A conviction for DWI brings the consequences you might expect, such as the loss of driving privileges, expensive attorneys’ fees, and public embarrassment. However, there is one additional, less-obvious consequence of which many are unaware; Louisiana provides immunity from claims brought by a drunk driver who was at least 25% at fault in the accident which caused his injuries, no matter how severe the injuries.
Generally stated, if you are driving drunk and are in an accident that is mostly someone else’s fault, you will not be able to recover for the injuries you sustain. Similarly, if your fault injures a drunk driver, the statute may shield you from liability. The “drunk driving” immunity is found in La. R.S. 9:2798.4. The statute provides immunity against the claims of a driver with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.
The immunity may even apply to defendants who were not directly involved in the accident. In Stewart v. Daiquiri Affair, Inc., 20 So.3d 1041 (La. App. 1st Cir. 2009), writ denied, 19 So.3d 477 (La. 2009), the immunity was found to apply to claims brought by an 18-year-old employee who consumed alcohol on the premises and was subsequently injured in a motor vehicle accident. Rejecting the argument that immunity should not apply when the employer arguably contributed to the under-age plaintiff’s consumption of alcohol, the appellate court in Stewart concluded that the statute’s language required immunity because the employee was more than 25% at fault and her blood alcohol content was over the legal limit.
Because the “drunk driving” immunity statute is supported by the legislature’s strong and long-standing interest in protecting citizens against drunk driving, it has been upheld and applied in many instances. Although you should not need another reason to not drive drunk, you now have one.