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Drunk drivers face criminal and civil liability

More than 10,000 people are killed through incidents of drunk driving each year in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that drunk driving caused 31 percent of deaths in car accidents in 2012. While these numbers actually represent a decline in the past few decades, they still signal how dangerous drunk drivers can be on the road.

In the face of this danger, many states have enacted tough laws to combat drunk driving. Tennessee is among these states, as it has been ranked as one of the strictest states in enforcing tough drunk driving laws. The penalties under state law include jail time fines, alcohol education classes and probation.

While the criminal penalties aim to deter drunk drivers, unfortunately many serious injuries and deaths still result from drunk driving accidents on a regular basis. Those persons who suffer these injuries have their own recourse available through a personal injury action against the drunk driver. By bringing the civil lawsuit, injured individuals can obtain compensation for their injuries.

In the civil lawsuit, the other driver's impaired driving can be considered evidence of negligence. This means the other driver failed to follow the rules of the road and uphold the duty of care that driver owed others on the road. If the driver's negligence caused injuries to another person, the driver can be held liable for the damages he or she caused. Accordingly, the civil action is an additional result that can take place after a drunk driving accident, in addition to any criminal penalties that might be imposed by the state.

Source: WCYB, "Virginia & Tennessee among toughest states on DUI," Kristin Quon, June 17, 2015

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