New Jersey Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Drunk driving plagues our roads. Drunk driving is illegal, in New Jersey and elsewhere, in part because it puts others who share the road at risk for severe and fatal injuries. Drunk driving accident victims frequently need hospitalization and long-term therapy to recover from their injuries, and even then some never completely recover. The consequences of a drunk driving accident also seep into every aspect of a victim’s life. Families often suffer severe financial stress if the accident victim contributed to a household’s income, for example.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident or you have lost a loved one because of a drunk driver, New Jersey law entitles you to seek compensation for the costs of the accident, injuries, and associated losses.
The drunk driving accident attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, we know the struggles victims and their families face in the wake of a drunk driving accident. We are here to help you seek justice. Contact one of our New Jersey personal injury lawyers for a free case evaluation in the office that is most convenient for you: Edison or Newark.
Jacoby & Meyers, LLP’s Results in Drunk Driving Accident Cases
The experienced auto accident attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP have represented New Jersey motor vehicle accident victims for more than 40 years, including many harmed by a drunk driver. The firm’s dedication to justice, client advocacy, and unparalleled client service, has led to tens of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for clients injured in auto accidents.
In a recent case, we secured a $1,272,000 settlement for a 20-year-old client injured in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. After fracturing his wrist and having surgery on his fractured foot, our client couldn’t work for almost a year and had to quit going to college. The drunk driver was not covered under his employer’s liability insurance policy, so this case presented a special challenge for our team. The insurance company did not deny the claim in a timely manner, so our team fought for our client and secured a settlement after jury selection occurred.
This is only one example of a case we have handled, and does not guarantee a financial outcome for your drunk driving case. Each claim has particular facts that increase or decrease its value. However, you can rest assured that the skilled legal team at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP has the resources to investigate the facts surrounding a New Jersey drunk driving accident to build the strongest possible case for a client’s individual circumstances.
“If it were not for the integral legal team of experts at Jacoby & Meyers I would not be where I am today with my recovery. I highly recommend hiring Jacoby & Meyers should you ever find yourself injured in an accident, and an individual or company needs to be held accountable for their negligence.” -C.J.
Drunk Driving Accidents Can Lead to Severe and Life-threatening Injuries
New Jersey is among the states with a high fatality rate for drunk driving accidents; the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety estimates more than 20 percent of all New Jersey’s traffic accident deaths involve alcohol use. The most recent data shows more than 37,000 alcohol-related traffic accidents occurred during a recent five-year period on New Jersey’s roads and highways, including almost 700 fatalities.
Some New Jersey car accident victims have the good fortune to walk away unscathed from a collision with a drunk driver. Those who suffer no more than minor injuries in a drunk driving crash can usually recover most of their financial losses from their own (or a family member’s) mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which they must carry as registered motor vehicle owners under the Garden State’s no-fault insurance system.
Many drunk driving accident victims do not have that kind of luck, however. Instead, they suffer severe, catastrophic, and life-threatening injuries that disrupt every aspect of their lives. These injuries frequently include:
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are among the most costly—and catastrophic—of all preventable injuries a drunk driving accident victim can suffer. The spinal cord, brain, and more than 30 branches of nerves, make up the body’s central nervous system. Spinal cord injuries disrupt that system, leading to a loss of sensation or paralysis.
Injuries that occur in the upper portion of the spinal cord nearest to the brain can disrupt signals to the entire body, causing paralysis from the neck down (formally known as tetraplegia). Injuries lower down on the cord affect fewer parts of the body. Victims who suffer the functional loss of limbs and bodily systems from a spinal cord injury face may spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair. Some need continuous care in a long-term nursing facility. All typically need substantial financial to pay costs associated with the injury and adapting their lives to it.
Motor vehicle accidents represent the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in young adults. The force of impact from a drunk driving accident causes a person’s head to jolt or to collide with parts of the vehicle, which can lead to brain damage. Some traumatic brain injuries consist of “mild” concussions that may cause long-term, chronic problems like persistent headaches and fatigue.
Those who suffer more severe TBIs can face a lifetime of struggles with cognition, motor skills, and behavior. The exact difficulties a TBI patient might face often depend on the area of the brain that suffered damage. Treatments can include surgery, different types of medicine, and rehabilitative therapy.
The force of impact from a drunk driving accident can also cause a person’s neck to quickly flex and extend, causing injury. The severity of the injury sometimes depends on the speed of vehicles at the moment of impact, or the angle at which they collided. A common neck injury associated with car accidents involves damage to the soft tissue of the neck and shoulders (sometimes referred to as whiplash). This potentially-debilitating injury can lead to chronic headaches, migraines, shoulder pain, and neck pain.
A back injury (distinct from a spinal cord injury, discussed above) can be one of the most painful and debilitating conditions a person must endure after a serious car accident. Back injury victims frequently must cope with pain and discomfort at every moment, whether they sit, stand, or lie down. Surgery can correct some back injuries, but many victims still find that after surgery (or multiple surgeries) they continue to cope with chronic pain and discomfort. Sometimes doctors can help accident victims manage pain with prescription painkillers or cortisone shots, but those come with significant downsides, including risks for addiction and dependency, and limited long-term effectiveness.
Other treatment options sometimes involve implanting a pain management device during surgery. Even with these interventions, however, back injuries like fractured vertebrae, bulged discs, and slipped discs often force back injury victims onto a long and expensive road to an uncertain recovery.
A simple broken bone might require a cast and often heals within six to eight weeks. Yet, many fractures suffered by drunk driving accident victims have serious complications. For example, crushed bones and compound fractures can require one or more surgeries, often requiring implantation of hardware to reconstruct the bone. Even after surgery, some victims suffer chronic pain or develop severe arthritis later on in life. Broken bones can also lead to dangerous infections. Severe breaks, such as those that result from a limb getting crushed in a drunk driving crash, may even lead to amputation.
New Jersey Dram Shop Laws
Drunk drivers cause drunk driving accidents. Accordingly, they almost always face legal liability for the harm the accidents cause. Typically, the drunk driver’s auto insurance pays for that liability.
However, just because a drunk driver causes an accident does not mean that the driver is the only party who faces legal liability for damages arising from it. Other parties may share some of the blame.
For instance, New Jersey, like a handful of other states, has a so-called dram shop law that holds licensed alcoholic beverage servers (which includes individuals and businesses) accountable for the negligent service of alcoholic beverages that leads to personal injury or property damage. Under New Jersey law, one of the following conditions must exist for a server to be liable:
- The server gave alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated person; or
- The server knowingly gave alcoholic beverages to a minor under circumstances where the server should have known the person was a minor.
New Jersey law also holds social hosts (that is, not commercial sellers of alcohol) legally responsible for injury that “arose out of an accident caused by the negligent operation of a vehicle by the visibly intoxicated person who was provided alcoholic beverages.”
Speak with an experienced New Jersey drunk driving accident lawyer about whether a server or social host may share legal liability with a drunk driver for injuries you suffered in a crash.
Also, ask your attorney if additional parties may have legal liability in your New Jersey drunk driving crash. Sometimes these accidents can also result, at least in part, from factors having nothing to do with the other driver’s intoxication, such as when someone’s car suffers a catastrophic mechanical failure, or a preventable, dangerous road condition contributes to the crash. Parties responsible for these factors, too, may face legal liability for your injuries.
Getting Compensation for Your New Jersey Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
If you choose to take legal action against the drunk driver, or a third party, for damages related to the accident and your injuries, you may have the right to recover compensation for a variety of economic and non-economic costs related to your accident and injuries.
Some common damages you may receive compensation for in a settlement or verdict include:
- Cost of medical treatment including ambulance and emergency services, emergency room visit, hospital stay, doctor visits, surgery, aftercare, diagnostic imaging, prescriptions, and travel expenses to and from the doctor/hospital
- Future medical expenses when a drunk driving accident leads to a severe or catastrophic injury requiring weeks, months, or years of recovery, or ongoing care and treatment for a permanent disability or condition
- Costs for rehabilitation including physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, or any other specialized treatment that helps recover lost function and help drunk driving accident victims cope with their injuries
- Assistive devices such as wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and artificial limbs
- Lost wages from time away from work because of the accident, hospitalization, and recovery
- Future lost wages when a severe drunk driving accident leads to a catastrophic injury that prevents an accident victim from working
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Decreased quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Punitive damages in cases of gross negligence
If a drunk driver caused the death of a loved one, you might also have the legal right to recover compensation through filing a wrongful death suit against any party with legal liability for the accident. Speak with an experienced New Jersey drunk driving accident lawyer to determine if you can take this sort of legal action.
New Jersey Drunk Driving Accident Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
The Brickwall Tavern in Burlington recently reached an agreement with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office that will require the establishment to give up its liquor license for two years. The deal also includes a fine of $300,000 for legal liability for a 2016 accident that one of its patrons got into after spending hours at the Tavern drinking. The accident resulted in the death of a 27-year-old woman who was the patron’s passenger. The patron, who was visibly intoxicated before leaving the bar, is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for his part in the single car accident.
Drunk driving is a major concern for officials in New Jersey and beyond. Each day in the United States, 30 people die in drunk driving accidents. If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver or have lost a loved one due to a drunk driving accident, you undoubtedly have a lot of questions. Here are answers to some of the most common questions our clients and prospective clients ask us.
I was injured by a drunk driver. Do I still have to file a claim on my PIP policy?
Yes. New Jersey law requires that all drivers who register their vehicles in the state obtain a personal injury protection (PIP) policy. This is a form of no-fault insurance that is intended to provide compensation for medical and other out-of-pocket expenses that were caused by the accident, regardless of who is at fault. If your expenses exceed the limit of your PIP policy, then you may have also have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit for those additional expenses. In addition, depending upon the auto insurance options you selected when you purchased your policy, you may also have the legal right to pursue legal action for pain and suffering damages, as well.
Speak with our experienced New Jersey motor vehicle accident injury lawyers to obtain a clear picture of how the auto insurance you carry affects the scope of your rights to take legal action for damages.
The drunk driver in my accident was arrested at the scene. Can I still file a personal injury lawsuit?
Assuming you have the right to sue in the first place, then yes. A criminal charge or conviction against a drunk driver does not affect your right to seek compensation for your injuries. Criminal cases and civil cases are totally separate (although the findings in the criminal case could, potentially, make it easier for your lawyer to prove the drunk driver’s liability to you for damages in your civil case).
My loved one died in a drunk driving accident. Is compensation available?
Most likely, yes. The process you would likely go through to pursue compensation is called a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil actions filed on behalf of a deceased person’s survivors. Those who may receive compensation through a wrongful death claim include:
- The deceased’s spouse, children, and grandchildren
- The deceased’s surviving parents
- Surviving siblings, nieces, or nephews of the deceased
- Anyone who can prove that they were financially dependent upon the deceased person
Some of the damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey include:
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Medical expenses related to the treatment of the deceased’s final injuries.
- Loss of financial support, based on an estimation of what the deceased would have earned if he or she would have lived and continued working at the job he or she held before death.
- Loss of comfort, guidance, companionship, or care.
- The cost of household services that were previously performed by the deceased, such as cleaning, cooking, caring for minor children, or lawn care.
What is more difficult: proving drunk driving or proving drugged driving?
Generally speaking, it is more difficult to prove drugged driving than drunk driving when relying on lab testing alone. Alcohol’s effects on the body and the testing for impairment are a lot better established than those of many drugs. That said, every drunk/drugged accident case has its own facts and circumstances, and test results constitute only one portion of the evidence typically available to prove someone’s liability. Speak with an experienced car accident injury attorney right away if the other driver in your accident seemed drunk, high, or otherwise impaired.
The drunk driver’s insurance carrier offered me a settlement. Should I accept it?
Not before speaking with an attorney who is experienced in car accidents. Insurance companies often attempt to avoid large payouts for accidents that are caused by the parties they insure. One of the ways they do this is by offering accident victims a quick, low-ball settlement. However, these quick settlement offers do not take into consideration the full picture of the injuries that have been suffered, the treatment that is needed for recovery, or the impacts those injuries will cause to the injured person’s life. Further, because drunk driving is a form of egregious behavior, a case involving an alcohol impaired driver might be worth more than other types of car accident cases.
A settlement is a contract. You get money for giving up legal rights to sue the liable party. If you accept a settlement and then realize that it isn’t enough to cover your expenses, you cannot go back and ask for more money. Seek an experienced attorney’s guidance to evaluate what your case is worth and how to respond to any settlement offer.
Can a business establishment be liable for a drunk driver’s actions?
Yes. As noted in the article above, a business establishment can face legal consequences—and can be held liable—in New Jersey drunk driving cases. Businesses are prohibited from serving alcohol to a customer who is visibly intoxicated. An experienced drunk driving accident attorney can look carefully at a case to determine all sources of liability and all potential insurance resources that may be accessed to compensate an injured client.
If the other driver is drunk, is he or she automatically liable for the accident?
Not necessarily. Liability for any accident requires showing:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care. The duty of care that is owed from one driver to another in car accident cases is generally to operate the motor vehicle safely and lawfully.
- There was a breach in this duty of care. The breach may very well be driving while alcohol impaired. However, as this is the behavior that caused the accident, it could be something entirely different and could involve either driver.
- This breach caused the accident which resulted in your injuries and expenses.
If the other driver was driving while impaired, then odds are strong the other driver’s actions caused the accident and your injuries. But not always, which is why an attorney must prove the bullet points above.
What is needed to establish that the drunk driver is liable?
As explained above, you must show that the driver was drunk and that the behavior he or she manifested while impaired caused your accident and resulting injuries. In drunk driving cases, it helps to have an accident report stating that the driver was arrested for driving under the influence, and the toxicology report may help determine liability in your personal injury lawsuit.
What if the drunk driver left the scene of the accident or was uninsured?
If you were the victim of a drunk driving hit-and-run or your injuries were caused by an uninsured drunk driver, then you may face legal complications in obtaining compensation for your injuries, but you still have rights:
- Your PIP policy should, as always, cover your medical and other expenses up to the limit of your policy. If you carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, this may provide you with compensation as well.
- Insured or not, the driver is still liable for your injuries. While it may be more difficult to collect damages from an uninsured driver, it is sometimes possible to do so. If the driver fled the scene and was later apprehended, it is important to determine whether he or she has insurance.
- Other parties may also have liability to you, such as a business establishment that over-served the driver.
Our experienced car accident injury attorneys can discuss the options you have available to you to seek compensation when injured by an uninsured drunk driver.
Is there a chance that my drunk driving case will settle out of court?
Yes. In fact, generally speaking, it is more likely for a case to settle out of court than to go to trial. However, an experienced car accident injury lawyer knows never to assume a case will settle, and to always prepare as if it will end up in front of a judge and jury.
Is there anything I can do to help my attorney with my case?
Yes, there are several things you can do to help the process move a little faster and increase the chances of a successful outcome to your drunk driving accident case, including:
- Be honest with your attorney about how the accident occurred and as many details about the accident as you can remember.
- Provide your attorney with as much information as you have, including the policy number and insurance provider of your coverage as well as that of the other driver if you could collect it at the scene; the contact information for any witnesses; a copy of the police report; an accounting of the expenses you’ve incurred due to your injury; any photos you have of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle, or your visible injuries; and medical records.
- If your attorney requests documents from you, respond to those requests as quickly as possible.
- Freely ask questions about the progress of your case.
- Follow the advice your attorney offers to you. Avoid speaking to insurance companies without talking to your attorney first, and avoid posting about your accident on social media.
- Be patient and trust the process. These cases can take a long time, and sometimes higher settlements come to those who are patient and willing to wait for a case to develop so that it can settle at the most opportune moment.
Do I need an attorney for my drunk driving accident?
New Jersey’s laws regarding no-fault insurance and the ability to sue for pain and suffering are complex. You will want guidance from our New Jersey drunk driving accident attorneys. Some of the services we may provide for you include:
- Help with your PIP claim and with understanding the legal process of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
- Establishment of a value to your case based on the expenses you’ve faced, including medical treatment, repair or replacement of your vehicle, lost income if you are too injured to work or must miss work to attend appointments related to your injuries, loss of future earning capacity if your injuries no longer allow you to work in the same position you held before the accident, and non-economic expenses such as mental or physical pain and suffering.
- Determination of all liable parties and all insurance resources.
- Skilled negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
- Experienced guidance in the pros and cons of accepting a settlement offer.
- Careful examination of the facts of your case and collection of evidence that will be used to prove your claims.
- Timely filing of a personal injury lawsuit within the statute of limitations and in the proper jurisdiction.
- Preparing for litigation, including deposing witnesses.
- Litigation, including opening and closing remarks, presentation of evidence, and examination of witnesses.
- Assistance with collecting your settlement or award.
- Continued representation if an appeal is filed.
Do not wait to seek knowledgeable legal advice. If you suffered injuries in a New Jersey motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver, contact an experienced car accident injury attorney right away for a free case evaluation.
Hire an Experienced New York Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Today
The award-winning legal team at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP knows the difficulties a person can face after suffering injuries in a drunk driving accident. Our team works diligently to uncover facts about our clients’ accidents and injuries so that we can fight for the compensation our clients deserve.
If you have suffered injuries at the hands of a drunk driver or lost a loved one, you should not have to cope with the physical, emotional, and financial burden on your own. You have rights to compensation. If you live in New Jersey, contact Jacoby & Meyers, LLP online for a free case evaluation to learn how we may assist you, or call our New Jersey offices in Edison or Newark at (877) 505-2368. You can also begin a live chat with one of our representatives.
If you choose us to represent you in your drunk driving accident case, we handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, deducting our attorney fees from any settlement or verdict in your favor that we secure for you.