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Drink driving and compensation claims

Drink driving and compensation claims

Drink driving is illegal in the UK. If you have an accident when drink driving, then the fact you were over the prescribed drink drive limit does not invalidate any claim you may have against the “at fault” driver and a claim can still be made.

However, if you were the passenger in a vehicle that was driven by a drunk driver who was at fault, then the position is not as clear cut. The Courts have had to deal with many cases over the years where the drunk driver (usually through their insurers) says that the passenger should not have been in the car because they knew or ought to have known they were drunk. How does the law deal with this situation?

Passengers claims normally succeed in full on the grounds that the passenger was not in control of the vehicle. A passenger can however be contributory negligent if they knew or ought to have known the driver of the car was drunk. Every case is very much fact specific.

If the passenger and driver had been drinking together, then it is likely the passenger would have their damages reduced.

This is what happened in the case of Owens –v- Brimmell (1977) 1 QB 859 where both driver and passenger had consumed 8 or 9 pints of beer. On the way home the driver lost control of his car and drove into a lamp post. In this case the Court reduced the Claimants damages by 20% to reflect that he should not have accepted a lift from a drunk driver.

Asserting that the passenger knew or ought to have known the driver was drunk is a matter of proof for the Defendant. What this means is that the passengers claim will succeed in full unless the Defendant can prove the passenger knew or ought to have known the driver was drunk.

The passenger does not however have to make enquiry of the sobriety of the driver before accepting a lift. In the case of Booth –v- White (2003) EWCA Civ 1708 the Claimant knew the Defendant was a heavy drinker, but on the day of the accident had no actual knowledge that the driver was drunk.

A slightly more interesting situation arose in the case of Gleeson –v- Court (2007) EWHC 2397. In this case not only was it found the passenger knew the driver to be drunk, but the passenger (perhaps more foolishly) allowed himself to be carried in the boot of the car as all of the seats were taken. In this case the judge considered the Claimants actions merited a deduction of 30% from his damages.

Here at Optimal Claim, we are committed to resolving your claim in your favour. We are experienced at handling all types of road traffic accidents and know what factors will be taken into account when resolving issues of blame and the amount of compensation you can recover. Because we speak your language we know how best to present your case and get you the right money.

Claiming through Optimal Claim carries a genuine “no-win, no-fee” guarantee. Should you lose your claim then we do not charge. Moreover, we are more than happy to discuss prospective cases with you free of charge and without any obligation.

 

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