An intoxicated motorcyclist risks causing serious injury or death not only to himself, but to others as well. If you or someone you love has been involved in a collision involving an intoxicated motorcyclist, there are several factors to consider in regards to your eligibility for financial compensation.
Tennessee's DUI/DWI Laws
Drunk driving laws apply to operating any type of motor vehicle, including a motorcycle. Under Tennessee law, anyone over 21 is considered legally intoxicated if their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) equals or exceeds .08. BAC depends on a number of different factors, including gender, age, weight, and body fat percentage. However, just three drinks for women or four drinks for men in a one-hour period is often enough to put you over the legal limit. A drink is defined as either a 12-ounce bottle of regular beer, 1 ounce of 100-proof liquor, or a 5-ounce glass of table wine.
People under age 21 are considered legally intoxicated with a BAC of 0.02%, which is basically one drink for both men and women. Even though one drink might not seem like it would have an effect on the ability to operate a motorcycle, it's enough to affect judgement, concentration, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time. The only truly safe way to consume alcohol is to have a designated driver.
A DUI/DWI carries hefty fines as well as the possibility of jail time, even if no accident or injuries have occurred. Other possible consequences include the loss of a professional license, restrictions regarding the ability to possess or maintain firearms, dramatically increased insurance rates, and disqualification from certain employment opportunities.
Signs of an Intoxicated Motorcyclist
Law enforcement officers are taught to look for specific signs of intoxication when determining who should be stopped for a DUI/DWI. These include:
- Trouble dismounting the bike
- Trouble maintaining balance at a stop
- Unsteadiness during turns
- Improper lean angle during a turn
- Erratic movements during a turn
- Drifting during a turn or curve
Any of these signs of intoxication can easily cause an accident, especially if it's nighttime and other motorists don't see the bike immediately. An intoxicated motorcyclist could also injure pedestrians, bicyclists, or his own passengers.
Filing a Claim Against a Drunk Driver
If you've been injured by a drunk motorcyclist, you're entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If your loved one sustains fatal injuries, you can file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for medical expenses up to the time of death, funeral and burial costs, loss of the deceased's future income, and pain and suffering. Your personal injury or wrongful death claim is in addition to any criminal penalties the motorcyclist will face from the state.
In many ways, claims against drunk drivers are easier to prove than other types of personal injury cases. Instead of relying primarily on witness testimony to establish fault, you can use the state's DUI/DWI charge as evidence of culpability. Breathalyzer, urine, and/or blood tests are standard when there's reason to suspect someone involved in an accident has been drinking, giving you objective proof of responsibility for your injuries.
However, cases involving passengers of an intoxicated motorcyclist can be tricky. The insurance company might try to argue that a passenger who knew or should have known that the operator was intoxicated is partially at fault for his injuries. Partial fault reduces eligibility for compensation, if the argument is successful.
You May Need the Help of an Attorney to Protect Your Claim
To defend your right to compensation, you'll need to enlist the services of a skilled personal injury attorney. Since personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, there is no upfront expense involved in retaining legal representation. Your attorney’s fee will simply be a percentage of the settlement you receive.
Tennessee requires all personal injury and wrongful death claims to be filed within one year of the accident. To learn more, please call Griffith Law for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our Franklin law firm will discuss your options and answer any questions you may have about your eligibility for compensation.