for negligence—like in a car accident case—a big part of what happens at trial is trying to figure out what caused your accident to happen. So, you have to ask the question, “Does it matter to my case that the person drinking was underage?” It might matter that the person was drinking, especially if a breathalyzer or other test shows they were over the legal limit, since that shows negligent behavior. But the fact that they were underage doesn’t really matter because the law does not really distinguish between actions based on age—so it simply doesn’t matter whether they were 15 or 55. Of course, underage drinking is illegal and the driver might be subject to criminal sanctions, but those facts do not affect what caused your accident.
The second reason actually has to do with fairness to the underage drinker. One of the roles of the judge is to make sure that everyone is tried only on the facts. That means that the judge will try to keep out evidence that make someone look bad, even if it has no bearing on the outcome of the case. In this example, if the jury hears the driver is an underage drinker, they are automatically going to be prejudiced against that person and she will be deprived of a fair trial on the facts.
So, at the end of the day, this evidence simply might not come in. In part because it is not very helpful in proving the chain of events that actually led to the collision and your injury, and in part because it will make the trial unfair for the defendant. If you or someone you know or care for has been injured as the result of a car, truck, bicycle or motorcycle crash with a drunk, impaired and/or underage driver and there are questions about what laws apply, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555) at once.