One person is in the morgue and another is in the Shelby County Jail after an alcohol-fueled nighttime car crash near the I-240/Highway 385 interchange.
Thirty-year-old Ariel Munoz was charged with vehicular homicide after he allegedly ping-ponged his vehicle against the guardrails on either side. A passenger, Eduardo Sanchez Sosa, was pronounced dead at the scene due to a head injury he suffered during the crash. Police state that Mr. Munoz denied operating the vehicle, maintaining that the driver fled the scene into a wooded area. However, an aviation unit was unable to locate a suspect after a brief search.
In addition to vehicular homicide-intoxication, Mr. Munoz faces charges of failure to maintain financial responsibility, driving without a license, and failure to exercise due care.
Evidence in a Crash with No Witnesses
These cases are not uncommon. Although they are difficult for a prosecutor to win in criminal court, the lower burden of proof in civil court means that an injured plaintiff generally still recovers money.
Prosecutors often talk about “wheeling” the defendant in a DUI crash case, because there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving the motor vehicle. If there is no police or civilian witness to attest to this fact, this element of the case is difficult to prove, especially if the defendant has a logical alternative version of events (in this case, the phantom driver ran into the woods and was able to hide in the darkness).
But in a personal injury case, the plaintiff need only show that a fact is true by a preponderance of the evidence. So, in this instance, if it is more likely than not that the defendant was liable for the wreck, the jury will find for the plaintiff.
First Party Liability in an Alcohol-Related Crash
In many cases, liability is established through the results of a chemical test. In Tennessee, drivers are legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds .08 percent, in most cases. But around a fifth of arrested motorists refuse to submit to a chemical test; when including the number of cases where a chemical test is not offered, the proportion is even higher.
In these situations, intoxication can be proved by circumstantial evidence. Behavioral evidence of intoxication includes:
- Odor of Alcohol: A smell by itself does not establish intoxication, but it is proof of alcohol consumption.
- Bloodshot Eyes: This symptom is a common sign of intoxication, and almost any abnormal visual impairment while driving is unreasonably dangerous.
- Impaired Motor Skills: If the person has difficulties walking, standing, or grasping objects, manipulating a motor vehicle is also a challenge.
- Impaired Mental Ability: In a similar vein, someone who is not thinking clearly is in no position to make the judgement calls that everyday driving requires.
As little as one or two drinks creates impairment in most drivers, making them legally responsible for the economic and non-economic damages they negligently inflict.
Intoxicated motorists cause serious crashes almost every day. For prompt assistance in this matter, contact an experienced Memphis personal injury attorney. The sooner you call, the more likely it is to obtain maximum compensation.