Is it possible to make claims for compensation against drunk drivers? My sister was seriously injured in a car crash caused by the drunk driver of the car she was a passenger in.

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Claims for compensation against drunk drivers can be made by passengers who were injured in the accident for which the drunk driver was responsible for. All personal injury compensation claims are made with proof that a negligent party was responsible for the injuries the victim sustained in an accident and it should be noted that if a driver is over the legal alcohol consumption limit, he or she is considered drunk and will always be considered fully liable for the accident that occurred, which a sober and attentive driver could have taken action to prevent. Even if there is only a trace of alcohol consumption, the driver will be held partly at fault.

Drunk drivers responsible for causing accidents in which people were injured will probably face multiple additional charges, so it is highly important that the Gardai are immediately called to the scene a crash in order for claims for compensation against drunk drivers to be fully supported. The Gardai will administer alcohol consumption tests to confirm the driver’s inebriation.

It should be noted, however, that proof of intoxication is not proof that the driver caused the accident and the Gardai’s reports, witness statements, and CCTV footage – if available – will be required to prove that the driver was negligent in order to claim compensation against drunk drivers.

In general, provided that the driver concerned is covered by a motor insurance policy, their insurance company will pay out any compensation against drunk drivers for injuries, material damage and any expenses incurred that are attributable to the accident. It must also be noted that as soon as the insurers are made aware of their policyholder’s negligence, there is a high chance that they will immediately approach the potential plaintiff with an offer of compensation. The accident victim should refer such an offer to their solicitor as soon as possible after receiving it, and have it professionally evaluated to determine whether it adequately reflects the injuries sustained and the effect they have had on the victim’s quality of life.

There are also cases where the driver’s insurance is voided as a result of his or her intoxication. In these instances, the compensation payment would be made by the Motor Insurer’s Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).

Potential plaintiffs in claims for compensation against drunk drivers should be aware of the aspect of “contributory negligence”. There have been instances where the injured party’s compensation settlement has been significantly reduced when it was discovered that they were aware that the driver had consumed alcohol and that knowing this, they still travelled in the car.

Making a compensation against drunk drivers claim may initially seem like a clear-cut case; however, anyone considering making such a claim would be well advised to do so with the assistance of an experienced solicitor. Just because a driver was over the legal alcohol limit, it may still be necessary to prove that they have been negligent and only being able to show that the driver was over the limit may not be adequate in itself to make sure of the claim’s success. By engaging with a solicitor, accident victims have a greater chance of recovering the maximum amount of compensation they are entitled to.