General Question

Seek's avatar

If the ignition interlock device turns my car off while I'm driving and causes an accident with injury, can I sue the State?

Asked by Seek (34734points) September 15th, 2010

My husband has been required to have an ignition interlock device placed on our family vehicle for six months.

To turn the car on, one must pass a version of a breathalyzer (I say “version” because it is inaccurate and picks up things that are not alcohol and read it as such. I can’t even use saccharine-based, alcohol free Listerine or eat hard candy). Also, if the device feels we’ve been driving long enough to get drunk behind the wheel, it will cut the ignition.

Yes, that’s right. The machine the State has ordered us to place on the car is creating a hazardous situation.

I have my toddler in the car with me at all times. If this interlock device cuts my ignition, and a crash results, can I sue the state for placing us – and YOU – in danger?

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14 Answers

missingbite's avatar

Sorry, but no. Your husband created the situation. Unless he can get a good lawyer….looks like you are stuck.

I’ll admit, the DWI laws are backwards but in this case, you will have no leg to stand on.

Ron_C's avatar

That’s awful. I thought once it’s on, it stays on. Are you sure that it is operating properly.
I used to have a VW that would shut off intermittently without even a warning light. I was driving at 65 MPH on the interstate and it just stopped working, even the power steering. I was lucky and managed to pull over without hurting anybody but it is completely nerve wracking. I think I would sue the state BEFORE I had an accident.

Seek's avatar

@Ron_C Nope, that’s how the goddamn thing is designed. I can’t tell you how pissed off I am about this.

@missingbite Bite your tongue. I’m not getting into what “created the situation” again.

syz's avatar

You sound so victimized. I must assume that the device is on your car for a good reason. If not, you should get a lawyer involved to have that decision rescinded.

If you have been informed of how the device functions, it seems to me then it then becomes your responsibility to avoid those situations that would cause the shut off.

And making the appeal that this device puts other drivers at risk is not ideal, since (not knowing the circumstances that resulted in the requirement of this device) I must assume that the original behavior was considered risky.

grumpyfish's avatar

I’d say you could have a good case against the state if their device causes the accident. Also the folks who manufactured the device, as well as any alcohol mfgs & lobbies who made what got you into the situation.

I think you’d have better luck trying to get the device removed as unsafe BEFORE an accident. Talk to a lawyer and see what they can do. First hour is usually free.

iamthemob's avatar

Does it provide any warning? Or are you told how long you have?

And once it turns off, are you able to put it on again by passing the breathalyzer?

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t think that is how they are suppose to work. From my understanding, they are suppose to alarm first (by causing your horn to beep or something like that) before doing anything and they keep a log of each event. I’ve also heard they aren’t suppose to actually shut your vehicle off while driving, just make it so that it won’t start right back up again without passing another test. (I’m going to look for some information to be sure of what I’ve heard.) I think you should check to be sure the device is working properly if it is shutting your vehicle off.

According to this the ignition is not suppose to shut down while being driven. The alarms start going off (horn beeping and lights flashing) and the only way to stop them is to turn the ignition off. Once the ignition is turned off, it will not restart until another test is passed.

mrentropy's avatar

The breathalyzer we needed for my wife didn’t do that. If you failed the driving breath test it would start flashing the lights and honking the horn until you stopped, then it would cut the engine off. Luckily we never had to test that, but that’s what it was supposed to do.

Also, she was selling vacuum cleaners at the time and the cleaning chemicals in the car would create a failure.

iamthemob's avatar

P.S. – the state is generally immune from suit unless it waives that immunity. The target of any suit would have to be the company making the device.

YoBob's avatar

The easy answer is yes. You can sue anybody for anything. You can sue your neighbor because you think they are funny looking. You can sue your kids teacher because she has blue eyes. You can sue the guy at the local convenience store because he handed you your change using his left hand.

That being said, the question is not whether or not you can sue somebody. The question is whether or not you are likely to be able to win such a suit. In the case of state mandated punitive action you are pretty darned unlikely to prevail.

robmandu's avatar

Ditto what @YoBob and @grumpyfish said.

And I thought I’d point out that you need not “prevail” in a lawsuit. I imagine a reasonably large settlement would be acceptable as well… unless you’re aiming for punitive damages and to force the State to change how it conducts these kinds of punishments.

These days, a settlement is an increasingly frequent outcome.

iamthemob's avatar

@robmandu – not with the state. If the claim is not filed against the proper party, it’s going to be dismissed and settlement be damned. Cities and municipalities are not immune in the same manner, though.

trailsillustrated's avatar

wow is it supposed to do that? like is your driving timed? could you do all your business within the time limit? I agree you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if you sued. Maybe you can carry a can of compressed air around to restart it easily? good luck I hope you are safe!

jdawg's avatar

I just had one installed. Refused a breathalyzer test and now I have to blow in my car all the time. Ironic? I wasnt drunk, but refusing is automatic guilt in some places. So I screwed myself on that one. Anyway, same thing happened to me. I was driving and my horn started going off. I was on the highway, freaking out. It wasn’t registering my breath for some reason. I thought I was gonna die. I had to keep looking at it and I was swerving everywhere. Thank God there was no one in the other lane. I probably would’ve injured someone or multiple people and myself. It’s definitely unsafe. I just hope I make it through my sentence with no injuries. I feel for you. I’m lucky I don’t have any kids.

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