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What is the legal standard in a civil drunk driving accident case?

Police officers in one Delaware County town are taking a creative approach to drunk driving awareness: They're asking for 20 volunteers to consume alcohol.

Specifically, the initiative is being described as a field sobriety coordination school, and it's primarily for the benefit of officers in Newton Square, Pennsylvania who are seeking a certification. Once accredited, the officers will be able to use a variety of enforcement methods against potential driving under the influence offenders.

Participants in the training program will consume alcohol under supervision before being asked to perform three field sobriety tests. According to a department spokesperson, officers need training in administering the tests to individuals in various states of intoxication.

Drunk drivers continue to injure Pennsylvania motorists. In 2014, almost one-third of all traffic fatalities involved a drunk driver who had a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. Drunk driving also factored into about 7,900 non-fatal crashes.

Victims of an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident may have questions about the remedies available to them. It is important to draw a distinction between criminal and civil liabilities. The legal burden in a DUI criminal proceeding is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas a civil proceeding only requires the plaintiff to convince a jury by a preponderance of the evidence.

In practical terms, a DUI conviction can be used to strategic advantage by a victim of drunk driving. However, a DUI conviction does not automatically imply fault in a civil lawsuit. Taken at face value, the conviction means that the individual was intoxicated with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.08.

Our law firm focuses on personal injury lawsuits and knows that the elements of negligent driving, or fault, must still be established even if a defendant has a DUI conviction to his or her record arising from the incident. The elements in a motor vehicle case are a duty of care, a breach of that duty, and causation for any resulting injuries.

The duty of safe driving means that individuals must obey traffic laws and respond appropriately to traffic patterns and road conditions. Driving while intoxicated may make it significantly harder to abide by that duty, but a jury must see more than just implications or insinuations. Our personal injury law firm can investigate the crash and gather evidence to prepare a compelling narrative to the jury. Check out our firm's website to learn more.

Source: NBC Philadelphia, "Delaware County Police Search for Volunteers to Get Drunk for DUI School," David Chang, April 8, 2015

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