New Mexico has one of the highest rates of DWI / DUI accidents in the United States.  Las Cruces, New Mexico personal injury attorney Robert (Tito) Meyer aggressively represents people and their families who have suffered injuries as the result of accidents caused by drunk drivers.   He handles all injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so you pay nothing for his services unless he obtains a settlement or judgment for you (cost are deducted before the fee is computed, and you are ultimately responsible for cost regardless of outcome).

Robert (Tito) Meyer is an aggressive lawyer you can trust. He is very experienced and treats each of his clients with the respect they deserve.  He represents clients from Las Cruces and Dona Ana County, as well as the following cities: Deming, Silver City, Lordsburg, Truth or Consequences, Chaparral, Alamogordo, and Anthony, New Mexico.  He also represents military personnel and their families from Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range.

Drunk Driving Accidents – An Overview

Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 32 minutes, and non-fatally injure someone every two minutes. Last year alone, over one million people were injured in alcohol-related traffic crashes.

If you have been injured as a result of a drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries from the drunk driver and/or their insurer. This remedy is not limited to drivers and passengers of other vehicles, but extends to injured pedestrians, and even close family members of those injured under certain circumstances. Remember also that even if you were injured as a passenger in a vehicle that was driven by a drunk driver who was at fault for the accident, you can still bring a lawsuit for those injuries against that driver. This is because a driver owes a legal duty of reasonable care not only to other drivers and pedestrians, but also to passengers in his or her own vehicle.

It is important to understand that the phrases “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) and “driving under the influence” (DUI) as used in most states do not refer to just drinking and driving. DWI and DUI can also mean that a driver was using a vehicle while under the influence of an illegal drug, such as marijuana or cocaine. Over-the-counter or prescription drugs that significantly impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle can also lead to a conclusion that a person was “driving under the influence.” Such a driver can be legally liable for any injuries caused in a resulting car accident if they failed to follow instructions for taking the medication, or ignored warnings in connection with taking the medication (such as the danger of operating a vehicle). During this article we will use the phrase “drunk driving” as meaning the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of all types of intoxicants, not just alcohol.

Proving Liability For A Drunk Driving Accident

Generally, people who operate automobiles must exercise reasonable care while driving, and a failure to use reasonable care is considered negligence. In order to be successful in a lawsuit for injuries suffered in an automobile accident, the injured party, known as the plaintiff, is required to prove that the defendant was negligent in some way, that the negligence caused the accident, and that the accident caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In most instances, if a person drives a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, such an act will be considered negligent whether or not the driver was legally intoxicated under the intoxication levels in place in a particular state (in most states, drivers with blood alcohol levels of .08 to .10 are considered legally intoxicated). In other words, negligence can be presumed simply through the fact that the person drove a vehicle while under the influence. Unlike proving fault in most cases stemming from an ordinary car accident, in order to prove that an accident was caused by drunk driving, your attorney will need to establish that the defendant’s intoxication had such an effect on his or her judgment that their ability to operate a vehicle was meaningfully impaired. A person who operates a vehicle while driving drunk may be required to pay for any damages, either to a person or property, caused by his or her negligence.


Under the law of personal injury and negligence, after any car accident in which a defendant is found liable, he or she will have to pay damages to those injured as a result, usually through an insurer. Such damages will ordinarily include compensation for medical treatment, past and future lost income, and emotional distress damages. In most automobile accident lawsuits, punitive damages are not generally available, but they may be an option in an automobile accident lawsuit involving drunk driving.

Punitive damages in a personal injury suit are meant to punish malicious or reckless behavior, and to deter such conduct in the future. In some states, in a lawsuit for injuries suffered in a drunk driving accident, a claim for punitive damages may be successful based on the fact that the driver at fault was drunk or legally intoxicated. Or, punitive damages may be supported by evidence of the driver’s prior history of drunk driving.

Liability Of Third Parties

If you are injured in an accident involving drunk driving, your legal rights may not be limited only to a recovery from the driver who was at fault. In some limited instances, and depending on where you live, the provider of alcohol to the driver (often a bar or restaurant) can be found liable for your injuries. For example, where an intoxicated underage drinker was provided with alcohol and later caused a car accident, the person or business that negligently provided the alcohol may be legally liable for the injuries resulting from the accident.

These cases against third parties are more complicated and difficult to prove than those against the driver. In most states, your attorney will need to establish the following:

  • The driver was provided with alcohol by the third party (bar, store, or restaurant);
  • The alcohol caused the driver to become intoxicated;
  • The driver was visibly intoxicated, or in the case of minors, clearly underage;
  • The third party provider knew or should have known of the driver’s intoxication, or the fact that the driver was underage;
  • The driver’s intoxication was a cause of the automobile accident that resulted in injury

This third party liability has a very limited application to individual hosts in social situations (i.e., where a person hosts a party at which a drunk driver becomes intoxicated), and can sometimes be used where the drunk driver was acting on behalf of his employer. Because attorneys are aware of the many laws governing legal responsibility, an attorney can help you identify who might be held responsible for your injuries, including people or businesses you might not have considered.

The law in most states requires that you bring a lawsuit for personal injury from a drunk driving accident within one year from the date of the accident, so meeting with an attorney sooner rather than later is definitely a good idea.

Proving Intoxication

In establishing that another driver’s intoxication meaningfully impaired his or her judgment and ability to operate a vehicle, and caused your injuries in an automobile accident, your attorney will look at a number of issues.

  • Police Reports: If the police came to the scene of your accident, they probably made a written accident report, and may have observed and recorded the fact that the other driver was intoxicated. Sometimes a police report plainly states an officer’s opinion that someone violated a specific traffic law (or drunk driving law) and that the violation caused the accident. In accidents involving drunk driving, the police report may even state that the officer made an arrest and/or issued a citation. Other times, the police report merely mentions negligent behavior, without plainly stating that the violation caused the accident.
  • Witnesses: Testimony and accounts from witnesses as to the number or amount of drinks, drugs, or medication consumed by the driver; the way the driver was acting (stumbling); and the way the driver was speaking (slurred speech)
  • Expert Opinion: Testimony and opinion by medical or law enforcement experts as to the number or amount of drinks, drugs, or medication consumed by the driver; the effect of such consumption on an a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle; and blood-alcohol or chemical evidence (such as field sobriety tests or blood tests in a hospital).

If You Are Partially At Fault – “Comparative Negligence”

If you are involved in an automobile accident with a person who was driving under the influence, you can still collect for your injuries. Under the principle known as “comparative negligence” (used in most states), you will recover in your claim for personal injury as long as your portion of fault is found to be less than the amount that the drunk driver is deemed at fault. So for example, if your injuries are said to total $100,000 and you were 20% at fault for the accident, you will recover $80,000.

Pursuing Your Case

If you or a loved one has suffered injury as a result of a drunk driving accident, it is essential that you meet with an experienced attorney to discuss your case and preserve your right to a legal recovery. Most states require that lawsuits for personal injury arising from automobile accidents (including drunk driving accidents) be brought within one year of injury, so meeting with an attorney sooner rather than later is very important.

By Denizan

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