Drunk driving liability

Evidence of liability in drunk driving crashes can strengthen claims for compensation by those injured in road accidents.

In this article, we cover:

Drunk driving crashes in South Africa

Drunk driving crashes have devastating consequences for accident victims and their families – and they occur far too commonly across South Africa.

In research conducted over three years by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the University of South Africa (Unisa), drunk driving accounted for 27% of all fatal crashes in South Africa.

The same study noted these two findings:

  • “…the contribution of alcohol intoxication, along with human behaviourial risk factors, are estimated to contribute to 90% of road traffic crashes” in South Africa
  • “…at an absolute level, pedestrians were three times more likely to die in a crash where the driver was intoxicated.”

Alcohol acts on the central nervous system. It impairs driving by affecting the driver’s alertness, decision-making, judgement, response time and overall control of the vehicle.

The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for driving in South Africa is under 0.05 g per 100 ml of blood. The legal breath alcohol limit is under 0.24 mg in 1,000 ml of breath.

Driving under the influence, sometimes abbreviated as DUI, is a criminal offence.

Claiming compensation for injury in a drunk driving crash

In South Africa, you can’t make a personal injury claim directly against the driver responsible for an accident. However, you can claim compensation from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

For a personal injury claim to be successful, it has to be shown that you weren’t solely responsible for the accident – and that your injuries resulted directly from it.

Any evidence that the other driver was intoxicated at the time of an accident will likely strengthen a claim. This is because driving under the influence of alcohol is an inherently negligent act.

Evidence of liability in drunk driving crashes

The following types of evidence can all help you and your attorney build a successful claim against a drunk driver:

  • your record of what occurred
    Did the driver speak with a slur, stumble or smell of alcohol at the scene? If you observe any signs like these, you should inform law enforcement at the accident scene straight away. To support a road accident claim, also inform your attorney.
  • testimony from eye witnesses
    Witnesses who were at the accident scene may agree with your impression that the driver was under the influence. If possible, get their names and contact details.

Your attorney may question witnesses on your behalf and use their reports to strengthen your claim.

  • the police report and any test results
    A police report should provide a description of the accident, a diagram of the scene and the reporting officer’s assessment of the accident, potentially including who the officer determined was responsible for the collision. This is vital evidence for proving liability in a drunk driving claim.

The report may also detail the results of a breathalyser alcohol test or a blood or urine test of the other driver, and any previous citations issued or arrests made for driving under the influence.

An attorney can help obtain copies of reports and test results and use these to strengthen your claim.

Other evidence to gather to support a claim

If you’ve been injured in a road accident and you believe the party responsible was drunk, it’s helpful to gather any evidence you can – if possible, straight away at the accident scene. You should also collect key reports afterwards to substantiate your claim.

At the accident scene

If you or anyone else is seriously injured, getting proper medical attention is the first priority.

If you’re able to, however, it can be helpful to gather evidence at the scene. For example, take contact details of any witnesses and get the name of the reporting police officer.

Use your cellphone to take photographs or videos of the scene before anything has been moved. You can also record video or audio clips, to capture witness statements or admissions by other drivers. If you have pen and paper, a basic sketch of the accident site can be helpful.

Also, write a personal record of what occurred as soon after the accident as possible, while the details are fresh in your memory.

After the accident

After the accident, ensure you get a copy of the police report. This serves as important evidence of who was at fault in causing the accident.

Also keep copies of all medical records (including doctors’ reports) and medical expenses you incur, to support a claim.

Note that it’s best to seek medical attention as soon after a road accident as possible. This is to ensure the best medical outcome after any injury. It’s also in your interests legally, if you may have a personal injury claim.

Also, it’s best to complete prescribed treatment and comply with doctors’ recommendations. (If you have concerns about your treatment, get further medical opinions and comply with medical instructions once the issues have been resolved).

From a legal perspective, this is so that any long-term injury can’t be blamed on your failure to do this.


Building a strong case after a drunk driving accident

Once you’ve gathered what evidence you can, the next step is to contact a suitably experienced attorney.

At DSC Attorneys, all our attorneys specialise in personal injury law, with a strong focus on road accident claims. We can guide you in gathering and organising evidence of liability in drunk driving crashes, and in building the strongest possible case to support your claim. We work on a “no win, no fee” basis.

See if you have a claim

Similar Posts