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.