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Drunk driving case may change loaner car policies


Auto dealers and repair facilities in New Jersey and around the country may soon be asking a lot more questions before providing their customers with loaner vehicles. Loaner car agreements are likely to be scrutinized in the wake of a Texas appeals court decision that will allow a lawsuit filed against a Chrysler dealer in the state be heard by a jury. The dealer is being sued because its allowed an individual with a history of drunk driving and no valid driver's license to use one of its pickup trucks while his car was being repaired. The man later caused an accident while driving the loaner vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

The Texas court decided to allow the case to proceed after hearing that the man was provided a loaner vehicle just days after telling a salesperson at the dealership that he did not have a valid driver's license. He is said to have provided his sales representative with a photocopy of an Illinois license to take delivery of a used Dodge Caliber. The original license was not available because it had been revoked following a prior drunk driving incident. The man also claims that he had consumed enough alcohol to prevent him from driving legally when he returned to the dealer to pick up the loaner vehicle.

The man claims that no member of the dealership's staff asked for his license or appeared concerned about his condition, but the store's employees say that the man's demeanor gave them no reason to suspect that he had been drinking. The Texas lawsuit was filed by a motorist who was struck head-on when the man swerved into the path of oncoming traffic in the loaner vehicle. The man later admitted to police that he had been attempting to commit suicide at the time.

This case demonstrates that drunk driving incidents can lead to civil lawsuits as well as criminal penalties. Criminal defense attorneys can often challenge the validity of blood test results in an attempt to have the charges reduced or dropped.

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