico, a culpable party may be held liable for an accident they caused under traditional theories of negligence law. However, what is less well known is that in certain very limited circumstances the person or establishment that served the drunk driver alcohol that caused their intoxication may also be liable, under the state’s Dram Shop Act.

bar-drink-1327467In New Mexico, an injured party will only be able to seek damages under the Dram Shop Law if they can establish three very important facts. First, the injured party must show that the establishment sold the culpable party alcohol when they were already drunk. Second, the plaintiff then must establish that the person’s drunkenness was “reasonably apparent,” at the time they were served. Finally, it must be shown that the bartender serving the culpable party should have known or did know that the person was drunk.

New Mexico Officials Speak Out Against Drunk Driving

New Mexico Senator Udall, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and Bernalillo Sheriff Gonzalez have commenced their annual drunk driving campaign. According to a local news report, the officials have released their 2015 plea to drivers to drive safely and sober. The New Mexico officials released their message shortly before Thanksgiving and reminded drivers to “drive sober or get pulled over.”

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Earlier this month, New Mexico police apprehended a man after he was involved in an accident and found to be driving under the influence of alcohol. According to one local news report, the man was driving southbound on Coors Street when he rammed into the rear of another car. Unfortunately, the impact was so severe that the rear-ended car ended up rolling about 10 times before coming to a rest.

cup-of-beer-1329193When police arrived at the scene, they determined that the man causing the accident had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to appear at a traffic court hearing. The two victims of the crash, surprisingly, were not seriously injured, although they were taken to the hospital to be evaluated. Police later revealed that the man was not speeding, but he also did not have insurance, was not wearing a seat belt, and did not have a license. The driver’s record also indicated that he was previously mandated to attend alcohol education classes. The man was arrested but released on bail. Further charges are still pending while the investigation continues.

Pursuing a Personal Injury Case in a Drunk Driving Accident in New Mexico

In the above case, the current reports do not indicate that the two victims were seriously injured. However, this will not always be the case in drunk driving accidents, and it also does not mean that those who suffer non-fatal injuries do not have a claim for the pain and suffering they did endure. In cases where serious injuries take place, often an insurance company will get involved in an attempt to lessen the payout.

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