Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in New York and comes
with stiff penalties, such as fines and jail time. Unfortunately drivers
who violate the law by operating vehicles while intoxicated are not the
only people affected by their criminal behavior. Unfortunately, intoxicated
individuals adversely affect others when they choose to get behind the
wheel of a car. New York had
315 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in 2011 alone. Due to the fact that driving under the influence of alcohol
is illegal, getting behind the wheel of a car following the consumption
of alcoholic beverages can constitute a negligent action. Accidents involving
drunk drivers often involve serious or catastrophic injuries, and in some
cases prove fatal. While it may be less challenging to prove that an intoxicated
driver was negligent and thus legally responsible for causing an accident
and resulting injuries, such cases often present many challenges for the
individuals injured in the accident. As a result, individuals who have
suffered injuries after being involved in a car accident with a drunk
driver may have grounds to file a lawsuit for any damages incurred. At
Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, our New York DUI accident lawyers
have seen and understand the hardships that victims of drunk drivers can
face. As a result, we are committed to using our resources to get our
clients' lives back on track by pursuing maximum compensation in court.
Have you or someone you loved suffered an injury in a car accident? Was
the driver of the other vehicle intoxicated at the time of the accident?
If so, you may have grounds to recoup compensation for any economic or
non-economic damages caused by the accident. For a free review of your
legal options, call 212-406-1700 or
contact us online.
Do You Have a Valid DUI Lawsuit?
While driving under the influence of alcohol does constitute negligence,
it does not necessarily present grounds for a lawsuit. In order to have
grounds for a DUI lawsuit, the victim of the accident must be able to
prove that the impaired driver was directly responsible for the accident.
For instance, if an individual is in an accident with a drunk driver,
but the impaired driver did not cause the accident, the injured individual
may not have grounds for a claim. Furthermore, the accident must have
caused the victim to suffer either economic or non-economic damages. Economic
damages are any financial loss sustained, such as lost wages, medical
bills, or property damage. Non-economic damages are any long term pain
and suffering incurred, such as scarring or emotional trauma.
Insurance Companies Play a Major Role in Drunk Driving Accident Lawsuits
Due to the fact that accidents stemming from drunk driving often involve
such serious injuries, the ensuing claim may result in high stakes litigation
for an insurance company. Thus, if there is significant insurance coverage
(for example 1 million dollars or more), the attorneys for the Defendant's
insurance carrier are often unlikely to concede the issue of liability.
Examples of common defenses can include claims that the Plaintiff (i.e.,
the injured party) caused his/her own accident, regardless of the fact
that the culpable driver was drunk at the time of the accident. Also,
it is common that even in the face of serious injuries, for the defending
lawyers to claim that such injuries are unrelated to the accident. While
this defense might be unavailable in a death case or a case involving
fractured and broken bones, this defense is commonly set forth in cases
where victims suffer more subjective types of injuries, such as a herniated
disc in the neck or back that requires surgery. In such cases Defense
attorneys will go to great lengths to try to disclaim liability for the
drunk driving accident, by claiming that the neck or back condition was
pre-existing or degenerative (i.e., non-traumatic) in nature, and thus
was not caused by the accident. Such claims are commonly made even when
our clients require surgery due to injuries sustained in these types of
accidents. Prosecuting a serious drunk driving accident case will not
be a simple matter, but rest assured, our knowledgeable and experienced
attorneys will best represent your interests and needs in a case of that nature.
What Happens if the Drunk Driver Isn't Sufficiently Insured?
A major issue that arises in drunk driving accidents is the fact that there
is often insufficient insurance coverage maintained by the offending driver
to fairly compensate the victims for the catastrophic result of the collision.
In many cases, compulsory auto insurance minimum coverage in the State
of New York only provides coverage of $25,000 per person per accident.
As a result, many drivers maintain only the minimum insurance coverage,
or some other inadequate amount to fairly compensate the victim. These
drivers often have little or no assets to satisfy a judgment. As a result,
an experienced drunk driving attorney needs to do more than just scratch
the surface in investigating a drunk driving accident.
In this regard, it is imperative to do a full, prompt, and thorough investigation
to determine if some other entity such as a bar, restaurant or tavern
also bears some responsibility for the occurrence of the accident by improperly
serving alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated driver. In order to determine
the circumstances under which the drunk driver became intoxicated, an
investigation must be performed to determine where the drunk driver consumed
the alcohol, and how much alcohol was consumed and within what period
of time. It is also critical to try to find witnesses to the consumption
of the beverages. Finding witnesses is critical. In order to prove a case
against the server of the beverages, it will be necessary to prove, based
on a preponderance of the evidence, that the offending driver was visibly
intoxicated and was nevertheless served alcohol that lead to the accident.
Such proof may come in the form of witnesses who are able to attest to
the fact that the individual was slurring his or her speech while or prior
to being served alcohol, or proof that otherwise shows that the person
was unsteady on his feet or loud and unruly (all things that may be evidence
of intoxication). An attorney needs to collect enough evidence to potentially
show a jury that the server of the alcohol had enough information so that
they knew or should have known that the person was already drunk when
they were given alcohol. If this can be proven, liability may attach to
the alcohol server's establishment. Proving liability against the
alcohol server's establishment is an important element of drunk driving
cases when, as previously discussed, the driver himself is woefully underinsured.
Bars or taverns often have adequate insurance to fairly compensate the
victim. An experienced DUI attorney will leave no stone unturned to seek
the truth of the circumstance under which the intoxicated person became drunk.
New York Dram Shop Liability
The right to pursue compensation against the server of alcohol is a right
that exists because of specific statutes passed into law by the New York
State Legislature. These statutes serve the public interest in creating
a disincentive for proprietors of establishments that serve alcohol to
serve alcohol to already intoxicated persons. It is a policy and law that
helps protect the public in general, and specifically provides a cause
of action against a party that is potentially liable for a catastrophic loss.
These laws are commonly known as The Dram Shop Act. The Dram Shop Act is
contained within New York General Obligations Laws 11-100 and 11-101.
These provisions provide as follows:
11-100: "Any person who knowingly causes such intoxication or impairment of
ability by unlawfully furnishing to or unlawfully assisting in procuring
alcoholic beverages for such person with knowledge or reasonable cause
to believe that such person was under the age of twenty-one years."
This law places liability on any individual or entity who sold alcohol
to a person under the age of 21. In other words, a liquor store or bar
who sold alcohol to an individual that they knew or should have known
was under 21, may be liable for any damages the intoxicated individual causes.
11-101: "Any person who unlawfully sold or assisted in procuring liquor for
such intoxicated person and caused or contributed to such intoxication."
This law places liability on any individual or entity who supplies a visibly
intoxicated person with alcohol. In other words, if an employee of a bar
or liquor store is aware that one of their customers is intoxicated, they
are obligated not to serve them. If they serve their customer despite
visible intoxication, they may be liable for any damages that result.
Do Not Hesitate to Contact a DUI Accident Attorney in New York
Due to the statute of limitations, it is important that individuals who
have suffered an injury in an accident with a drunk driver not hesitate
to contact an attorney. The statute of limitations is a law that limits
the amount of time an individual has to file a lawsuit following an injury.
Failure to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires can
result in a victim being forever barred from receiving the compensation
they may be entitled. In New York, the statute of limitations for filing
a lawsuit following a car accident is typically three years; however it
can vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. As a
result, injured individuals should waste no time retaining a skilled lawyer.
At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, our
car accident lawyers understand there is only a limited amount of time to file a claim following
an accident. We will handle all aspects of the legal process to ensure
that your claim is filed in a timely manner.
If you have been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, you may have
legal recourse. For a free, no obligation consultation, call 212-406-1700
or fill out our online case review form. Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs
& Kool take all cases on a contingent fee basis, meaning there is
no charge unless we secure you a monetary recovery.