Queens Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
Victims of drunk driving accidents who do not suffer fatal injuries are often left with lifelong physical pain, financial hardship, and mental and emotional scars. Their injuries can be expensive to diagnose, treat, and recover from, and even with health insurance, they can feel overwhelmed by financial stress and feel the crushing weight of medical debt. And victims of drunk drivers aren’t alone.
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.
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.
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 a personal injury 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.
Queens Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Everyone understands they should not drink and drive, but not everyone knows what they need to do if they are involved in a drunk driving accident. There is never a good reason to drink and drive, yet it still happens every day throughout Queens. As a result, thousands of people die every year, and those who survive often have to deal with lifelong debilitating injuries and pain.
If you are a victim of a drunk driving accident, you may have many questions and concerns. Below, we discuss some of the most frequently asked questions regarding drunk driving accidents and detail how an experienced Queens drunk driving accident lawyer can help you through this difficult time.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are in a drunk driving accident, the crash scene is often chaotic and stressful. Many victims get disoriented and overwhelmed by what they need to do following a collision.
However, to protect your safety, health, and individual rights following a Queens drunk driving accident, take the following critical steps:
- Call 911: Before you do anything, you need to call 911. These police officers can provide you with immediate medical services while also investigating the accident scene. They will write down all of their findings in their police report, which will provide you with critical evidence if you decide to proceed with a claim.
- Collect evidence: If it is safe, try to take as many photos and videos of the accident scene as you can. Include pictures of your injuries, the motor vehicles involved in the crash, skid marks, weather conditions, road hazards, and any other details you find important.
- Get information from the other drivers: Try to get the name, contact information, driver’s license number, and insurance information from every driver involved in the crash.
- Check for witnesses: If any witnesses were present and saw the accident get their names and contact information. These witnesses can provide you with valuable details and statements about the accident that can help you prove fault and liability.
- Call an experienced Queens drunk driving accident attorney: Following an accident, you need to promptly call an experienced Queens drunk driving accident attorney. These lawyers can get to work investigating the accident scene and gathering the necessary evidence to prove liability and damages.
After a Queens drunk driving accident, an insurance company will likely be calling. Even though you may think that the insurance carrier will want to help you, especially if the accident was not your fault, this is not how insurance usually works. Insurance companies are businesses with a profit motive. They accomplish this goal by paying you less than you deserve or denying your claim altogether.
For these reasons, if the insurance company is trying to get you to talk to a representative, it is in your best interest to provide them with only the basic details about the accident and let them know that your lawyer can handle further communications. Once you retain a Queens drunk driving accident attorney, they can take over these conversations and ensure you do not say anything that may end up hurting your case.
If the person who caused the accident is found to have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, they are considered legally impaired in Queens. As a result, they can be found at fault for your injuries.
However, in New York, you can also potentially pursue other individuals, and even establishments, if you were injured in a drunk driving accident.
- New York’s Dram Shop Act: This law provides you with the ability to bring a cause of action against a bar or restaurant that provided alcohol to the individual responsible for your accident. An establishment is prohibited from selling alcohol to an individual who is apparently or actually under 21 years of age, and to a person who is “visibly intoxicated.” To bring this claim, you need to prove that the at-fault party was intoxicated, the establishment provided or sold alcohol to the intoxicated individual, and the establishment contributed or caused the at-fault party’s intoxication. Holding an establishment accountable for a drunk driving crash under these dram shop laws can be extremely difficult. That is why it is essential to speak with an experienced drunk driving attorney as soon as possible.
- New York’s Social Host Laws: These laws allow a victim injured by an intoxicated minor to sue the individual who provided the minor the alcohol, even if it is a private person and not a business. These situations often arise when adults serve minors alcohol in their homes. It is important to note that these laws do not apply to those who serve alcohol to other adults.
New York is a no-fault state. This means that if you are injured in a traffic accident, you have to file a claim with your own insurance company first, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Consequently, if you suffer personal injuries because of the accident, you will file a claim with your own insurer for economic losses, including medical expenses and lost wages. However, if your economic losses exceed $50,000, you might then file a legal claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage.
Additionally, you could also pursue non-economic damages against the other driver if you sustained a serious injury. However, you would first need to establish fault.
In general, New York’s no-fault system covers:
- All medical treatment expenses associated with a motor vehicle accident. This can even include psychiatric treatments and physical therapy. However, it is vital to check the statute as certain deductions are specified.
- Lost earnings up to $2,000 per month, for up to three years (minus specific deductions).
- Other bills and expenses tied to your injuries and your accident. This can include compensation up to $25 per day for up to one year following the accident.
If you are injured in a Queens drunk driving motor vehicle accident that results in a serious injury, you can step out of the no-fault system confines and pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Under New York’s no-fault laws, a serious injury means a drunk driving accident that results in:
- Significant disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus
- A permanent loss of the use of a body organ, function, member, or system.
- A permanent consequential limitation of the use of a body member or organ.
- A significant limitation of the use of a body function or system
- A medically determined injury
- An impairment of a non-permanent nature that stops the injured party from performing substantially all the material acts, which makes up a person’s customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the impairment or injury.
If the harm you endured does not qualify under the “serious injury” threshold, you are limited to the no-fault option.
Based on this:
- You cannot collect damages for non-economic losses such as emotional anguish and pain and suffering.
- Your injuries will not be covered if they result from intentional acts, you were driving under the influence, you were racing a stolen vehicle, or otherwise committing an act which amounted to a felony at the time of your injury.
- Typically, damages that are above $50,000 per individual will not be recoverable. This includes medical payments and lost income.
When it comes to your property damages, which can include the costs of repairing your motor vehicle, these damages do not fall under the no-fault blanket. Meaning, if your car was damaged in a drunk driving accident, your no-fault coverage will not apply. Rather, you are free to file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, proceed with a lawsuit, or go through your own collision coverage if you have it.
Speak with an experienced Queens drunk driving accident attorney that can walk you through all of these legal nuances and help you determine what compensation you can pursue.
If you are successful in your Queens drunk driving accident claim, you can recover compensation or damages for the burdens you experienced due to your drunk driving accident. Generally, these damages include economic, non-economic, and sometimes punitive damages.
Economic damages: These are measurable losses you have experienced as a result of the accident. They include:
- Medical bills and expenses, including doctor visits, prescription medications, surgeries, and even emergency ambulance rides.
- Future medical bills
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost income, including present and future earnings because you can’t work
- Personal property damages
- Household services
- Rehabilitative care including vocational therapy and physical therapy
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic damages: These damages are real but not easy to quantify. They include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of reputation
Punitive damages: These damages punish the defendant rather than compensating the injured victim. When the court awards punitive damages, it found the actions of the defendant so egregious that they want to punish the defendant and deter the same act in the future. Often plaintiffs seek punitive damages in drunk driving cases because drunk driving usually amounts to the type of egregious conduct that the court wants to punish and deter.
In New York, the statute of limitations on a motor vehicle accident is three years. However, this time can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. If you try to file a lawsuit after this statute of limitations passes, you can’t recover damages for the harm you endured. That is why it is crucial to speak with an experienced Queens drunk driving accident injury lawyer as soon as possible. They can not only verify if you have a viable claim, but can also confirm how much time you have to file your case.
If you are a victim of a drunk driving accident, you are probably going through a lot. Not only are you dealing with painful and possible devastating injuries, but you are also worried about your family and your future. During this challenging time, you should have an experienced legal team helping you, answering any questions you have, and providing the legal support you require.
These skilled lawyers can:
- Investigating the accident: To be successful in a drunk driving accident claim, you need to provide relevant and detailed evidence showing fault and damages. These lawyers know they need to quickly get to work gathering critical evidence, talking to relevant witnesses, and preparing the best case on your behalf.
- Negotiations: The insurance companies will come ready to fight following a drunk driving accident. However, rest assured that when your attorney is in charge of these communications and negotiations, they can ensure that you and your case are treated with respect, while they pursue the maximum compensation on your behalf.
- Head to trial, if necessary: If the other side won’t negotiate in good faith, your attorney can take your case to trial. During the litigation process, your lawyer can make sure you are prepared every step of the way while they fight for the compensation you need.
If you or a family member has been hurt in a Queens drunk driving accident, contact our compassionate drunk driving accident attorneys in Queens today. You have enough to worry about. Let your lawyer focus on the legal battles, while you focus on what matters most—healing and recovery.
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.