Super Bowl Sunday, Drunk Drivers, And You

Super Bowl Sunday is rapidly approaching – it’s Sunday, February 7 – and this year the Denver Broncos will be taking the field to face off against the Carolina Panthers. For several decades now in the United States, Super Bowl Sunday has been one of the nation’s heaviest drinking days. Forbes predicts that for Super Bowl 50 this year, 325 million gallons of beer will be consumed by football fans and their friends across the United States. If you own a brewery or a bar, that statistic is great news, but if you have to drive anywhere – especially in or around the Denver area – during or after the Super Bowl, it means the streets and highways will be far more dangerous than usual for a Sunday evening. Figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tell us that drinking was a factor in 43 percent of the fatal traffic accidents on Super Bowl Sunday – and the early hours of the following Monday morning – in 2012. The last time the Broncos played in the Super Bowl – two years ago – 315 arrests for driving under the influence were made throughout the state during that single weekend, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

In Colorado and in every other state, a motorist is over the legal intoxication limit if his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) level measures at or above 0.08 percent. Of course, when an impaired driver is responsible for an accident and injuries, that driver faces serious criminal charges, but a drunk driver who injures someone else may also be held accountable for civil damages. If you’re driving on Super Bowl Sunday or on any other day of the year, and if you are injured in an accident with an impaired driver, you are legally entitled to complete reimbursement for all of your medical treatment, any lost wages or other lost income, and all of your additional injury-related expenses. If you become an accident victim, contact a good personal injury lawyer at once, and in the greater Denver area, speak with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney immediately about your legal rights and options after an accident.

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If a driver injures you because that driver was negligent in any way, you may choose to pursue a personal injury claim. If that driver is tested with a BAC level at or above 0.08 percent, that test can be persuasive evidence in a personal injury case, and if the defendant is found guilty of driving under the influence, that conviction would considerably enhance your claim. Still, it is not necessary to prove that a driver who injures you was impaired in order to win your case – simply proving negligence is sufficient.

HOW CAN YOU STAY SAFE?

“We’re treating it like New Year’s Eve as far as staffing,” according to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle. “It’s going to be a busy night.” Across the country on Super Bowl Sunday, police departments will be focusing on impaired drivers with designated DUI patrol units and sobriety checkpoints. On the day and evening of the big game, the likelihood of being injured in an accident with an intoxicated driver is almost twice that of a more typical Sunday afternoon. You may not be intoxicated behind the wheel, but other drivers certainly will be, so you must be extra careful if you drive on Super Bowl Sunday. If you must drive on the day of the big game, consider these five important safety recommendations:

  1. Whenever you drive, do not allow yourself to become distracted. Don’t try to eat, use your cell phone, apply make-up, or send anyone a text message. Turn your cell phone off. If you need to read a map or look more closely at a GPS device, pull over safely and away from the traffic. And – of course – never drink and drive.
  2. On the day of the Super Bowl, law officers on patrol will be aggressively looking for drunk drivers, so they’ll be pulling over a lot of motorists for suspicion of DUI. Check your lights, brakes, and wipers before driving on Super Bowl Sunday. If they’re working properly, you will be less likely to attract the attention of law enforcement officers.
  3. As you drive, routinely look in the distance to get the full picture. At sixty miles per hour, you drive the length of a football field in under four seconds. Your driving situation changes moment-by-moment and it’s not all in front of you – you’re in the center of traffic. Keep conscious of what’s going on in front of you, beside you, and behind you too. Try to keep enough distance from other vehicles so that you can avoid getting into an accident.
  4. Underinflated tires are responsible for approximately 200,000 accidents a year in the U.S., 33,000 injuries, and about 650 fatalities, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Check your tires before you drive on Super Bowl Sunday.
  5. An intoxicated driver can also be an aggressive driver. If you encounter “road rage,” take no chances. Get out of the way and keep yourself and your passengers safe. Dangerous driving or violence should be reported at once to 9-1-1.

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IF YOU’RE INJURED, WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE?

Of course, even if you’re doing everything you can to be safe, you and your passengers could still be hurt in a crash with an impaired or otherwise negligent driver. Although the law entitles you to complete reimbursement if you are injured by a negligent driver, that does not mean that you will be miraculously handed a reimbursement check. Instead, you’ll have to prove that you were injured – and that the other driver’s negligence caused the injury – and for that, you will require the help of a good personal injury lawyer. In the Denver area, put your case in the hands of an experienced Denver personal injury attorney as soon as you have received medical attention after an injury. If you are injured by a drunk or otherwise negligent driver on the day of the Super Bowl – or any other day – you must take these five steps immediately:

  1. Obtain medical treatment, and obtain help for anyone else hurt in the crash.
  2. Phone the local police, and make sure that you obtain a copy of the accident report.
  3. Get names and contact information for any witnesses.
  4. Get the other driver’s personal contact information and insurance information. You must have it. If the driver is unable or refuses to cooperate with you, ask the police to help you get that information.
  5. Take or have someone take as many photos as you can. Get pictures of the damage to the vehicles, the license plates, the general accident site, and your visible injuries. Photos often make the difference in personal injury cases.

If you are injured by an intoxicated driver, an insurance company is likely to offer you a quick settlement that may be worth far less than the actual value of your claim. Don’t take it or even speak to an insurance company prior to consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will do the negotiating on your behalf, and you will probably not even have to appear in court. More than ninety percent of personal injury claims are settled out-of-court, and an experienced personal injury lawyer regularly handles such negotiations. When you have a legitimate personal injury claim, the choice to move forward with that claim is still up to you. A personal injury lawyer can explain how the law applies in your case, and if you choose to proceed, your lawyer will fight diligently for the compensation you need and for the justice you deserve. If necessary, your personal injury lawyer will consult with accident reconstruction experts and medical authorities to obtain their insights and testimony.

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Super Bowl Sunday has emerged as one of the most festive days on the U.S. calendar, but it’s also a day that brings back tragic memories to scores of families and accident victims. In 2013, for example, when tight end Delanie Walker played in the Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, his aunt and uncle, Bryan and Alice Young, were on hand watching proudly. Soon after the game, however, Walker was told the couple had been killed as they were driving home – by an allegedly drunk driver. Walker now teaches others in the offseason about the dangers of drinking and driving. “I just want to make people more aware through my story,” he says.

WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER?

The most important safety rule for Super Bowl Sunday is the same rule that applies every day of the year: Don’t Drink and Drive. Of course, your own caution and sobriety can’t guarantee that you won’t be injured by an impaired driver, but if you are, put an experienced personal injury lawyer on the case immediately. Witnesses forget details quickly, and evidence must be gathered and secured promptly. If an impaired driver injures you, speak right away with a good personal injury lawyer. In the greater Denver area, talk with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney, and don’t wait to make the call.

By: Dallas Norton

Dallas Norton, the founding partner of Norton & Bowers, has practiced law with a focus on personal injury since 1992. Mr. Norton has extensive Colorado roots including grade school in Arvada and high school in Denver. He earned his J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School in 1991. When working on behalf of clients, Mr. Norton draws upon his extensive background in psychology and human resources.