Drunk Driving Accidents
After a car accident that produces injuries, whether it was a rear-end collision or a rollover, you may be worried about how you'll pay medical bills and replace income lost during periods of recovery. It can be both painful and stressful to deal with the practical consequences of a car accident. When the at-fault driver was drunk, you may be very angry as well as in pain. If you were injured in a crash like this, a New Jersey drunk driving accident attorney may be able to help you file a lawsuit to recover compensation. Under some circumstances, it may be possible to obtain punitive damages for a drunk driving accident as well.Drunk Driving Accidents
New Jersey follows a no-fault car insurance scheme. Generally, injured drivers and passengers need to first make a claim against their own no-fault coverage to obtain compensation for certain economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and out-of-pocket costs. You can only sue the other driver where damages exceed personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and you suffer serious injuries.
Often drunk driving accidents do involve serious or catastrophic injuries or even wrongful death. Usually you have two years from the crash date to file a lawsuit to recover damages for personal injuries in New Jersey. However, it can be important to call the police to the scene right after the crash, and retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The police may require the other driver to take a Breathalyzer if there are signs that the other driver was drunk driving. A police report indicating that there was drunk driving and the other driver was at fault is powerful evidence in a civil lawsuit for damages.
If you work with a drunk driving accident lawyer to file suit under New Jersey law against the other driver, you will most likely need to establish negligence. This means you'll need to prove (1) the other driver's duty of reasonable care, (2) the other driver's breach of duty, (3) actual and proximate causation, and (4) actual damages. Juries will usually find that drunk driving is a breach of the duty to use reasonable care. While the criminal DUI case is distinct from the civil drunk driving accident case, evidence from the former can be useful to win the latter. In fact, even if a drunk driver is not charged or acquitted of a DUI, it is possible to win a personal injury lawsuit against him. This is because the standard of proof for criminal cases is much higher than it is for civil cases. Criminal charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, while personal injury cases must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
Even when a drunk driver is clearly to blame, he or she may work to find ways to show that you share the blame. New Jersey follows a rule of "modified comparative fault." That means the jury will calculate the damages as well as each party's proportion of fault. Your damages will be reduced by an amount equal to your proportion of fault. For example, if the other driver was drunk driving and drifted into your lane, but you were distracted while driving, you may be assigned a percentage of fault. If the total damages are $500,000 and you are found to be 25% at fault, you may be responsible for $125,000 of the damages. If you are found more than 50% responsible for the accident, however, you are barred from recovering damages at all. A drunk driving accident attorney can explain how New Jersey law would apply to your situation in this context.
In most cases, damages in a car accident case are designed to compensate or make an accident victim whole. However, in rare drunk driving cases, it may be possible to request and obtain punitive damages. These are damages meant to punish a wrongdoer for dangerous or undesirable conduct that will stop the defendant and others from being involved in similar actions in the future. Unlike liability, which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, you will need to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the drunk driver acted with actual malice or willful or reckless disregard for the harm he would cause to obtain punitive damages.Dedicated Attorney Representing Accident Victims in New Jersey
If you were injured by an intoxicated driver, you should hire a skillful New Jersey drunk driving accident lawyer. At the Grimes Law Firm, we represent victims of car, truck, and motorcycle accidents in Somerset County and Neshanic Station, and all throughout the tri-state area. Call us at (908) 371-1066 to schedule a free consultation.