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Can a driver can still be impaired and not legally drunk?

Most Indiana residents might believe that if a driver was not considered legally drunk, which means the individual had a blood alcohol content (BAC) below .08 percent, then the person was not impaired. That is not necessarily true.

Just because the driver believed to have caused the accident that seriously injured you or took the life of your loved one was not arrested for DUI does not necessarily mean that alcohol did not contribute to the crash. Even if that person's BAC does not give rise to a criminal charge, it might be used to establish negligence in a civil action.

The key is to understand how alcohol affects that particular individual. Reaction times, decision-making and even the ability to see clearly can be affected long before reaching the legal limit of intoxication.

What happens to people as they consume alcohol?

Just about everyone knows someone who can have one drink and be buzzed while another person can drink a six-pack without batting an eye. This is because factors such as weight, gender and food intake can affect how a person will metabolize alcohol.

Regardless of how many drinks it takes for someone to start feeling the effects of alcohol, various things begin to happen when a person's BAC reaches certain levels.

At .02, the following issues manifest:

  • Visual functions decline
  • Ability to focus on two tasks declines
  • Judgment begins to decline
  • Mood changes begin

At .05, the following occur:

  • Alertness declines
  • Coordination declines
  • Ability to track objects declines
  • Reaction time significantly declines
  • Muscle control declines
  • Behavioral changes can occur
  • Inhibitions decline

The effects only get worse from this point. In addition, if an individual is on a medication that warns against drinking alcohol with it, the effects can occur much faster.

Many people do not realize that they are already impaired and should not be driving. They get behind the wheel of a car while not in complete control of their faculties. This is a recipe for disaster.

How do we prove that alcohol contributed to my accident?

During the investigation into your accident, your attorney will more than likely determine where the other driver had been and what he or she was doing prior to the accident. Only time can reduce the effects of alcohol, so part of that inquiry will include determining how much the person had to drink.

The burden of proof in a civil case is not as stringent as it is in a criminal case. It is not necessary to prove that someone was legally drunk "beyond a reasonable doubt" in a civil case. If the evidence indicates that the person was likely impaired even without being legally drunk, the court could determine the driver was negligent and award you compensation for your injuries or the loss of your loved one.

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