Victoria Rae | Trainee Solicitor

Passengers of Drink Drivers

Contributory Negligence: Passengers of Drink-Drivers

Figures published by the Government yesterday reveal the latest statistics available up to 2015 for both the number of accidents and casualties caused by drink-driving. The figures show 8,470 people were injured in road traffic accidents involving drink driving in 2015. Out of the 8,470, it is estimated 1,370 of these people were killed or seriously injured.

Whilst the latest figures show a slight increase on overall casualties from 2013/2014, it is encouraging that the number of casualties has decreased by 45% since 2005.

Individuals injured in an accident involving drink-driving can claim compensation for their injuries. However, what happens when you have knowingly gotten into a car with a drink-driver?

Generally, liability for an accident will lie with the driver who has been drinking. However, defenders will commonly argue that any passengers making a claim will have been contributory negligent. This means that the passenger is partially to blame for the accident they were involved in as they knowingly got in a car with a driver that had been drinking.

In most drink-driving cases, an individual who has knowingly gotten into a car with a drink-driver will have their compensation reduced by 20%. The leading case for this is Owens v Brimmell [1977]. Both the passenger and driver had been drinking together in several pubs. The passenger accepted a lift home, knowing the driver was drunk. His compensation was reduced by 20%.

In contrast to the above case, in Booth v White the courts found that there had been no contributory negligence on the part of the passenger. Again, both the passenger and driver had been drinking together in a pub. The driver then left to play football and the passenger stayed in the pub drinking. The driver returned from football and joined the passenger in drinking some more before leaving the pub. The passenger was considerably drunk by the time the driver returned from football. The main question the court considered was whether the passenger got into a car knowing the driver was drunk. In this case the court decided he hadn’t, as the passenger was considerably drunk and did not know how much the driver had to drink.

If you have been involved in an accident with a drink-driver Jackson Boyd can fully advise you on the prospects of pursuing a successful claim. Please contact us online by clicking here or speak to a member of our specialist team on 01412496903

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