In addition to any criminal charges for DUI/DWI, civil lawsuits seeking money damages are often a result of an accident in which a person is charged with DUI/DWI and in which there are personal injuries (bodily injuries or death) and property damage (to vehicles and other personal property—and sometimes real property/real estate). Negligence claims generally involve carelessness in taking an action, or failing to act, and require: (1) a legal duty owed by one person to another; (2) a breach of that duty; and (3) damages (injury) proximately caused by the breach. Proximate cause has two components: (1) foreseeability and (2) cause-in-fact.
Foreseeability requires that a person of ordinary intelligence should have reasonably anticipated the danger created by a negligent act or omission. Foreseeability is not measured by hindsight, but instead by what the actor knew or should have known at the time of the alleged negligence. Foreseeability requires only that the general danger, not the exact sequence of events that produced the harm, be foreseeable. For a negligent act or omission to have been a cause-in-fact of the harm, the act or omission must have been a substantial factor in bringing about the harm, and absent the act or omission—i.e., but for the act or omission—the harm would not have occurred. If the defendant's negligence merely furnished a condition that made the injuries possible, there can be no cause in fact.
There may be more than one proximate cause of an occurrence. Negligence claims (a negligence cause of action) have long been recognized by judges in court opinions, and usually derive their authority from this common law, rather than from statutes enacted by state legislatures.
When a person such as an intoxicated driver violates a statute—such as driving while intoxicated or under the influence, speeding, or reckless driving—that may be negligence per se—negligence by definition, as provided in the statute—and relieve the plaintiff of having to otherwise prove the driver’s negligence in causing the accident that resulted in personal injury, death, or property damage.