Fatal drunk driving accident raises liability questions

Media outlets in Louisiana and around the country have reported that four young women were killed and four others seriously injured in an accident involving a limousine and pickup truck on July 18 in New York. The 55-year-old man behind the wheel of the pickup truck admitted to police that he had consumed beer before driving, and he was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated. However, toxicology tests performed on blood drawn from the man have raised a number of questions about the fatal accident.

The collision took place in Suffolk County on Long Island. Authorities say that a pickup truck struck the passenger side of a limousine that had been making a U-turn near a Cutchogue winery. The driver of the pickup truck told police that he had been drinking earlier in the day, but he was not asked to submit to a breath test.

A blood test revealed the man's blood alcohol level to be .066 percent, which is below the legal limit, but prosecutors point out that the man's blood was not drawn until approximately 40 minutes after the collision. They contend that the man's BAC was likely above the .08 percent threshold at the time of the crash. While the Suffolk County district attorney maintained that the limousine was making a legal U-turn, he did concede that several drivers had been warned by police about not yielding to traffic as they left the winery.

A case like this one would present a number of challenges for a personal injury attorney in Louisiana, a state that uses the pure comparative fault rule. This means that an injured party may recover damages even if their behavior contributed to their injury, loss or damage. However, the damages that they could recover would be reduced according to their degree of culpability. In a similar case, questions could be raised about a limousine making a U-turn on a busy road.

Source: WPIX New York, "Driver charged in fatal limo crash had blood alcohol content below legal limit", Allison Yang, July 24, 2015

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