What are my rights if I’m hit by a drunk driver?


Drink driving is a major contributor to serious injuries and fatalities on Australian roads. In fact, over 18 percent of all road fatalities are linked with drink driving. Vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and cyclists may all become unsuspecting victims of the negligent driving of an alcohol or drug affected road user.

If you are injured in a road accident, and one of the parties was affected by alcohol at the time, you have the right to make a claim for damages against the intoxicated driver for any physical harm and financial loss you may have suffered.

When a person is injured by the actions of a drunk driver a number of civil and criminal legal issues arise. A drunk driver will be penalised by police for driving under the influence which may result in heavy fines, long periods of licence suspension or even a jail term. They may face more serious charges such as manslaughter if someone is killed. A drunk driver will also be liable to compensate persons who are injured as a result of their actions.

What liability do drunk drivers have?

The person ‘at fault’ for an accident is liable to pay compensation to any individuals who are injured.

A court determines who is at fault for an accident by considering whether either driver acted negligently. Generally drivers who are found to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident will be considered negligent and therefore at fault, whether wholly or partially, for any accident they are involved in.

This means that in most cases, if you have been injured in an accident involving an intoxicated driver, you can claim compensation.

Who can claim compensation?

Pedestrians hit by drunk drivers

The law recognises that motor vehicles can cause significant damage to unprotected pedestrians. For this reason drivers are held to a high standard of care and are expected to exercise a high degree of caution when driving in the vicinity of pedestrians. For this reason, even when intoxication is not a factor, a motorist will usually bear a large degree of responsibility for cases involving collisions with pedestrians.

Driving drunk is automatically considered to be negligent behaviour. Therefore, pedesians injured generally always have the right to sue an intoxicated driver for any injuries and damage they sustain from a road accident, even if they were not crossing in designated areas and even if they were partly at fault for the incident.

Cyclists hit by drunk drivers

Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users and usually collisions with vehicles result in serious injuries. They may be knocked off their bike by turning vehicles at intersections, vehicles travelling along side them or by car doors opening, “T-boned” at intersections or rear ended by negligent motorists.

Intoxicated drivers are at much greater risk of not seeing a cyclist, misjudging how close they are to a cyclist and generally driving carelessly. Cyclists usually always have the right to sue an intoxicated driver for any injuries and damage they sustain from a road accident, even if they were partly at fault for the collision.

Vehicle occupants injured by drunk drivers

All vehicle occupants who are injured as a result of a collision with a drunk driver will generally have the right to sue the drunk driver for compensation for their injuries. This includes passengers in the drunk driver’s own vehicle. However if a passenger in the drunk driver’s vehicle knew or ought to have known that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident, their damages may be reduced by a percentage for contributory negligence.

How can I claim compensation?

CTP Insurance

Compulsory Third Party Insurance covers the liability of the at fault driver for injuries sustained by victims of a road accident. Pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and vehicle occupants who sustain injuries as a result of a motor vehicle collision with a drunk driver can claim compensation for their injuries from the drunk driver’s Compulsory Third Party insurer, as they will in most cases deemed to be negligent.

When should I start a claim after being hit by a drunk driver?

For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation.

However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply. Pre-court procedures have their own time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim.

Strict time limits apply - seek legal advice - In most circumstances, the time limit to start a compensation claim is 3 years from the date of incident. Some processes need to be started much sooner. Seek expert legal advice . Call us on 1800 960 482 or start a live chat.

Smith's Lawyers are Queensland injury compensation experts and run all claims on a truly risk-free basis, 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch.®'. Unlike the vast majority our competitors, this means no upfront costs or risks.

Last updated:
February 22, 2024

Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For help understanding your rights, please call 1800 960 482 or request a free case review to talk to one of our lawyers today.

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