Can a passenger of a drunk driver claim compensation?

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Can you claim compensation if you are the passenger of a drunk driver?


The growing problem of drink driving

As lockdown eases, many people will be heading to their local pubs and bars for an alcoholic drink or two. We are all aware of the dangers of drink driving and the vast majority of drivers can be relied upon to be sensible. However, there are worrying signs that incidences of drink driving are increasing. The Department of Transport has recently released statistics showing that the number of road accidents involving a driver who was over the limit to drive has increased by 4%.

Can you claim compensation if you are the passenger of a drunk driver?

Pedestrians or other road users who are the innocent victims of an irresponsible drunk driver can expect to receive the full protection of the law, including the right to claim compensation. But what about the drunk driver’s passengers? If you are in a car with a drunk driver and are injured in an accident caused by them then are you entitled to claim compensation? And if so, will any money be deducted from your compensation if you are deemed to be at fault?

The answer to these legal question is likely to hinge on what you knew about the amount of alcohol the driver had consumed before agreeing to be their passenger.

In one recent case two men had been drinking at their local nightclub. One man left the club early as he felt unwell and went to sit in the other’s car. At the end of the night, the owner of the car drove off with the other man in it. The car collided with a lorry. The driver was killed instantly. The passenger suffered extremely serious injuries and claimed compensation. The question for the court was whether the passenger was at fault himself for travelling in a car when he knew the driver was intoxicated.

The Judge decided that the passenger of a drunk driver should be entitled to receive compensation in these circumstances, but that the sum awarded should be reduced by 20% on the grounds that he accepted a lift from a driver who he knew to be intoxicated.

What if you are unaware of how much the driver has had to drink when you agreed to be a passenger of a drunk driver?

This was discussed in another case. Two friends had been drinking in a pub. The driver left the pub while his friend remained there drinking. The driver later returned, and they both continued drinking. By the time they left, the passenger had consumed between 10 to 15 pints of lager. The driver lost control of the vehicle on his way home. His passenger, who was seriously injured in the crash, made a compensation claim against the driver.  In this case, the Judge also agreed that compensation should be paid to the passenger of the drunk driver. He said the passenger should have assessed the state of the driver before deciding whether to accept a lift, but because he was heavily intoxicated himself no deductions should be made from his compensation as he had been unable to make a reliable assessment.

How we can help

If you would like to know if you can claim compensation if you are a passenger of a drunk driver then call our free legal helpline for a case assessment. If we think you have a valid case then we will deal with the claim on a no win, no fee basis.

Call 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]