Is an intoxicated person always at fault in an accident, even if the other person hit him first?

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Is a drunk driver always responsible for an auto accident?



Yes and no. If by “responsible,” do you mean the sole, or even primary cause, of an auto accident, then the answer is no—that’s not always the case. And if you mean that they always are liable to pay the full cost of any injuries caused in an accident, the answer is also no—there are conditions under which someone else might be more at-fault, and so liable to pay more, in an accident than a drunk driver.

However, if you mean will a drunk driver always bear at least some of the fault in an auto accident, and therefore likely be responsible for at least some of any costs or injuries—then yes.

Drunk driving, or its more formally known, DWI (“driving while intoxicated”) or DUI (“driving under [the] influence”) is negligent behavior. “Negligence” is unreasonable carelessness, and nobody would argue credibly that it’s not unreasonable negligent to get behind the wheel while under the influence. Indeed, it’s also commonly a criminal behavior—one that can get you jailed for driving drunk even if you don’t hurt anyone, and can result in a serious felony charge if you do injure another. And the fact that its criminal behavior reinforces the negligence—being criminally reckless by definition is to be negligent.

That means that if you get into an accident while driving drunk, you can count on at least a share of the liability and hence responsibility. However, when it’s a more-than-one-car accident, the behavior of the other drivers has to be taken into account as well in apportioning fault and responsibility. If person A is DUI but is still managing to obey all traffic laws, then is hit by person B who is driving recklessly and speeding while talking on a cell phone or texting, person A will not bear the full responsibility or legal liability for the resulting accident. Indeed, depending on how egregious B’s behavior was, it’s not even clear that A would bear most of the fault or responsibility.

So driving drunk is always a bad idea—a literally criminally bad idea in many cases. It also is negligent behavior. However, it does not necessarily make the drunk driver fully or solely responsible for any injuries or accidents. If you were the driving under the influence at the time of an accident but the other party(ies) to the accident were also negligent, a good attorney can make sure you do not pay more than your fair and appropriate share.