St. Louis Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
Whether it involves attending a party at a private residence or enjoying an unforgettable evening at one of the city’s best breweries, bars. or dance clubs, St. Louis has plenty of opportunities to get out and drink around the city. It is, after all, the home of Budweiser.
Unfortunately, this also means many opportunities for individuals impaired by alcohol to get behind the wheel of a car and—in a matter of seconds—take lives or cause permanent injuries.
If you sustained injuries or lost a loved one as a result of a St. Louis drunk driving accident, an experienced St. Louis drunk driving accident lawyer from the Bruning Law Firm can help you understand your legal options for obtaining compensation for the expenses and impacts to your quality of life that you have incurred due to your injury.
For over 35 years, we have committed ourselves to assisting the injured of St. Louis get the compensation they need through our no-fee promise. To ensure that everyone who needs our assistance has access to it, this promise ensures that you will not have to pay an upfront fee or have to pay for our legal services until we have achieved a positive resolution in your case.
Understanding Alcohol Impairment in St. Louis
Missouri, like most states in the U.S., has a legal impairment limit of 0.08 percent. Accordingly, the law considers drivers who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood as legally intoxicated. Many people seem to believe that alcohol does not begin to impair a drivers’ ability to operate a motor vehicle safely until they’ve reached the legal impairment limit.
However, the effects of alcohol on the body actually begin after just one drink. More than 1,700 people a year die in accidents caused by drivers with BACs of 0.01 to 0.07. In Missouri, around four out of every 10 crashes resulting in a fatality involve a driver with a BAC of at least 0.01.
Dangerous Deficits That Lead to St. Louis Drunk Driving Accidents
Approximately 28 people in the U.S. die each day in drunk driving crashes, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths a year. In Missouri, more than 200 people die as a result of alcohol-impaired drivers each year, and alcohol impairment constitutes a factor in slightly more than a quarter of all the state’s traffic-related fatalities. St. Louis’ active nightlife and the plethora of activities increase the risk of drunk driving accidents around the city due to the high accessibility of alcohol in social situations and the increase in traffic on major thoroughfares.
Our bodies absorb alcohol directly through the walls of the stomach and the small intestine. From there, the alcohol enters the bloodstream and causes impacts to the body’s central nervous system before eventually metabolizing in the liver. The central nervous system serves as the complex messaging system from the brain to all parts of the body through the spinal cord. As impairment progressively creates deficits in cognitive function, it results in deficits in thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, all needed for the safe operation of a motor vehicle. Below, we discuss some of the major deficits that begin with the very first drink.
Decline in Visual Function
With a BAC of 0.02, which most people reach within an hour after having just one drink, one of the first noticeable impacts involves a decline in visual function regarding the ability to rapidly track a moving target. We all need this function to attend to traffic on the roadway. A driver needs to rapidly track a moving target to determine a safe gap in traffic in which to pull into a travel lane or make emergency driving maneuvers to avoid hitting a vehicle that has run a red light or has swerved into the driver’s lane of travel.
Decline in Ability to Multitask
Alcohol impairment also impacts a driver’s ability to multitask.
Multitasking constitutes one of the most important functions of driving, as one often must focus on more than one factor or take more than one action at a time, spreading out the brain’s resources, which include:
- Visual perception, which helps drivers’ brains interpret what they see.
- Auditory perception, which helps drivers’ brains interpret what they hear.
- Declarative memory, which involves information the brain has stored that requires conscious effort to be retrieved. In other words, many aspects of driving require you to actively engage in the act of recalling the safety rules or requirements to complete the action.
- Working memory, which refers to limited capacity storage of information in the brain that you will only need for a short time, such as the knowledge that a driver is traveling in your blind spot and you will need to look over your shoulder to ensure that the vehicle has moved from that area before changing lanes.
- Motor control, which refers to the brain’s control over the body’s movement. Motor control involves both of the body’s reflexes, such as the instinctual reaction to slam on the brakes when a driver perceives a hazard, as well as conscious actions, such as steering or braking the motor vehicle.
Drivers deploy all of these resources while driving, often at the same time as using other resources. As drivers become more impaired, they lose their ability to access these resources to perform the functions needed for driving.
Because drunk drivers suffer declines in their ability to multitask, they will often focus on one aspect of safe driving while completely forgetting about others. Consider a driver who focuses on staying in one lane of travel but completely forgets to travel at a safe and acceptable speed for the roadway.
Like alcohol impairment, speeding constitutes a major cause of fatal accidents in St. Louis. Speeding reduces the time a driver has to perceive and react to a hazard, while also increasing the distance the vehicle’s brakes need to pull the weight of the vehicle to a complete stop. Speeding reduces the effectiveness of the vehicle’s protections while increasing the severity of the crash. Unfortunately, drivers often engage in the two risky driving behaviors of speeding and alcohol impairment simultaneously, as alcohol impairment causes drivers to speed more regularly.
Short-Term Memory Loss
Drivers use their memories in many ways when navigating St. Louis’ busy roadways, including to remember locations and routes, or even the meanings of road signs or basic traffic safety rules. Short-term memory loss occurs in most drivers around the time they reach the .08 legal impairment limit for driving.
Reduced Information Processing Capacity
Information processing refers to your brain’s ability to gather, store, and retrieve information needed to make a decision or respond. For example, stopping at a traffic light requires a driver approaching an intersection to see that a light has turned red, recall that a red light means he or she needs to stop and respond by depressing the brakes. An impaired driver can struggle with any aspect of that information processing, including not noticing that the light turned red, not remembering that a red light means stop, or not remembering to depress the brakes in time to stop.
Reduced Ability to Maintain Lane Position and Brake Appropriately
As a driver reaches the legal impairment limit for driving and even beyond that limit, his or her ability to maintain lane position will decrease as a result of the decline in motor function and information processing needed to safely operate the motor vehicle.
The Type of Injuries Suffered in Drunk Driving Accidents
Because drunk drivers incur such a substantial loss in their ability to control their vehicles, drunk driving accidents often result in catastrophic injuries. These injuries include traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, both of which often result in life-altering complications and permanent deficits that make it difficult or impossible for the individual to earn an income or complete personal care tasks independently. Other serious injuries commonly caused by drunk driving accidents include broken bones, internal injuries, damage to the spinal vertebrae and discs, burns, soft tissue injuries, and limb amputation.
Seeking Compensation for Injuries Incurred in a St. Louis Drunk Driving Accident
If you have suffered injuries or lost a loved one as a result of a drunk driving accident in St. Louis, you can obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury or loss by filing a legal claim in civil court. For injuries, you would file a personal injury lawsuit, and you generally must file this claim within five years of the date on which the accident occurred. For drunk driving accidents involving death, family members of the deceased can seek compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit within three years of the date on which the death occurred.
Liability refers to legal responsibility. To file a lawsuit against an at-fault party, you must show how or why that party caused your injuries or your loved one’s death.
You can prove liability by establishing:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care constitutes the actions that a reasonable person would take in a given set of circumstances to protect the safety and property of others. Drivers owe other users of a roadway a duty of care to operate their motor vehicles safely and legally.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the driver took that contradicted the duty of care in the given situation. Operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol constitutes a breach of the driver’s duty of care, as drunk driving involves both unsafe and illegal behavior.
- The breach in the duty of care resulted in the accident in which you sustained injuries.
- You sustained injuries and damages as a result of the accident.
In the legal arena, the term recovering damages means receiving compensation for losses incurred in an accident. Economic damages involve compensation for the actual expenses that an injured individual incurred in the accident, such as medical bills. Non-economic damages involve compensation for the psychological impacts of the injury you received in the drunk driving accident.
Common damages claimed in a drunk driving accident personal injury case include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Property damage
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Common damages claimed in a drunk driving wrongful death case include:
- Funeral and burial or cremation expenses
- Medical expenses relating to the treatment of the deceased’s final injury
- The value of wages and benefits the deceased likely would have earned if he or she lived
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased between the time of the accident and the time of death
- The value of services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, and training provided by the deceased to his or her family members
Injured by a St. Louis Drunk Driver? The Bruning Law Firm Can Help
St. Louis provides plenty of opportunities for its residents and visitors to socialize and enjoy a drink. However, these opportunities also create a risk of drunk driving accidents that could result in injury or death. When drivers choose to make the dangerous decision to drink and drive, they should prepare to face the consequences. If they cause an accident that results in injury and/or death, those drivers should expect to bear liability for the costs and other damages stemming from the accident.
If you have suffered injuries or lost a loved one due to an accident caused by an impaired driver, a St. Louis drunk driving accident lawyer from the Bruning Law Firm can help you make sense of your legal options for obtaining compensation for the many expenses and impacts you have experienced as a result of the accident. We serve victims of drunk drivers throughout the St. Louis area, including those injured in the Metro East of Illinois and the city’s western suburbs.
For your free case evaluation, contact us online or call (314) 735-8100. During your evaluation, you can discuss the details of your drunk driving accident, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your eligibility to seek compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
The Bruning Law Firm
555 Washington Ave Ste 600A,
St. Louis, MO 63101
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