When a drunk driver hits your car

Police emergency light & conesA drunk driver is a hazard to him or herself, other drivers and pedestrians. In 2011, there were an estimated 193 alcohol-related driving fatalities in New Jersey. That constituted 30.8 percent of all fatal auto accidents that year.

If a drunk driver is responsible for causing a car accident, that driver can be held criminally liable. Under New Jersey law, it’s a crime to drive while intoxicated. Intoxication can be measured by a blood or breath test of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Anyone with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher while driving a car can be charged with DUI.

The driver, the driver’s auto insurance carrier and possibly the person or business who served alcohol to the driver could also be held financially responsible.

Criminal and civil claims

Criminal prosecutors may file charges against the driver who caused the accident. If the driver is found guilty or pleads guilty as part of a plea bargain, the driver may be ordered to pay you restitution. Even if the driver is able to pay this amount, it’s probably not what your civil case may be worth.

To recover civil damages, a lawsuit must be filed in a civil court. If the driver was convicted or plead guilty to DUI, this is prima facie evidence (enough evidence to create a presumption that the person did what he’s accused of doing) of reckless behavior. This will support your civil claim and makes it very difficult for a defendant to contest the lawsuit’s allegations.

Dram shop and social host laws

Depending on the circumstances, New Jersey’s dram shop law may allow you to pursue damages from the bar, nightclub, restaurant or alcohol vendor who served the driver who caused the accident. The state’s social host law holds noncommercial individuals liable if a guest leaves their home or event too impaired to drive.

  • These statutes make negligent commercial establishments and individuals potentially liable for damages caused by drunk drivers they have served.
  • They also could enable you to cast a wider net in which to find additional potential defendants, increasing the chances you will be able to resolve your case for a greater amount of money.
  • These laws are particularly important if the driver who hits you is uninsured or underinsured, and/or your uninsured or underinsured coverage on your own auto policy is insufficient to meet your needs.

We represent plaintiffs who were injured by drunk drivers. If this has happened to you or a loved one, contact our office so we can discuss your situation and your options to seek compensation.