Understanding the Intoxicated Passenger Defense
As a passenger in a vehicle, you may be entitled to recover damages for your driver’s negligence if you are injured. However, this may not be the case if you are an intoxicated passenger in an intoxicated driver’s vehicle.
Picture this: It’s the weekend and you are going out for a drink with friends for the evening. One of your friends has volunteered to be the designated driver. You notice your designated driver starts having a few drinks, but don’t think anything of it. After a few hours, everyone is ready to go home. You ask the designated driver if they are OK to drive, and they say “absolutely.”
While driving home, your driver runs a stop sign and T-bones another vehicle. You suffer serious injuries and are facing substantial medical bills. You have decided to bring a claim against your designated driver to recover your damages. The driver says, actually, this is your fault, and you are not entitled to any compensation. You immediately start to think, you were just a passenger along for the ride; how could this be your fault?
In Washington, an intoxicated passenger may be prevented from recovering damages for the negligence of their intoxicated driver. A Washington statute may provide a complete defense in lawsuits against intoxicated drivers for injuries to intoxicated passengers. To take advantage of this defense, an intoxicated driver must prove that the intoxicated passenger was the primary cause of their injuries, that the intoxicated passenger was more than 50% at fault for their own injuries, and that the passenger knew the driver was intoxicated.
You may be asking yourself, if I’m merely a passenger and the driver is intoxicated and has control of the vehicle, how could I be more than 50% at fault? Insurer attorneys will argue that you, as a passenger, made the decision to get in a vehicle with an intoxicated driver. They will claim that by entering the vehicle as a passenger, you accepted all the risks associated with having an intoxicated driver. Insurance companies and defense attorneys will try to portray you as the offender and the at-fault party.
The lawyers at Abeyta Nelson Injury Law have more than 100 combined years of experience settling and litigating cases. We know how insurance companies work and how defense attorneys argue their case. This experience allows us to counter these arguments and get you fair compensation for your injuries. Call us in Yakima, Ellensburg, or Sunnyside for a free, no-obligation review of your case today. You’ll never pay an attorney fee unless we win your case.
-blog written by attorney Devon R. Nikfard, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law