Is a drunk driver automatically at fault for an accident in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

Driving drunk is a violation of California traffic laws. But just because someone was driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the drunk driver is NOT automatically at fault for an accident.

In California, someone is at fault for a vehicle accident when:

  1. He or she drove a vehicle;
  2. While driving, he or she committed an illegal act or neglected to perform a legal duty; and
  3. As a result, someone else was injured or suffered property damage.

Isn't drunk driving an illegal act in California?

It is illegal to drive under the influence in California. But to be held responsible for an accident, a DUI driver must have done something negligent or unlawful in addition to driving drunk or stoned.

For instance, the drunk driver may have been:

More than one person can be at fault for an accident in California

Under California's comparative negligence law, more than one person may be at fault for an accident.

This law (also known as California's “shared fault” law) lets people recover personal injury damages even when they are partly to blame for an accident.

Driving drunk can affect someone's ability to avoid an accident. But just because someone's reaction time was slowed by drugs and/or alcohol, that doesn't let the other driver off the hook.

If another driver violated a legal duty, that driver may be at least partially at fault if an accident results.

How to fight an accident claim if you were driving drunk

It is possible to defend a car accident claim even if you were drunk or stoned.

The key is not to prove that you were not DUI (although that can help). The best way for a DUI driver to fight an accident claim in California is to prove that:

  • The driver did not commit an illegal act or neglect a lawful duty, or
  • The other driver was responsible (or partially responsible) for the accident.

This is useful in defending against both:

Call us for help...

If you have been accused of causing an accident in California, we invite you to contact us at 855-LawFirm to discuss your criminal or civil case.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


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