Opinion: Nobody wins in a drunk driving case

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Most drivers would be surprised to know that typical auto insurance doesn’t come close to covering the cost of a serious personal injury claim. Although most policies include $1 million to $2 million third-party liability (PLPD) coverage, the mandatory minimum in Alberta is $200,000. When one considers life-long injuries, the coverage hardly makes a dent. In cases where the driver is sued for damages exceeding the insurance policy maximums, the financial ramifications can be devastating.

The Bomford sentencing reminds me of an important lesson I’ve learned over my 40 years practicing plaintiff’s insurance law, and representing thousands of victims in personal injury claims. No matter the settlement, no one wins in a drunk driving case. The repercussions to both parties last a lifetime, and cost a fortune.

Since the early ’80s, anti-drinking-and-driving organizations have been sharing their message. Their valiant efforts remind us what’s at risk, depict horrific accident scenes and illustrate the agony of losing a loved one. Despite these strong and often shocking messages, somehow, the issue continues.

While the numbers have dropped significantly over the past 40 years, four Canadians still die from impaired driving collisions every day — that may mean four mothers or fathers or children or spouses lost every single day.

Another 65,000 people are impacted by drunk driving every year. Those impacts are seen through loss — lost ability to work, to learn, to use their bodies. Add to that chronic pain and long-lasting mental health issues resulting from trauma. Now think of the cost of rehabilitation, retraining, and long-term care. Depending on the extent of injuries, the victim’s age and income level or earning potential, personal injury claims are often in the tens of millions of dollars.

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