Drivers in Montana, no matter who they are, have an obligation to exercise due caution when they get behind of the wheel of an automobile. And that means if a person has had too much to drink, driving a car should be out of the question. Too often, DUI accidents result in injuries to Montana residents in or near Billings, and when people suffer such injuries through no fault of their own, the injured parties typically have grounds to file a personal injury claim for compensation. That appears to be the case for two young people who were injured by a drunk driver in Laurel.

The offending driver in the case is a Las Vegas police detective. He was charged with felony drunk driving after the crash, and he recently changed his plea to no contest. The officer also pled guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge. He was arrested for driving with a blood-alcohol level between .192 and .219 percent. Montana’s legal blood-alcohol limit for driving is .08 percent.

The officer was arrested after he hit a Ford Focus along Old Highway 10 in Laurel. According to the investigating officers, the detective was driving almost 100 mph and was not wearing his seat belt when he rear-ended the car with the young people inside. Both automobiles were forced off the road and rolled over multiple times. The driver and passenger of the Ford — a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old — were treated for numerous cuts and bruises.

The detective was originally charged with two felony counts, but the charges were amended as part of a plea agreement.

While the injured parties and their families may be happy to hear that the driver who caused the accident will likely be punished for his crime, jail time and fines do little to compensate the injured parties for their personal injuries and the damage to their vehicle. In order to be fully compensated for the injuries and damages, the driver and passenger of the Ford will have to file a civil claim for personal injury.

Source: Billings Gazette, “Las Vegas cop changes plea in Laurel crash case,” Feb. 15, 2012