The Many Forms of Liability in DWIs

New Mexico Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys

In many Driving While Intoxicated arrests, the drunk driver has caused significant damage to property, passengers, and sometimes even pedestrians. Liability for these damages certainly falls upon the drunk driver, but some liability may exist for the passengers in the drunk driver’s car as well. Recent developments in New Mexico criminal case law has opened up this additional form of liability and possible opportunity for the compensation of the aggrieved.

DWI Accident AttorneyNegligence theory, under the common law, dictates that that the drunk driver is clearly responsible for compensating for the damages caused by his driving while intoxicated. What is more, the possibility of a court enforcing additional punitive damages (fines as punishment for egregious violations of law) is increased in most DWI trials and sentencing due to the pervasive nature of the problem in our state.  Another example of an alternate opportunity for the damaged to receive their due compensation would be via what is called the Dram Shop theory of liability. In New Mexico, liability may be affixed to the person or business that sold the alcohol to the offending driver. The bartender or liquor store clerk who is found to have provided alcohol to a person negligently (usually because they were already visibly intoxicated) can be made to compensate those injured by the driver’s later accident and DWI arrest.

A fairly recent vehicular homicide case was decided in which the passenger in a vehicle was convicted of the same offense as the driver. The particular facts of the case showed extreme levels of recklessness but the fact that the court found the passenger criminally guilty for his contribution to the offense opens the door to at least the possibility of civil liability to the victims of the crime.  This finding would necessarily have to rely upon theories of both comparative and contributory negligence but that does not mean it is impossible or even unlikely to be reached. This is not to say that all passengers will now be held criminally and/or civilly liable in all DWI accidents, but the possibility now certainly exists and will be used by any aggressive new mexico personal injury attorney.

It really boils to down to this: Did or should the passenger know that allowing the driver to operate the vehicle in their present state would likely cost injury to themselves or others? The case law will develop with time, and better define the bounds of this new civil and even criminal liability. If you were injured by a drunk driver in a DWI accident, be sure to speak with your local personal injury attorney immediately and make them aware of this additional possible source of compensation. If you find yourself the passenger in a vehicle being driven unsafely, speak up, be strong enough to do the safe thing, more than you might know could be riding on it.

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