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Riding With A Drunk Driver May Result In A Reduced Damage Award

Passengers in auto accidents can usually collect money for their injuries from the people responsible for the crashes. If you get in a vehicle with a drunk driver and are involved in an accident as a result, though, you may only receive partial compensation or none at all in some cases. Here's more information about how this can happen. 

The Role of Personal Responsibility

Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles in a safe manner, so someone who operates a vehicle while intoxicated will typically always be held liable for any accident the person causes.

At the same time, though, people have a duty to prevent their own injuries. A person who knowingly enters a situation where the risk of being injured is high is often held partially or fully culpable by the court for any injuries the individual sustains.

Therefore, if you get into a vehicle with a driver you know is intoxicated, the court may find that you are also responsible for being hurt and make a decision about the amount of money you receive based on that assessment.

Comparative and Contributory Negligence

When multiple people are held liable for an accident or injury, the court assigns a percentage of responsibility to each individual and dispenses compensation based on that number using either a comparative or contributory negligence model of liability.

In the comparative model, a person's compensation is reduced by the percentage of liability the court assigns to the individual. For instance, if a person is found 20 percent liable for his or her injuries, the individual will only be awarded 80 percent of any compensation for damages requested (e.g. $8,000 of a $10,000 medical bill).

In the contributory negligence model, people cannot recover any compensation if their percentage of liability exceeds a certain threshold. For instance, in Virginia, Alabama, D.C., Maryland, and North Carolina, a person will not receive any compensation if he or she is found 1 percent liable for the injuries sustained. Other states that use contributory negligence, such as Michigan and Minnesota, set the threshold at 51 percent. If the defendant can adequately make the case that you are also liable for your injuries in these states, then the person may escape having to pay you any money.

It's important to remember, though, that the defendant has the burden of proving you knew you were riding around with an intoxicated person, which may be challenging to show. It's still best to work with a personal injury attorney (click for more information) who can help you defend against this type of attack to ensure you get the maximum compensation you're owed.