Drinking alcohol is a key contributing factor to personal injury, both in terms of causing injuries to other people and ourselves. 

This article looks at the impact of alcohol on personal injury claims for compensation. It shows that having an experienced personal injury lawyer may help an injury victim to claim compensation, even if they were partially to blame for their injury due to alcohol consumption. 

Alcohol is a contributing factor in many cases of personal injury and death

We often note in our blog the statistical role drinking alcohol plays in causing injury and death. 

For example, over a third of people killed in recreational boating-related incidents had consumed alcohol. In addition, more than half of the drivers killed in ATV-related incidents had been drinking. 

Alcohol is unsurprisingly also a significant factor in motor vehicle accidents. According to Alberta statistics for 2020, 2% of drivers were legally impaired by alcohol in non-fatal injury collisions. This jumps to 12% for fatal collisions. 

Alcohol use by the person causing injury is likely to help the injury victim claim compensation

If you have been injured because of another person’s negligence, you may have a claim for compensation. If the other person was impaired by alcohol at the time, it may be easier to show that they were negligent. 

This is because being impaired by alcohol makes it harder to meet the standard of care expected of a reasonable person in the circumstances. Alcohol decreases motor skills, reaction time, vision and decision-making ability, so it is more difficult to live up to the reasonable standards expected of a prudent person. 

When it comes to motor vehicle accidents, the Alberta Traffic Safety Act (Act) enshrines this principle by reversing the burden of proof. Normally the onus of proving that a person negligently caused injury falls on the victim. However, suppose a driver contravenes the Act, such as impaired driving. In that case, the Act reverses the burden of proof such that the contravening driver must prove that the injury did not arise because they failed to comply.

Alcohol use can make it more difficult for an injury victim to claim full compensation

On the other hand, if the injury victim was under the influence of alcohol at the time of sustaining their injury, it could be more difficult to claim compensation or the full amount of compensation representing the loss they have suffered.  

This is because the other party to the accident might claim that their conduct did not cause the accident and that the victim’s alcohol use was the real reason for the injury.

But is everything lost if you were drinking at the time that someone else caused you an injury? Not necessarily. 

The law recognizes that there can be multiple causes of an injury

The doctrine of contributory negligence means that if an injury victim was injured because of someone else’s negligence as well as their own conduct (such as due to alcohol use), the other person cannot escape liability. 

If this is the case, a court will determine the degree to which the plaintiff is at fault for their injuries and reduce the amount of compensation that the other party owes in proportion to the plaintiff’s degree of fault. 

Being intoxicated does not necessarily absolve the other party from responsibility. If the other person has engaged in negligent conduct, they could still pay compensation, as the following case shows. 

Cuming & Gillespie LLP represented an injured client that caused a collision while intoxicated

Cuming & Gillespie LLP recently represented a person that was injured in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. This client sustained their injuries after attending a local festival and consuming alcohol. 

Our client walked past a business that sold and rented ATVs and recognized a staff member inside the premises from a prior rental from the business. They were welcomed into the closed business and were allowed to drive an ATV despite being admittedly and clearly intoxicated. They did not fill out a waiver or rental contract and were allowed to operate the ATV without any protective gear or a helmet. 

Unfortunately, our client drove the ATV into another vehicle and sustained serious injuries. Liability was very much at issue, given that our client was technically at fault for the actual collision that caused her injuries. 

We secured compensation for our client despite their consumption of alcohol

The matter proceeded to mediation that included several defendants including the owner of the premises, multiple companies that operated out of the premises, and the employee who allowed access to and provided the ATV to the client. In addition, multiple insurers were defending these defendants. 

Much of the mediation dealt with determining which, if any, of the insurers should be obligated to provide coverage for the potential negligence. We successfully negotiated a significant settlement for our client, which multiple insurers funded. 

A personal injury lawyer can guide you on whether settlement may be beneficial for you

As noted above, given that our client was at fault for the collision, the case was high risk.

However, given the actions of the other parties and our settlement strategy, a successful mediation settlement allowed the client to be fairly compensated without having to proceed with the large risk of attending a trial.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise whether a settlement would benefit your circumstances.

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP for Advice on Serious Personal Injury Claims 

Suppose you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, even if you have contributed to the situation by drinking alcohol. In that case, you may be entitled to compensation to help you recover financially from your injuries. The personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP in Calgary will advise you on your prospects and possible entitlements. Call us at 403-571-0555 or contact us online to book a consultation.