Queens Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Alcohol-impaired driving is a national crisis in the United States, and New York is not immune to the problem. In one recent year, one-third of traffic fatalities resulted from accidents involving a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit. Nationally, that number was 29 percent.
Medical debt is the number one reason why people in the United States file for bankruptcy. But you don’t have to be one of them. New York law allows you to hold the drunk driver who injured you responsible for his or her actions through a personal injury lawsuit, through which you can recover monetary damages for the physical and emotional harm you’ve suffered due to the negligence.
Contact Jacoby & Meyers, LLP’s Queens personal injury attorneys as soon as you can after your accident. The law generally requires that you file your lawsuit within three years of the date of the accident; this is called the statute of limitations. Even though you may think that sounds like a long time, it can pass quickly when you’re just trying to recover from your injuries and get your life back on track. A long hospital stay or a stint in a rehabilitative care facility may eat up that time and leave you feeling rushed to meet the deadline.
The sooner you contact and retain an attorney, the sooner he or she can begin work on your case, and the sooner you can resolve it and get the financial relief to which the law entitles you. If you file after the statute of limitations period, the court will almost certainly dismiss your suit, and you will be left with no legal recourse to recover the monetary damages you would otherwise be entitled to had you filed your suit on time.
Also, remember that any personal injury lawsuit is a civil matter, completely separate from any criminal proceedings the person who injured you may have to go through. The burden of proof is lower in a civil matter; you only have to show a jury that it is more likely than not that the drunk driver caused your injuries. This is opposed to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that the state would have to prove in a criminal case. Because they are separate proceedings, even if the person who injured you is acquitted at a drunk driving trial, you may still pursue your lawsuit against them, and if you meet your burden of proof, you can recover damages from them.
Under New York law, those injured by a drunk driver may recover two basic categories of monetary damages: economic and non-economic. Of course, if either your health or auto insurance policies have reimbursed you for these costs, you cannot recover them from the driver who injured you.
Economic damages are compensation related to things that are actual and measurable. Think of them as things for which you receive a bill. Economic damages also include lost wages. Common types of economic damages include:
- Medical costs: This includes the cost of ambulance transportation, expenses from your initial hospital stay (doctors’ fees, surgeries, medications, x-rays, laboratory and other diagnostic tests, and surgical suite costs), prescriptions, follow-up appointments or surgeries, therapy (physical, speech, occupational or other), rehabilitation, medical devices (such as canes or wheelchairs), and prosthetic devices.
- Property damage: Drunk driving accidents often result in major damage to vehicles, and you are entitled to compensation for such damage. You can also recover for damage to any property inside the vehicle at the time of the accident.
- Lost wages: Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be away from work for a few days or even weeks or months. You may also lose wages by having to miss work for appointments with doctors or therapists. You can recover these lost wages. When calculating the amount of wages you’ve lost, be sure to include any tips, commissions, or retirement contributions you’ve had to forego from not working.
- Future wages: Your injuries may prevent you from working for the rest of your life, or they may be severe enough that you are physically or mentally incapable of performing the kind of work you did before the accident. Although somewhat more difficult to compute than simply looking at the number of days/hours/weeks of work you’ve already missed and multiplying it by your wage to calculate your current lost wages, future wages can be reasonably calculated. Your lawyer can bring in an actuary who will figure out the amount of wages you will lose in the future because of your injuries by considering your pre-accident earnings, the potential for advancement, level of education or professional training, life expectancy, age, and any earnings you can earn in your post-accident condition.
Because economic damages are measurable, you must document them so that you can show their measure. Keep all bills. Yes, that means opening all letters from hospitals, doctors, and others, even if doing so makes your heart race and stomach drop. Store them in a safe place along with receipts for medications and other things you buy to treat your injuries and recover.
The law recognizes that you won’t receive a bill for all the damage you have suffered from someone else’s bad behavior, because there is no readily-identifiable dollar amount that can be assigned to it. Non-economic damages are in place to compensate victims for the more subjective harm that they suffer. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might be entitled to the following types of non-economic damages:
- Pain and suffering: Putting a price on the pain a person has suffered isn’t easy, but factors that will be considered include the type of injury, how long-term the effects are, the prognosis for future recovery, and the amount of medical care required to treat it. If your case goes to trial, your attorney may choose to call others who have suffered similar injuries to talk about their level of pain, or a jury may consider the testimony of treating doctors, family members, or other healthcare providers who may have an idea of how your pain affects your daily life.
- Emotional distress: These damages are intended to provide compensation for the psychological injury you’ve suffered from your accident. Car crash victims often experience anxiety, depression, recurring nightmares, extreme fear of getting into a vehicle, insomnia, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Disfigurement or loss of limbs: No one can really put a price on no longer having a functioning limb or being permanently disfigured; having to use a prosthetic device or wheelchair changes a person’s life forever. Both can lead to body dysmorphia, fear of being seen in public, and extreme mental anguish, all of which can last for a significant period of time as the person attempts to adjust to his or her new life.
- Loss of consortium: The facts of your case may merit a claim for loss of consortium by your spouse. This claim is filed at the same time as your lawsuit and allows your spouse to receive compensation for the loss of the benefits of your relationship. These damages are intended to compensate for situations in which a spouse is unable to give the same level of love, companionship, emotional support, or sexual relations that they were before the incident. It can also include the loss of services, such as childcare, housework, and home maintenance.
How an Attorney Can Help
It is always wise to be represented by competent legal counsel any time you are involved in a legal matter. You may be wondering if you really need an attorney to help you with your personal injury lawsuit. The answer is an emphatic yes. Personal injury lawsuits are complex and involve multiple parties and many moving parts. And there is a near 100 percent chance that the opposing party (defendant) will have at least one attorney, if not more.
You don’t want to face off against someone with legal experience, whose job is to defend these kinds of cases, on your own. But what exactly will an attorney do for you? Consider the following:
Filing Your Lawsuit
Once you retain your attorney, the work on your case begins. The first step (besides making sure you don’t miss the statute of limitations) is to determine who should be the defendant in your case. It seems simple, doesn’t it? It can actually become a complicated question pretty quickly. Clearly, the driver will be a defendant. But what if he or she was driving while on the job? Should the employer be sued, as well? Did a friend loan the driver a car knowing the driver was intoxicated? In nearly all personal injury cases, there’s at least one insurance company involved.
Suing the wrong party can cause your suit to get tossed by the court, leaving you at square one and possibly brushing up against the statute of limitations. Filing your suit on time and against the proper parties is important but can prove confusing. An experienced attorney can help.
Negotiating With the Other Parties
While TV and movies may have you believe otherwise, most personal injury lawsuits never get to the trial stage, because they are settled out of court through negotiations between the parties. You’ll probably receive an initial offer not too long after you’ve filed your lawsuit. This is where the attorney you’ve selected really gets to prove his or her worth. A strong negotiator will know how to reject unfair offers while leaving the door open to future negotiations.
As your case progresses and your team investigates it further, facts may come to light that strengthens your position, allowing your attorney to go back to the other side and ask for more money based on this new information. Negotiations can continue right up through the time the jury receives your case for deliberation, so a good attorney will be ready to talk throughout the process. Completely walking away from the negotiating table is usually a very bad idea.
You should remember that, although your attorney will be the one actually negotiating, he or she is legally required to present to you every offer made by the other party, regardless of whether your attorney thinks it’s a good offer or not. And YOU, the client, always make the final decision about whether to accept an offer or refuse it and take your case to a jury.
Going to Trial
If negotiations don’t bring about an offer that you are prepared to accept, your case will proceed to a jury trial. Your attorney selection can pay off big time here, too. Not all lawyers are good litigators. Trial work requires skills that not all attorneys possess. These skills take time to develop, and frankly, some attorneys just never quite get there. Your attorney needs to, of course, understand personal injury law, the rules of evidence and procedure, the practices of the jurisdiction hearing your case, and how to act in a courtroom.
However, other skills are equally important, such as knowing how to select and speak to jurors, being able to take complicated medical concepts and break them down in ways that jurors can understand and use to make a decision, and understanding how to examine witnesses by gauging when to push and when to back off.
Select an attorney who not only has trial experience, not only has personal injury trial experience but also has conducted drunk driving trials and knows the drill. You wouldn’t ask a dermatologist to operate on your heart, and you should not ask an attorney without any experience handling your type of case to represent you.
Contact a Queens Drunk Driving Attorney
Drunk driving accidents can leave victims devastated physically, psychologically, and financially. While no amount of money can ever really bring your old life back, the law allows you to seek compensation for the hardship someone else has put you through. Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, was founded in 1972 to make high-quality legal representation available to all those who need it. In the nearly 50 years since our attorneys have established a track record of recovery for our clients and a reputation for compassionate legal representation.
We operate on a contingency fee basis, and you do not owe us money until we recover for you. Trust us as we bring our experience, knowledge of the law, and compassion for our clients to your case, while you focus on healing from your accident. Contact us online or by phone at (877)-565-2993 today for your free case evaluation.