The majority of personal injury cases today arise out of auto accident injuries. While many different factors contribute to unsafe driving in Maine, for decades authorities have targeted driving under the influence (DUI) because of the large numbers of fatalities and serious injuries that drunk driving accidents cause.
In the spring of 2013, US News reported that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted to encourage states to lower blood alcohol content (BAC) from .08 to .05 for DUIs. All states have the right to establish their own BAC limits, but as of 2004, all states set the BAC at .08 for DUI arrests. While the NTSB estimates that a .05 BAC limit will reduce drunken driving fatalities by 1,000 persons a year, criminal prosecutors believe that a .05 BAC would increase the difficulty of obtaining DUI convictions. For one thing, many people with .05 BAC levels would not have trouble passing a Field Sobriety test. Criminal conviction requires proving the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and when a driver does not appear impaired, the burden of proof is difficult to establish.
By comparison, in a civil case such as a personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of the evidence requires convincing the jury that it is more likely than not (greater than a 50 percent certainty) that the defendant’s negligence caused the injury and property damages.
Drivers with .05 BAC levels may indeed appear negligent and responsible for damages allowing an attorney to win a civil case even though the criminal prosecutor decides not to indict or is unable to win a DUI conviction.