Have You Been the Victim of a Drunk Driver?

Personal injury claims involving a drunk or drugged driver have some special features.

When a driver is convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) in criminal court, this can strengthen a civil claim for personal injuries, because the standard of proof is higher in criminal court than in civil court.

However, many insurance policies don’t cover injuries due to DUI (or other criminal acts). Thus, a criminal conviction can make it more difficult for victims to collect compensation for their injuries.

Most drunk-driving accidents are rear-enders – likely due to the drunk driver’s impaired reaction time. Thus, whiplash-type injuries to victims are common.

Society considers drunk driving a reckless activity that should be deterred. Thus, in addition to ordering a drunk driver to pay compensatory damages to victims, the court may also order a drunk driver to pay punitive damages.

Courts are especially likely to award punitive damages when a drunk driver’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident very high – such as more than 2.5 times the legal limit.

In a 2013 case, a driver with three previous DUI charges, who was driving on a suspended license, was ordered by a jury to pay punitive damages of $5 million — in addition to $30 million in compensatory damages — after he killed two people while driving drunk.

After a drunk driving accident, other parties in addition to the drunk driver may be held responsible.

Laws known as “Dram Shop Acts” make clubs, bars, and restaurants that serve alcohol responsible for serving patrons who are already obviously intoxicated or underage. Stores that sell alcohol to intoxicated customers may also be liable for any resulting drunk driving injuries.

In order to establish that the establishment knew, or should have known, that a patron was already intoxicated, personal injury lawyers for the victims can present evidence such as testimony from other patrons and even drunk selfies – or “drelfeies” – taken by the drunk driver.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at the New JerseyLaw Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C.