Drunk Driving Accidents in New Jersey
Every 51 minutes, someone in the United States is killed by a drunk driver. Despite tough state laws and national public campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving, car accidents involving intoxicated drivers are still happening at an alarming rate. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk driving-related fatalities account for 31 percent of all fatal car accidents in the US.
Driving while intoxicated is a reckless and negligent act that demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the safety of others. In addition to the loss of life, drunk driving causes accidents that lead to property damage, injuries, and arrests that cost the American public more than $71.6 billion every year. More than the financial costs, victims of drunk driving accidents and their families suffer devastating personal losses from these tragic and entirely preventable accidents.
While no amount of financial compensation can bring back a loved one or make someone who has suffered a catastrophic injury whole again, a lawsuit can help bring victims peace of mind that the responsible party will be held accountable for their actions. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drunk driving car accident, an experienced lawyer could help you get the justice you deserve and the compensation you need to pay for the many expenses resulting from another motorist’s decision to driver under the influence.
A driver who is found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher can be held liable if they cause an accident that results in injury or death. However, a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) is not limited to alcohol consumption. Any substance that reduces a driver’s reaction time or ability to focus on the task of driving causes a risk to everyone on the road. A driver under the influence of any mind-altering substance, including marijuana and other illegal drugs, as well as some prescription or over-the-counter medications, can also be held liable for damages they cause in an accident.
What Happens if the Injured Person Was Also the Drunk Driver?
In situations where the injured person was also the drunk driver, the court would allocate a specific amount of fault to him or her, which could affect his or her recovery because New Jersey is a modified comparative fault state. As long as the injured party is not found more than 51 percent at fault, he or she could still pursue damages. In these types of cases, it is also useful to look to the establishment that served or over-served the alcohol and allowed the driver to leave intoxicated.
Third Party Liability
Restaurants, bars, and liquor stores have a duty to serve responsibly. Thirty states, including New Jersey, have statues that place liability on these and other licensed establishments. Under the Dram Shop Act, businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages to minors or individuals who are obviously intoxicated can be held liable for injuries or deaths caused by that person.
Many states, including New Jersey, also impose liability to a social host if a party guest is involved in a drunk driving accident that causes injuries or fatalities. These statutes apply to hosts who serve alcohol or make alcohol available to minors, and to hosts who provide alcohol to guests that are visibly intoxicated. It is important to note that New Jersey courts have extended the definition of “provide” to include self-service by guests.
Does an Injured Driver Have to Press Charges against a Drunk Driver?
No, an injured driver does not have to press charges against the drunk driver. New Jersey pursues its own criminal charges against drunk drivers. However, the injured party may be a witness or may be called to testify during those criminal charges or proceedings.
Individuals and families harmed by the reckless actions of another are entitled to pursue compensation for their losses. By filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, victims can recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages (including future lost wages), emotional distress, pain and suffering, funeral expenses and loss of companionship.