Denver Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
Driving requires the interactions of a complex set of cognitive, physical sensory, and psychomotor skills. Drivers must simultaneously maintain alertness, react quickly to hazards, and make decisions in changing environments. Alcohol impairs the skills necessary for carrying out these tasks, adversely affecting vision, judgment, and muscle coordination. Accordingly, the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated exponentially increases the risk of being involved in an accident causing injury or death.
Impaired driving is oftentimes labeled “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI) or “Driving While Impaired” (DWAI). While the terminology may differ depending on the jurisdiction, there is a comprehensive agreement that drunk driving is one of the leading causes of road traffic casualties. As the name implies, drunk driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle after consuming enough alcohol to impair a driver’s motor skills and mental capacity.
For many years, the Denver Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, have helped educate the public regarding drinking and driving in an effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents. In nearly all states, people who drink enough alcohol to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher are considered legally impaired and cannot drive a car. In some instances, the legal BAC may be lower than .08 percent. Moreover, for drivers under the age of 21, no amount of alcohol is acceptable, as it is illegal to drink alcohol prior to 21.
Unfortunately, the efforts at reducing drunk driving have not been overly effective in changing individual behaviors. In 2013, there were 10,076 alcohol-related deaths in the United States. That amounts to one death related to drunk driving every 50 minutes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drunk driving is responsible for 700 injuries and 33 fatalities every single day in the United States. At the current rate, an estimated 3 of every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime.
Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and small intestines. As it does not need to be digested, it proceeds directly into the body upon consumption. After ingestion, it is carried through the blood stream, crossing the blood-brain barrier, at which time impairment begins. While this may seem commonsensical, it is important to note the greater amount of ingestion causes greater impairment to the brain.
The majority of alcohol in the body is eliminated by the liver. Before the liver can process alcohol, however, a threshold amount is needed. That amount occurs at a rate of approximately one 12 oz. can of beer, one 5 oz. glass of wine, or 1 ½ oz. shot of liquor per hour, depending on the type and quantity of alcohol as well as the presence of food in the stomach. Food slows the rate of alcohol absorption, but absorption is also influenced by other factors, including the drinker’s gender, age, body temperature, the presence of certain medications in the body, and the types of spices in food.
Once alcohol is in the bloodstream, it is distributed to various parts of the body. Body fat and skeletal mass absorb some of the alcohol. Thus, an identical quantity of alcohol per unit of body weight will induce a higher BAC in women than in men because of differences in body constitution. Gastric alcohol metabolism, which is significant only at low alcohol concentrations, is more efficient in men than in women, which helps explain why the same amount of alcohol produces a higher BAC in women.
Finally, of the alcohol absorbed, approximately 95 percent is oxidized and a combination of the remainder is excreted in an unaltered state through urine and expired through the lungs. The total time to eliminate alcohol from the body is dependent upon the variables that influence absorption.
Effects of Alcohol
The short-term effects of alcohol are related to the depressant effect on the brain. The higher a person’s BAC, the greater the depressant effects, hence the importance of BAC as an index of impairment. With just a small amount of alcohol, a person can experience impairment of both simple processes of relatively uncomplicated tasks and understanding.
Research has revealed that neuromuscular responses may be impaired in some individuals at a BAC as low as .04%. Most authors have concluded that even lower alcohol levels can still cause significant impairment in psychomotor performance, to the extent that driving safety is compromised.
Alcohol affects cognition, vigilance, attention, judgment, and reaction, which are instrumental in the operation of a vehicle. Alcohol reduces a driver’s ability to focus on moving objects and process information. It also negatively affects a driver’s ability to judge distance and depth. People who get behind the wheel after drinking are far more likely to cause accidents than sober drivers. Because their reaction times are slowed and their judgment is impaired, drunk driving accidents are often more serious and cause more severe injuries than other car accidents.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) rightfully calls alcohol-impaired driving the most frequently committed violent crime in America. Colorado’s BAC requirements for DUI and DWAI differ based on the age of the driver and whether the vehicle is private or commercial. In Colorado, a driver can be convicted of DUI or DWI if:
- Under age 21 with a BAC of 0.01% or higher
- Over age 21 with a BAC of 0.08% or higher
- Operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher
- There is a zero tolerance for drivers under 21 . If alcohol is present in any amount in the system of a driver under 21, the driver can be convicted of DUI.
In addition to criminal charges, the victims of drunk driving accidents and their families have the right to pursue claims in civil court to recover monetary damages. If a drunk driver is arrested for, or convicted of, DUI or DWI in Colorado, the victim or the victim’s family have the right to file a civil claim immediately.
The procedures and verdicts in the civil case will be separate from the criminal case. While a conviction in criminal court may help, the drunk driver does not have to be convicted in criminal court for a victim to file a civil claim. The level of proof required to win a civil claim is lower than the level required to obtain a conviction in criminal court. There may be many reasons why a drunk driver is not convicted in criminal court that do not apply to civil cases, so even if the drunk driver is not convicted, a victim may still seek compensation through a civil claim.
Who is Responsible?
A number of parties may be held responsible for drunk driving accidents, including:
- Drivers – Drunk drivers are responsible for their own behavior, including choosing to drive their vehicles after consuming alcohol.
- Hosts – People who host parties where alcohol is served can be held liable in the event a guest causes a drunk driving accident, especially if the host was known to provide alcohol to the guest after he or she was clearly inebriated.
- Bar/Restaurant Staff & Owners – Bar and restaurant owners and employees can also be held responsible for drunk driving accidents. It is their responsibility to stop serving patrons that appear to be intoxicated.
Determining legal negligence is an important part of an accident. It is necessary for a personal injury victim to identify all possible sources of negligence.
Denver Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
Victims of Colorado drunk driving accidents are often saddled with enormous medical bills, substantial car repairs, and lost wages as they recover from the accident. The Denver Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, have no sympathy for people who choose to drink and drive. While the criminal court system can punish a drunk driver who caused a motor vehicle accident, it does nothing to compensate the victim. In order to help compensate victims, deter drunk driving, and punish impaired drivers who caused accidents, the civil law in Colorado provides victims the ability to recover damages.
If you have been involved in an accident with an intoxicated driver, contact our Denver Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys by calling
720.863.6904 or email us for your free consultation. Legal representation is often necessary to ensure you collect the full compensation you deserve. Without a knowledgeable attorney on your side, your insurance company of the at-fault driver may attempt to settle your claim for far less than it is worth. Our lawyers handle a wide range of cases, including Car Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Bike Accidents, Motorcycle Collisions, Pedestrian Accidents, Slip and Fall Accidents, Dog Bite Accidents, and any other form of personal injury in Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Commerce City, Lakewood, Littleton, Thornton, Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and other parts of metropolitan Denver, Colorado.