A Harrisburg car crash over the weekend left a 19-year-old man dead and has led to the arrest of the vehicle’s 20-year-old driver, according to The Oregonian. “Police said alcohol and drugs likely were contributing factors. There was evidence to show that the driver… was allegedly (had) over twice the legal limit of alcohol (in his bloodstream) and had used cocaine and marijuana,” the paper reports.
Citing local police, the paper reports that the driver failed to make his way around a curve on a road in Linn County causing his minivan to roll several times. Of the three passengers in the van one was ejected and thrown some 50 feet. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver and the other two passengers, both of whom are 18 years old, were treated for “non-life threatening” injuries at an area hospital.
After his release from the hospital the driver “was booked into the Linn County Jail on charges of Manslaughter I, Assault II and DUII,” the newspaper reports.
Since the police have indicated that alcohol and drugs are likely to have played a role in this Oregon drunk driving accident it is important that we consider whether the state’s dram shop laws come into play. Because Oregon law extends some responsibility for a drunk driver’s actions to a bartender or host who served alcohol to the person responsible for the accident it is important to ask where the driver and passengers – all of whom were underage – got their drinks. It also means that the passengers may have a claim against the driver. If, however, they were drinking with him they may lose the right to file a claim against the bartender or host who served the alcohol.
As an Oregon and Washington drunk driving victims’ attorney the facts of this case, as spelled out in the newspaper, also raise Oregon wrongful death questions that merit further investigation. What they do most of all, however, is remind us of the importance of safety and responsibility on the road. One person is dead and three injured because a group of young people somehow got hold of alcohol, and perhaps drugs, they should never have had and then made the irresponsible decision to get into a van and drive. Education and efforts by police to crack down on this sort of behavior have to continue, especially now when people are out of school with more time on their hands during the long summer days. In the meantime, it is good to know that our courts are here to help the victims of this kind of irresponsible activity get the justice they and their loved ones deserve.