Drunk Driving Accidents
Many automobile accidents occur as a result of drunk driving. When an automobile accident occurs and the driver of the automobile has a blood alcohol reading of .08 or higher, this is a violation of a statute. That violation can be used in a personal injury case to prove the drunk drivers negligence that is separate from a criminal case against the drunk driver.
In an action against a drunk driver, the injured party collects for pain and suffering and actual out of pocket expenses as a result of the accident. In addition, in New York you can collect punitive damages from the drunk driver. The proof and burden of the injured party is to show the drunk driver was willful, wonton and reckless in driving a car under the influence of alcohol. The jury is instructed that this element of damage is in addition to pain and suffering and pecuniary loss when the injured party is awarded punitive damages. The responsible party must pay this part of the verdict personally (there is no insurance coverage for punitive damages). The purpose is to punish the drunk driver monetarily. This element of damages is sometimes difficult to collect if the drunk driver has no personal money or assets.
You can also prove a negligence case against a drunk driver if he pleads down his Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge to Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). A plea is an admission against interest and even if you don’t plead guilty to DWI, you are still violating a statute and you can use this violation (DWAI) to prove the driver’s negligence. The fact that the criminal law allows for reduction to DWAI does not affect the civil suit against the drunk driver. A plea to DWAI is still proof in an auto accident of negligence per se of the driver.
You can also collect punitive damages against a driver that pleas to DWAI. You must also prove willful, wanton, and recklessness in driving a car under the influence of alcohol. The juries punish drivers with pleas to DWAI just as much as drivers who are found guilty and plea to DWI. Juries also punish those drivers with higher verdict and punitive damages.
As a result of the injuries sustained because of drunk driving, the jury awards greater monetary damages. This is a result of the publicity of drunk drivers (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and other organizations). Society no longer accepts drunk driving in any form. There is zero tolerance and the jury awards reflect this intolerance of drunk drivers.
Another area that drunk driving leads to is the responsibility of the restaurant, bar, club, etc. for serving an intoxicated person. The injured party must prove that the drunk driver was served too much liquor before they left the premises and as a result was legally intoxicated when they crashed into another vehicle. Not only does the injured party have a lawsuit against the driver but they also have a lawsuit against the establishment that served the alcohol to an intoxicated person. The establishment would violate the Dram Shop Act, a law that makes the restaurant, bar, club, etc. responsible monetarily to the injured party. An establishment who has Dram Shop insurance will be covered for serving intoxicated persons and the injured party can collect against the establishment. Dram Shop coverage is rare because most times the establishment (bar, restaurant, club, etc.) can not afford the coverage. The establishment if sued without Dram Shop coverage just closes up and starts new under a different corporation.
If you or a family member has been injured by a drunk driver, you can collect a monetary award for pain and suffering, pecuniary loss and punitive damages. Please contact The Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC.