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Family of DUI victim seeks to hold bar responsible

A lawsuit recently filed in Missoula brings up some important issues regarding liability in fatal car accidents. In November 2010, a 24-year-old man was walking with friends on a sidewalk in Lolo, Montana, when a car jumped the curb and hit the young man. His injuries were fatal.

The driver's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.10 percent, and in August 2011 he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence. As is their right, the family of the deceased has filed a civil lawsuit for damages. In this case, the lawsuit seeks to hold liable the bar that served alcohol to the drunk driver.

The family argues that employees at the bar continued to serve the man despite his being visibly intoxicated. He also admitted to taking a sleep aid, an anti-depressant and a prescription painkiller prior to the collision. The lawsuit claims that the bar even gave the driver a to-go cup for alcohol, and within the next 10 minutes, the fatal accident occurred.

In civil liability lawsuits, plaintiffs can expect the defendants to deny the claims, even if wrong-doing seems obvious. As for the bar in this case, the owner denies any responsibility for the young man's death. The owner claims that video surveillance inside the establishment shows the driver was not visibly drunk. The owner also says the alcohol in the to-go cup was supposed to be given to the driver's wife, who at the time was on the premises.

This tragic story illustrates the need for strong legal representation in personal injury and wrongful death litigation. The burden of proof lies heavily on the plaintiffs in these cases. To see justice carried out, Montanans who have been harmed by another party's negligence would do well to consult with a seasoned legal professional who is sympathetic to the plight of victims.

Source: The Columbian, "Family sues bar that served driver before fatal crash," Nov. 11, 2012

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