Newark Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
According to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, more than 10,000 people in the United States are killed each year due to alcohol-related traffic crashes. Each year, over one million impaired drivers are arrested across the country. However, for every drunk driver that is taken off the streets, hundreds more are never caught. Many drunk driving accidents are caused by repeat offenders.
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you should determine your eligibility to seek compensation through a personal injury claim with the help of an experienced Newark Drunk Driving Accident lawyer at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP—a firm with proven results. Please note that prior results cannot guarantee future outcomes.
The Dangers of Drinking and Driving
A 19-year-old student home from college was killed near Newark in an accident that was caused by a suspected drunk driver. The accident occurred late on a Saturday night; the young woman was traveling with her sister when a vehicle reportedly crossed the double yellow lines and struck their vehicle head-on. The young woman, who was driving, died at the scene. Her 15-year-old sister survived.
The driver who allegedly caused the accident tried to flee the scene but was arrested. The deceased young woman had just finished her freshman year at MIT, having received a full-ride scholarship to attend the school.
Alcohol impairment is a contributing factor to more than a quarter of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drunk driving is especially risky for younger drivers, whose inexperience combined with impairment significantly increases the likelihood of getting into an accident. While the number of fatalities resulting from drunk driving accidents has decreased in the past couple of decades, impaired driving still results in a death every 48 minutes, an injury every two minutes, and economic impacts to society of $44 billion a year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes.
The economic impacts to society include:
- Lost productivity
- Workplace losses
- Legal and court expenses
- Medical costs
- Emergency medical services
- Insurance administration
- Traffic congestion
- Property damage
When quality of life costs are factored as a loss to society, the price tag for the societal costs of drunk driving jump up to more than $201 billion. Some of the other dangers of drinking and driving include:
- Danger to children. More than 200 children died in one recent year from alcohol-related car accidents.
- Alcohol-related traffic crashes are highest in the summer months of July, August, and September. Alcohol-impaired traffic accidents also increase during the winter holiday season.
- Alcohol-related crashes are more prevalent at night, when 70 percent of fatal accidents involving alcohol occur.
- The vast majority of alcohol-related traffic accidents occur on non-interstate roads.
- In New Jersey, 20 percent of fatal accidents in one recent year featured an alcohol-impaired driver.
- Around one-quarter of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal accidents had previously recorded license suspensions or revocations. Nearly a quarter of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal accidents had previously recorded speeding convictions.
Teen Drinking and Driving: A Deadly Combination
A 17-year-old driver was allegedly driving home drunk from a sleepover at a friend’s house when she slammed her car into an 80-year-old pedestrian. The pedestrian was transported to the hospital in critical condition. The teen reportedly fled the scene, and about a half-hour later, she was allegedly involved in a second crash at an intersection.
Upon arrest, the teen reportedly stated that she had consumed five sparkling alcoholic seltzers in the hours before she left the party. However, police say they believe that she had actually consumed more alcohol. The teen was held on a $30,000 bond, and her uncle was ticketed $500 for violating the county’s social host law.
The rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half since the early 1990s. However, alcohol-impaired teenage drivers continue to pose risks to themselves, their friends, and other people on the roadway. One in ten high school students drinks and drives. Young drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are 17 times more likely to die in a car accident if their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher than teens who are not impaired by alcohol.
More points on the dangers of teenage drinking and driving include:
- While teens are less likely to drive drunk than adults, teens have a substantially higher risk of becoming involved in fatal traffic accidents when they do.
- Teen drivers are less likely to use safety restraints (seat belts) when they have been drinking.
- Those most often killed in accidents caused by an alcohol-impaired teenage driver are the teens themselves and their passengers.
- Alcohol has an enhanced effect on the developing teenage brain, producing lingering deficits in the ability to pay attention and memory.
- Teens already lack some of the developmental abilities required for safe driving, including the ability to properly scan the roadway for hazards. Alcohol further reduces this ability.
New Jersey features a lower legal limit when it comes to teens and drunk driving. Anyone under the age of 21 with a BAC of 0.01 to 0.08 percent can be convicted of a DWI charge. Teens are subject to a license suspension even on the first offense, and they may be required to undergo alcohol education, complete 15 to 30 days of community service, and pay fees and fines related to the conviction.
Levels of Impairment
A person’s level of impairment is measured by the content of alcohol present in his or her blood or breath (BAC). Even one drink impacts one’s ability to drive. A standard drink in the United States is 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content; eight ounces of a malt liquor drink with a 7 percent alcohol content; five ounces of wine with a 12 percent alcohol content; or 1.5 ounces (a shot) of hard liquor with a 40 percent alcohol content. The level of impairment and its effects are as follows:
- BAC of 0.02 percent, which is equal to about two drinks, causes some loss in judgment, as well as a decline in visual functions required for tracking a moving target and the ability of a driver to perform two tasks at the same time.
- BAC of 0.05 percent, which is equal to about three drinks, results in exaggerated behavior, difficulty focusing the eyes, impaired judgment, release of inhibition, and lowered alertness. A driver with this level of impairment will experience reduced coordination, reduced ability to track objects, difficulty steering, and reduced ability to properly respond to emergency driving situations.
- BAC of 0.08 percent, which is equal to about four drinks and the legal limit to drive for most American adults, causes impacts, such as poor muscle control, difficulty detecting danger, and impairment of judgment, memory, reasoning, and self-control. Drivers with this level of impairment will have difficulty with concentration, experience short-term memory loss, have a hard time controlling their speed, impaired perception, and the reduced ability to process information.
- BAC of 0.10 percent, which is equal to about five drinks, will result in clear deterioration in reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking. Drivers with a BAC of 0.10 percent will likely have a hard time maintaining lane position and braking appropriately.
- BAC of 0.15 percent, which is about seven drinks, will create a major loss of balance and significantly reduced muscle control, and may also cause the individual to vomit. Drivers with this level of impairment will have substantial difficulty controlling their vehicles, paying attention to the task of driving, and significant deficits to visual and auditory information processing abilities.
These impacts and impairment levels are calculated for a 160-pound male. It should be noted that the impacts of impairment vary based on gender, weight, and whether the person is a frequent drinker.
New Jersey’s Laws Regarding Drinking and Driving
In December 2019, new laws regarding drinking and driving went into effect in New Jersey. The provisions of these laws include:
- No suspension of a driver’s license for first-time offenders who had a BAC below 0.15 percent. First-time offenders with a BAC of 0.15 percent or more will still lose their license for four to six months.
- Once convicted, drivers will have to place an interlock device in their vehicles and blow into it every time they want to drive. First-time offenders with a BAC of under 0.15 percent will be required to use the interlock for at least three months. Repeat offenders and those with a high BAC will be required to use the device for a longer period of time, up to 15 months.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy stated upon signing the legislation that interlock devices are a common-sense solution. Driver’s license suspensions are an imperfect method of dealing with drunk driving, as they don’t stop the driver from getting behind the wheel of a car, but they prevent previous offenders from being able to drive to work and live productive lives.
Recently, it was reported that conviction rates for drinking and driving had slipped from 85 percent to 71 percent in the previous ten years. In that same time, the number of case dismissals had doubled to 24 percent by 2017. Some of the reasons for this decline in conviction rates include:
- More drivers being convicted of drugged driving
- Drivers pleading guilty to another charge, such as reckless driving, which avoids some of the consequences experienced with DWI convictions. While plea deals are prohibited in DWI cases, this arrangement is referred to as an alternative disposition.
- Defense lawyers who are more skilled at defending their clients against breathalyzer results.
- A Supreme Court ruling that prevents police from testing the blood of suspected drunk drivers without consent or a warrant.
Don’t Be a Statistic
Driving involves risk for everyone. You cannot control the actions of other drivers. However, you can avoid becoming the drunk driver in statistical scenarios by following the tips listed below:
- Before drinking, designate a non-drinking driver in your social group who is willing to ensure that others arrive home safely.
- Don’t let your friends drive while impaired. If you see an impaired driver and you haven’t been drinking, be willing to provide a safe ride.
- If you drink, don’t drive home for any reason. If you’re unable to get a ride from a sober friend, arrange for a rideshare or taxi.
- If you’re hosting a party that involves alcohol, ensure that those who are drinking either have a designated sober driver or that keys are surrendered, and you should allow your guests to stay over and sleep off the festivities before going home.
- Always wear your seat belt, as it provides your strongest protection against the acts of a drunk driver.
- If you see someone who appears to be drunk while driving, contact law enforcement. Doing so could save someone’s life. Signs of drunk driving include quick acceleration or deceleration, tailgating, weaving, driving in areas not made for motor vehicles, almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle, erratic braking, signals that are inconsistent with driving actions, slow response to traffic signals, driving without headlights at night, swerving, driving at least 10 miles an hour below the speed limit, turning abruptly or illegally, or driving on the wrong side of the road.
- Talk to your teens about not drinking and driving. Remember that they often pattern their behaviors after your own, so don’t engage in drinking and driving or trivialize it when talking to your teens.
- Provide sober spaces for teen activities in your home and always monitor teen activities in your home to prevent your teens from drinking.
- Let your teens know that you’re always available to pick them up from a function where they, or others, are drinking. Remind them regularly to never get into the car with a drunk driver.
Newark Drunk Driving Accident FAQs
A Newark drunk driving accident can leave you with plenty of questions. How much compensation do you really deserve for the injuries you suffered? How might the other driver’s intoxication affect a claim you bring? An experienced drunk driving accident attorney at Jacoby & Meyers LLP can give you a better idea of exactly how things are likely to play out in your specific Newark drunk driving accident claim. In the meantime, find the answers to some of the common questions we get from drunk driving accident victims in Newark.
1. What should I do if I suspect the other driver involved in my accident was driving while intoxicated in Newark?
If you suspect the other driver involved in a Newark vehicle accident was driving while intoxicated (“DWI”), report it to the police when you give your statement about the accident. Your statement will go into the responding officers’ accident report, along with a blood alcohol content reading of the other driver, all of which can be valuable evidence to any later claim or lawsuit you bring.
Keep in mind that several conditions can mimic the symptoms of DWI, even when the driver has consumed no alcohol. A diabetic suffering an extreme blood sugar low, for example, may show many of the same symptoms as someone who has consumed significant quantities of alcohol, such as slurred speech, loss of balance, and aggressive behavior. Traumatic brain injury also may cause some symptoms that mimic drunken behavior, including confusion, disorientation, and slurred speech. The police officer who fills out your accident report can better determine what those symptoms mean and how they impacted the driver.
2. How might the other driver’s DWI bear on a claim after an accident?
Following an accident involving a drunk driver in Newark, you have the same right to file a claim for compensation that you would have if the other driver caused an accident by any other means, including speeding or reckless driving behavior. The fact that a drunk driver might be criminally charged for DWI does not prevent you from pursuing civil recourse against the driver to recover compensation.
You can seek compensatory damages (court-ordered payment to compensate injury) for your medical expenses, your lost wages, and your pain and suffering as part of your Newark drunk driving accident claim.
Even more, under New Jersey’s drunk driving laws, you may have the right to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages serve as a punishment of the offender, rather than as an amount to compensate a victim for injuries. Punitive damages are awarded to serve as a deterrent to the individual from DWI in the future, and to send a message to society generally that such reckless behavior will not be tolerated.
3. I suspected the other driver involved in my accident of DWI, but no legal record exists of the driver’s intoxication. Do I still have the right to a Newark drunk driving accident claim?
In some cases, you might suspect the other driver involved in your Newark car accident of a DWI, but have no legal proof to confirm your suspicions because:
- The police did not conduct a blood alcohol content test following the accident. Depending on the circumstances—such as if there were severe injuries or dangerous conditions at the scene of the accident to deal with—the police might have failed to notice symptoms of intoxication and check the other driver’s blood alcohol content.
- The police ruled out that the other driver had not shown signs of driving while inebriated. The police may already know, for example, that the other driver suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, or that the driver had a blood sugar low that caused the unusual behavior.
- The police failed to properly conduct the test, which makes it inadmissible in criminal court. The police must be careful in collecting evidence to avoid violating a person’s rights and to ensure that such evidence is admissible in a court of law. You may have the right to work off of certain information, such as your own suspicions of the other driver’s inebriation, as part of your Newark drunk driving accident claim, even if the police cannot legally use that information as part of their investigation into the accident.
Even if you do not have a blood alcohol content test to serve as evidence of the other driver’s inebriation, you can still file a Newark drunk driving accident claim. Evidence may still show that the other driver engaged in erratic, unsafe driving behaviors that led to the accident. Even if you cannot prove their dangerous driving was due to inebriation, you may still establish that they failed to exercise due care and are liable for your injuries.
If the other driver does get convicted of DWI, their conviction can serve as clear evidence that their inebriation caused or heavily contributed to your accident. A DWI conviction can make it easier for you to secure the compensation you deserve for your injuries. However, a DWI conviction certainly is not necessary for you to bring a claim, and does not mean you are unlikely to recover compensation.
A Jacoby & Meyers LLP attorney can explain the differences between the criminal and civil sides of the case and help find evidence of the other driver’s inebriation, even if you do not have a police report showing blood alcohol content. For instance, video or witness testimony that the driver was drinking at a bar or restaurant shortly before the accident could serve as evidence of DWI in your case.
4. Who has to pay my medical bills after a Newark drunk driving accident?
The medical bills you face after a Newark drunk driving accident can cause substantial financial strain, especially if you suffered severe injuries in your accident. Many victims find themselves wondering how they should handle those medical bills.
The inebriated driver and their insurer may bear liability for your medical costs. However, the liable party in your drunk driving accident does not have to pay your medical bills directly. Instead, the liable party and their insurer will be required to make payment to you once you succeed in your claim with the insurer or once you have come to a settlement of a lawsuit you bring or succeed in court and obtain a damages award. You can then use those funds to pay your past and anticipated medical expenses and other bills resulting from the accident.
In the meantime, you will need to make arrangements to pay your medical bills. You may have several options to help alleviate some of the weight, including:
Personal injury protection insurance. Newark drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance along with standard liability insurance. PIP insurance provides immediate financial coverage of medical bills associated with an auto accident, up to certain limits. You can use your PIP insurance to cover the medical expenses that crop up immediately after your accident, including emergency medical treatment, ambulance transport, and surgical treatment.
If you carry minimum PIP insurance, it will cover approximately $15,000 of your medical expenses, generally with some copays and deductibles. You can, however, choose to carry additional PIP insurance to better ensure you can cover the flood of medical bills following a major auto accident, which can easily surpass $15,000.
Medical insurance. For Newark drunk driving accident victims who suffer severe injuries, especially those who will end up with lifelong or ongoing expenses, medical insurance can provide much-needed financial protection. Contact your medical insurance provider to figure out what you will need to do to receive coverage.
Ask questions about the extent of your coverage as it pertains to your injuries following a serious car accident, including how much coverage you may have for durable medical equipment, physical therapy, or long-term care. Knowing how much coverage you have can help you create a comprehensive treatment plan that will address your medical needs within your financial means.
And call us. We know how to deal with insurance companies that don’t want to pay the benefits you deserve.
5. The Newark drunk driver’s insurance company offered me a settlement—should I take it?
Insurance companies know that the average driver has not thought much about how much coverage they should expect after a serious accident. In many cases, a drunk driver’s insurance company may try to take advantage of a victim’s lack of knowledge so that they can pay out less to resolve the claim. If you are not aware of all the potential damages to which you may be entitled, you might end up accepting a lower settlement amount than you deserve.
Accepting an insurance company’s first settlement offer may mean that you do not end up with enough money to cover your medical expenses or to manage your other bills related to the accident. For many Newark drunk driving accident victims, this may mean financial devastation that is impossible to recover from. Unfortunately, once you accept an offer, it relieves the insurance company of future financial liability, even if you later discover that you could have demanded more.
The problem of insurance companies is one great reason to retain an attorney to help you through your Newark drunk driving accident case. An attorney can help you review any settlement offers and negotiate for fair compensation. For many drunk driving accident victims, having an experienced attorney to help face an insurance company offers peace of mind and results in a higher recovery amount than they could have obtained on their own.
6. I did not discover that I had serious injuries until some time later after the Newark drunk driving accident—do I still have grounds for a claim?
You should always seek medical attention immediately after any type of accident, especially an auto accident. A doctor’s assessment can identify any injuries you have, even ones that might not be immediately apparent, which will allow you to pursue the treatment you need as soon as possible. Getting a doctor’s report immediately after a drunk driving accident also serves as evidence that the accident, not some other event, caused the injuries. This can prove vital in putting together the evidence regarding your Newark drunk driving accident claim.
However, even if you did not seek medical attention immediately after the accident, you may still pursue compensation for your injuries. Talk to an attorney at Jacoby & Meyers LLP as soon as possible to learn how to put together much-needed evidence regarding your accident and your claim.
7. What should I do after a Newark drunk driving accident?
To protect yourself after a Newark drunk driving accident, there are some important steps you should take to ensure you secure both medical and financial recovery.
- Report the accident. A drunk driver may get very upset when you mention calling the police to the scene of the accident. Drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders, can face substantial consequences for those behaviors. They may end up paying high fines or losing their license. In the case of repeat offenders, another drunk driving conviction may mean a permanent loss of state-issued driving privileges.
But failing to report the accident may make it difficult for you to seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries and other financial losses. Police reports are particularly valuable evidence in drunk driving accident claims. Always trust your instincts and don’t do anything to aggravate a drunk driver in a way that might instigate them to cause you further injury. But call law enforcement if you are able, or solicit the assistance of someone else to get law enforcement on the scene.
- Seek medical attention. Always prioritize your medical care following an auto accident, even if you believe you suffered only minor injuries. Receiving prompt medical care often improves an accident victim’s prognosis and the likelihood of full recovery mobility and functions. Obtaining immediate recovery will also strengthen any claim you bring.
- Contact an attorney at Jacoby & Meyers LLP. Some worry that hiring an attorney for their drunk driving accident claim will just add to the expenses they have to deal with following the accident and will cut against the compensation they can recover. However, many find after hiring an experienced Newark drunk driving accident attorney that their attorney’s fees are very manageable and that having an attorney actually increases the compensation they receive for their injuries.
An attorney can increase the strength of your case and maximize your recovery, including conducting an investigation and gathering evidence, handling negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf, and, if necessary, taking your case all the way to trial to obtain a court award for damages.
If you or a loved one were the victim of a Newark drunk driving accident, contact Jacoby & Meyers LLP today to find out how you can recover the compensation you deserve.
Injured by a Drunk Driver in Newark? Call Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, Now
If you were injured in an accident that a drunk driver caused, an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, can help you understand your legal options for recovering damages. Call us today at (973) 643-2707 or use our online contact form.
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