Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of serious car accidents in America. According to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, drunk driving is involved in twenty-nine percent of fatal car accidents nationwide.
Fortunately, a person who has been injured by a drunk driver in New Jersey has several options to pursue compensation.
CAR INSURANCE PERSONAL INJURY BENEFITS
The easiest way to be compensated for an injury caused by a drunk driver is through car insurance. Car insurance policies in New Jersey are required to include Personal Injury Protection (or PIP) benefits that are available to pay medical bills and lost wages no matter who is at fault for a car accident.
PIP benefits apply even when the injured driver is intoxicated. In the case of Walcott versus Allstate New Jersey Insurance Co., a woman crashed her car while driving with a 0.10 percent blood alcohol level. She pled guilty to driving under the influence and the defendant, her insurance company, refused to pay out PIP benefits. The woman sued and the Appellate Division of the Superior Court ruled in her favor.
If PIP benefits are unavailable, denied, or insufficient to cover damages, or you want to be compensated for non-economic damages like pain and suffering or mental anguish, you will need to sue the drunk driver.
SUING A DRUNK DRIVER
A good lawyer can usually win a personal injury lawsuit against a drunk driver because drunk driving is a classic example of negligent conduct. But personal injury lawsuits against drunk drivers have their limits. For example, a person may only sue a drunk driver for non-economic damages if he or she sustained permanent injuries.
In some cases, it’s also possible to win punitive damages against a drunk driver. In New Jersey, punitive damages are available only when the responsible party acted with a conscious and deliberate disregard for the safety of others.
SUING A BAR OR RESTAURANT
Under its dram shop law, New Jersey allows victims of drunk drivers to sue the bar or restaurant where the driver got drunk. If a bar or restaurant served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, that bar or restaurant can be held liable for injuries caused by that intoxicated person.
Strictly speaking, any organization with a liquor license can be held liable under the dram shop law, not just a bar or restaurant.
SUING OTHERS FOR A DRUNK DRIVER’S CONDUCT
Depending on the circumstances, there may be others liable for a drunk driver’s conduct. If the owner of a car allowed a visibly intoxicated person to drive, the car’s owner can be held liable for negligence.
In other cases, the host of a social gathering who allows a visibly intoxicated guest to continue drinking can be held liable if the intoxicated guest drives drunk and injures another. New Jersey law establishes that any social host who provides alcohol to a visibly intoxicated guest when drunk driving is foreseeable, may be liable for drunk driving injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, contact Rosenblum Law for a free consultation.