Do You Need a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer?
Under New York state law, the victim of an intoxicated motorist may sue that individual for damages involving injury, property loss, and even wrongful death. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer is aware of how seriously this can impact your life, and is ready to assist in recovering every dollar to which you are entitled by law.
Driving while intoxicated, whether it is alcohol, cannabis, narcotics or even certain prescription medications can be a serious felony, because those who do so put others at unnecessary risk as well as themselves. Victims of these criminals suffer not only physical injuries but massive financial burdens as well as post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Frighteningly, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles reports that two out of every five road fatalities in the Empire State involve a driver under the influence. The problem has become so widespread in the City that four years ago, the NYPD instituted a “Know Your Limit,” working with cab companies and rideshare contractors to give a $10 discount to intoxicated people willing to use their services.
The DMV also reports that younger, less experienced drivers are at especially high risk for DWI. Even though drivers under the age of 21 represent only 4 percent of motorists, they are involved in 7 percent of fatal road accidents.
An impaired driver does not have to be inebriated. Many drugs have similar effects, including over-the-counter cold remedies, especially when taken in combination with alcohol.
New York does have some of the more stringent DWI penalties in the nation. Repeat offenders can lose their driving privileges for life; if an impaired driver kills someone, that offender may face murder charges and a prison sentence of up to 15 years. If the victim is a child, the sentence can be as long as 25 years.
While this offers justice, it doesn’t help the victim dealing with physical injuries and losses. This is where an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer can help.
Common Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Most people involved in a drunk driving accident aren’t seriously injured, as many of these incidents occur at lower speeds. In these cases, it is a fairly straightforward process to get compensation from the Personal Injury Protection coverage every New York motorist must carry by law.
Serious and debilitating injuries can include:
- broken bones
- head and neck injuries
- spinal and back injuries
- loss of limbs
Any of these injuries can mean months or even years of recovery and rehabilitation, and can even lead to permanent disability. For example, whiplash—a common result of a collision—can result in long-term complications that include pain radiating into the shoulders, arms, hands and lower back. People who suffer from whiplash also experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vision and memory difficulties and chronic fatigue.
Impacts to the head can also result in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Long-term effects of TBI vary according to the part of the brain affected and the seriousness of the impact. Cognition, ability to solve problems, sleep and mood can all be seriously affected by TBI.
Suing for Damages
Intoxicated motorists face criminal penalties and they are also liable for all injuries and damages their irresponsibility causes. This is when you need an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer to represent your interests. Chances are that an impaired motorist facing charges will hire his or her own attorney familiar with New York’s DUI laws adding to the complexity of the cases.
Underinsured or Uninsured Drivers
Another complication arises when the damages are greater than the limits of the drunk driver’s insurance coverage. As you are aware, New York is one of 12 no-fault states mandating Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage as well as uninsured and underinsured driver coverage equivalent to their liability. Drunk driving accident victims can therefore get some compensation from their insurers.
Section 11-101 of New York’s General Obligations Law states that an establishment engaged in the sale of alcohol can be held liable for injuries or deaths caused by a drunk driver if that person was visibly intoxicated or not of legal age. The law also applied to the host of a party where alcohol is being served. If the victim is killed, his or her survivors may pursue a wrongful death claim and any other damages allowed by law.
Filing a Drunk Driving Accident Lawsuit
Unlike many other types of lawsuits, determining liability in a drunk driving accident case is a relatively easy and straightforward process; behavioral observations and blood alcohol tests can easily establish whether or not the driver was intoxicated.
Because of New York’s insurance law, insurance should cover the majority of a victim’s losses. However, the drunk driver’s insurance company will do its level best to pressure a victim into an early settlement. This is why you should never sign any insurance papers until an attorney has examined them.
Another reason to reject a preliminary offer is that there may be latent injuries that may not show immediate symptoms. Additionally, there may be medical complications later on. The bottom line: it is wise to wait until your injuries have at least stabilized before pursuing a settlement.
Since intoxicated drivers also face criminal charges, it’s usually best to allow these cases to play out in criminal court before filing a civil lawsuit. The reason is that if the driver is convicted or enters a guilty plea, you as the victim will have far more leverage when seeking a settlement. Keep in mind that the standard of proof in a criminal proceeding is beyond a reasonable doubt; in other words, the jury needs to be 99.9 percent certain the accused is guilty. In a civil lawsuit, the jury needs only to be 51 percent convinced. So if the driver has already been convicted in criminal court, proving liability in civil court is very easy.
Damages in a civil lawsuit fall into three categories:
The first category is also subdivided into two subcategories: economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses are easily calculated, as these represent quantifiable losses, i.e., they can be assigned a dollar value. These include medical and rehabilitation costs and loss of earnings and earning capacity.
Non-economic damages consist of pain and suffering, psychological and emotional trauma, loss of a spouse or family member’s companionship, and reduced quality of life. New York is one of 42 states that place no caps on compensatory damages.
Exemplary damages are exactly that: punitive damages that make an example of the defendant. However, courts award these only in cases in which the defendant’s actions were egregious. For
Call Cellino Law Today
Because the statute of limitations on injury claims in New York is three years from the cause of action or discovery of the act, time is of the essence. If you or a family member has been injured in a drunk driving accident, schedule your no-obligation consultation today. If we represent you, there are no upfront costs. Chances are excellent that we can secure a fair and reasonable settlement without going to trial. Our experienced drunk driving accident lawyers can assist you in navigating complex New York DUI laws and do everything in their power to get you the compensation you deserve.