Edison Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Everyone knows they shouldn’t drive after drinking, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean people don’t do it. In the most recent year for which data exists, well over 17,000 people died across the United States in accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. In New Jersey during that same year, over 20 percent of traffic fatalities involved a drunk driver. The numbers are staggering, and drunk driving accidents leave families ruined—victims who survive often struggle with lifelong physical and psychological pain, along with crushing medical debt.
It is the sad truth that, even if you are a responsible driver who never drives even after one drink, the poor decisions of others can injure you when they get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. When that happens to you in Edison, call Jacoby & Meyers, LLP’s car accident lawyers for help.
Effects of Alcohol on Drivers
Although drunk drivers can cause all kinds of wrecks, some are more common than others due to the symptoms of alcohol-impairment.
Lack of Coordination
Alcohol, especially when consumed in excess, affects motor skills. Eye, hand, and foot coordination are impaired. Those experiencing a lack of coordination are often unable to respond to and avoid dangers on the road or from other vehicles. Those who are extremely intoxicated may not even be able to walk properly to their vehicles or get the keys into the ignition without a struggle.
Decreased Reaction Time
Individuals with alcohol in their systems experience a decreased ability to react and respond to different stimuli. Reaction times are reduced, and the likelihood of accidents increases substantially. An alcohol-impaired driver cannot respond to driving conditions as quickly as a sober driver because the alcohol-impaired individual’s brain’s response time is longer. This includes consequences like being unable to stop in time to avoid rear-ending another vehicle, to avoid pedestrians crossing the road, to make split-second decisions to react to the potentially dangerous behaviors of other drivers, or even to make turns at the appropriate time.
Reduced Ability to Concentrate
Driving is an activity that requires the driver’s undivided attention. Even small amounts of alcohol can affect a person’s ability to focus on staying in his or her lane, driving the speed limit, and concentrating on other vehicles on the road. Alcohol dramatically reduces a person’s attention span, which increases the chance of an accident.
When driving, it is of paramount importance that a driver’s judgment is completely unimpaired. Our brains control how we judge the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and our judgment skills play an important role in how we make decisions. In a vehicle, drivers need to be able to make clear decisions about other cars on the road and road conditions, such as snow, rain, or ice, as well as any unexpected factors, such as detours or construction zones. Alcohol limits drivers’ ability to make sound decisions about their environment, which can have deadly consequences when they get behind the wheel.
If you have ever consumed too much alcohol, you are aware that it can have negative effects on your vision. Blurred vision and trouble controlling eye movement are common side effects of the over-consumption of alcohol. It can also affect how much you see in your peripheral vision (what you see to the side without moving your head). All of these side effects negatively affect your ability to both see what’s going on around you and to know how to react. It’s difficult to avoid crashing into another vehicle if your vision is so impaired that you think the vehicle is in another lane.
Types of Drunk Driving Accidents
Although drunk drivers can cause all manner of accidents, some are more common than others, mostly due to the type of impairment alcohol imparts on those who consume it.
Because alcohol impairs vision, those who are intoxicated can experience difficulty reading and comprehending. When on the road, of course, reading and reacting to posted signs is critically important. A drunk driver may not see—and even if he does, understand—a one-way road sign and end up driving the wrong way down a one-way road or highway.
Head-on collisions are an unfortunately common type of drunk driving accident. Because alcohol can make a person drowsy or fall asleep altogether, to say nothing of his inability to perceive and react to conditions around him, he may veer into oncoming traffic by crossing the center line and subsequently collide with an oncoming vehicle.
These wrecks are especially catastrophic because they often happen at greater speeds than other accidents, since the driver is not preparing to stop while the oncoming car is driving at a normal speed. Both of these factors lead to extreme force during the collision and can cause both severe injury and significant property damage.
Because an intoxicated person experiences impaired judgment and decreased reaction times, he or she may be unable to respond quickly enough to other drivers stopped or slowing down ahead. Impaired judgment may also lead drivers to incorrectly believe that they have enough road space and time to stop without hitting the other vehicle, when, in fact, the opposite is true.
Accidents Involving Pedestrians
Especially at night—though the effects of alcohol clearly affect people at all times of day—a drunk driver may not see a pedestrian approaching. For pedestrians, this can have catastrophic or fatal consequences. Even more awful, a drunk driver may not even realize that they have hit someone and continue driving.
What to Do if You Were in a Drunk Driving Accident
Depending on the severity of your injuries from a drunk driving accident, you may or may not be able to do all of these things right away, but they are all important.
File Your Insurance Claim
New Jersey is a no-fault accident state. This means that all drivers are required to have a personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance plan. PIP pays you for medical costs, lost wages, essential services, and death benefits to your family if you suffer a fatal injury without regard to fault in the accident. The law requires that you carry at least $15,000 in PIP coverage, but you can buy up to $250,000 in coverage. A no-fault law is intended to reduce the amount of litigation surrounding car accidents and to pay benefits to those injured quickly without fighting in court about whose fault the accident was.
Document Your Costs
Because you will have to show your insurance company (and the other party, if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver who injured you) verification of the costs you’ve incurred, keep all documentation for costs surrounding your injury. If you can’t find it, your car accident lawyer can help you obtain copies.
This includes for medical expenses—those from your initial hospital stay, surgeries, diagnostic tests, those from follow-up appointments, medications, therapy (physical, mental health, speech, occupational), both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, medical devices, or modifications you have been required to make to your home or vehicle to allow you to return to your pre-accident activities of daily living.
Because your PIP policy has a lost wages benefit and because you can sue the responsible party for lost wages, be sure to keep track of any time you miss work because of your injury, including your initial stay and what you miss for post-hospital appointments. In addition to wages you’re missing out on, be sure to document any tips, commission, or retirement benefits that you’ve lost due to being unable to work as a consequence of your injuries.
If you had to hire someone to perform services around your house that you could once perform yourself, such as laundry, lawn mowing, household maintenance, house cleaning, or shoveling snow, make sure you’re keeping track of those costs, too. PIP allows you $12 per day for these types of expenses, but you’ve got to prove them.
Talk to an Edison Drunk Driving Attorney
Even with insurance, you may still find yourself buried underneath what seems to be insurmountable medical costs. Insurance plans have deductibles, coinsurance amounts you’re responsible for, and, of course, upper limits to the benefits you can receive. If you find yourself in that situation, contact a competent Edison drunk driving attorney right away. It may be in your best interest to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who injured you.
Do so as soon as possible. New Jersey law requires that you file your personal injury suit within two years of the date of your accident. Don’t think this is a long time. These suits are complicated and involve many parties and moving parts. The sooner you retain an attorney to represent you, the more time she will have to evaluate your case and form sound legal arguments on your behalf, and the sooner you will receive the compensation to which the law says you’re entitled.
You should also keep in mind that a personal injury suit is a civil, rather than criminal, matter. That means that even if the person who injured you is charged with a crime and subsequently acquitted at trial, or accepts a plea deal to a charge lesser than drunk driving, you can still file and be successful in a personal injury lawsuit.
In civil matters, the burden of proof—the standard to which you have to prove your claims—is a preponderance of the evidence. This standard means that you only have to show that it is more likely than not that the other driver caused your injuries. It is significantly lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that applies in criminal trials, because the possible punishment in those cases can involve prison time and other serious consequences beyond owing money.
How Our Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Can Help
It is always—always—in your best interest to have legal representation. Especially in personal injury suits, which are complex and time-consuming, you need someone in your corner fighting for your rights, who knows the law and has handled drunk driving lawsuits before. Furthermore, you can bet that the people on the other side of your suit will have lawyers of their own. No doubt at least one insurance company will be involved, and if the driver is smart, he or she will also be lawyered up.
Going in without sufficient legal experience or knowledge of the law is a recipe for disaster and for you missing out on perhaps a significant amount of compensation you are entitled to under the law. Don’t seek compensation alone.
Because most personal injury lawsuits are settled out of court and never go to a jury trial, your attorney’s negotiation skills are of utmost importance. He or she will be facing off against what is likely to be a team of attorneys on the other side, and knowing when to be tough and push back and when to back off is critical to getting you the highest settlement offer possible. Negotiations can continue throughout almost the entirety of your suit—right up until the time the jury begins to deliberate your case—your attorney must keep the door open to negotiations.
Your attorney has a legal obligation to come to you with every offer made to you, regardless of his or her opinion about how good an offer it is. It’s always your choice whether to accept it. Your attorney should give you an opinion about whether the offer appears fair, and it’s a good idea to consider that advice, but ultimately the choice is yours. It’s your lawsuit and your future is affected by its outcome.
Taking Your Case to a Jury, if Necessary
If you’ve negotiated with the other side and it becomes obvious that you cannot come to a satisfactory resolution outside of court, you have the right to take your case to trial in front of a jury. Your attorney’s experience level can make all the difference here, too. Not all attorneys understand how to litigate a case. Choose one who does. Check out the trial experience of any attorney you are considering to represent you and make sure that it’s not just trial experience, but drunk driving accident trial experience.
Contact Jacoby & Meyers, LLP’s Edison Drunk Driving Attorneys
Drunk driving accidents can be catastrophic for those who suffer injuries because of them. Having a competent attorney on your side can be the difference between a settlement or jury verdict that meets your financial needs and one that leaves you still with unpaid bills.
For nearly 50 years, the attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, have been committed to making high-quality legal representation available to everyone who needs it. It is in that spirit that we offer a free case evaluation and operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t owe us a thing unless and until we successfully recover for you. Your priority after a drunk driving accident should be on your recovery and getting your life back. Ours is to fight for your rights and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Trust our vast experience, extensive knowledge of New Jersey personal injury law, and the true compassion we bring to each and every case we take on. Contact us online or by phone toll free at (877)-565-2993 today for your free case evaluation.