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Drunk Driver Accidents - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I was hit by a car that was driven by a drunk driver who was going home after a night out. What can I do, in addition to suing the drunk driver?
  2. My wife was injured when her car was hit by one being driven by some kids who had been drinking at the home of our neighbor. May I take any action against the neighbor, who supplied the liquor to the youths?
  3. I was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver and I was injured when he crashed into a fence. Can I sue him?
  4. Do criminal actions against a drunk driver have to be completed before civil actions against the driver can be filed?


I was hit by a car that was driven by a drunk driver who was going home after a night out. What can I do, in addition to suing the drunk driver?

You may be able to collect from your own uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage for damages you suffered from the drunk driver. In other words, if the drunk driver does not have automobile liability insurance, your uninsured or underinsured coverage from your own policy may provide you some relief.

Minnesota has a Dram Shop Act, which allows you to recover damages from the owner of the tavern where the drunk driver was served the liquor. Such acts usually come into play when intoxicated people served by a bar later injure somebody while driving. Some of those laws also make tavern owners liable when drunken customers injure others on or off the premises. In Minnesota, we must prove liability on the tavern owner with evidence showing the sale of the liquor itself was illegal.

My wife was injured when her car was hit by one being driven by some kids who had been drinking at the home of our neighbor. May I take any action against the neighbor, who supplied the liquor to the youths?

Possibly. Courts have imposed liability against such neighbors or parents when they have served liquor to minors. Parents can be liable for negligent supervision of their children. But as a general rule, courts have said that social hosts are not responsible for the conduct of their guests, unless the hosts routinely allow guests to drink too much or take illegal drugs--and then put them into their cars and send them out on the highway.

I was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver and I was injured when he crashed into a fence. Can I sue him?

Possibly. Drivers owe a duty of reasonable care not only to other drivers and pedestrians, but also to passengers in his or her vehicle. This duty does not change because a driver is intoxicated. However, if the passenger contributed to the driver's intoxication or knew the driver was intoxicated, but chose to ride with him or her anyway, the passenger may be unable to make a successful claim against the driver.

Do criminal actions against a drunk driver have to be completed before civil actions against the driver can be filed?

No. Those injured by a drunk driver can file a civil suit before the criminal actions against the drunk driver are concluded. Considering the limited amount of time you have to file a suit to recover damages against a drunk driver, it is best not to wait. A personal injury attorney can discuss this with you in more detail.