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Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers

There are some important Oregon laws that someone injured in a car accident or other accident caused by someone who was driving their own car while intoxicated needs to be aware of.

First, a person injured by a drunk driver’s negligent operation of their vehicle is entitled to recover both “economic damages” (hard losses, such as medical care costs and lost income; past and future) as well as “noneconomic damages” (compensation for pain and suffering and the like; also past and future). These are the same forms of compensation that anyone injured by another person’s negligence is entitled to recover.  In cases where the at-fault driver was intoxicated, generally speaking, the injured victim is also entitled to assert a claim for “punitive damages.”  Punitive damages are awarded for the purposes of punishing the at-fault driver and with the goal of deterring them and others from driving drunk again1.

In many drunk driving injury accident cases, the person injured (or their estate, if they were killed) may also have a “dram shop” claim against the bar, restaurant and/or persons who served alcohol to the person.  It is important to know that Oregon law requires that someone asserting such a claim provide notice of that fact to the persons and/or establishments that served the alcohol (generally speaking, this must be accomplished within 180 days of the accident date in injury cases, and within one year of the accident date in death cases).2 A dram shop claim can be asserted regardless of whether the alcohol server was a business or a private party.

Our firm has handled many, many drunk driving injury accident cases.  Please contact us to discuss the specific facts of your case by telephone or in a meeting, at no cost to you.

1 According to Oregon law (ORS §31.730), in order for someone injured by another to successfully assert a claim for punitive damages there must be evidence that the at-fault party “acted with malice or with outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and has acted with conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others.”  Oregon appellate court case opinions dating back to the 1960’s confirm that causing an accident while driving drunk meets this test.  See e.g. Dorn v. Wilmarth, 254 Or. 236, 458 P.2d 942 (1969).
2 ORS §471.565.