Getting Compensation After a Drunk Driving Accident
Drunk driving is a prevailing issue that poses a significant threat to the well-being of motorists, passengers and pedestrians. If you or someone you love was injured or killed in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, you may have legal options.
The New Jersey car accident lawyers at Lynch Law Firm, PC are committed to holding drunk drivers responsible for the harm they cause. We understand how to help victims of drunk driving accidents pursue compensation for their pain and suffering. Contact us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation to find out if you have a case.
Drunk Driving Insurance Claims
New Jersey is a no-fault insurance state, which means each driver’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage pays for the damages that he or she sustained in an auto accident.
This means victims of drunk driving accidents will first need to file a personal injury claim with their own insurance company in order to receive compensation for medical care, lost wages or death benefits.
However, the extent of your PIP coverage and the compensation you can receive is based on the amount you purchased with your auto insurance policy.
Depending on the level of PIP coverage you purchased, you may be compensated for:
- Medical Expenses – PIP coverage reimburses you for medical expenses, including hospital stays, doctors’ visits, ambulance services, physical therapy, diagnostic tests and medication.
- Lost Income – PIP covers lost wages if you are unable to work because of an injury you sustained during an auto accident.
- Death Benefits – If a loved one died in an auto accident, your PIP will pay death benefits to the surviving spouse if the insured victim was a provider in the household. PIP also covers funeral or burial expenses up to $1,000.
When You Can File a Lawsuit
At the time you purchased PIP coverage with your automotive insurance, your provider should have given you the option to purchase a policy with limited right to sue or unlimited right to sue.
If you chose to purchase a standard policy with the unlimited right to sue, you may be able to sue the drunk driver for the damages you sustained that exceeded your policy limits. Additionally, you may be able to sue for non-economic damages like pain and suffering and mental anguish.
You may also be able to sue for punitive damages. However, these damages are not meant as compensation for your pain and suffering, but as a means to punish the at-fault party for drunk driving.
However, if you chose to purchase a policy with the limited right to sue, you cannot file a lawsuit against the at-fault party unless you sustained a permanent injury such as:
- Significant body disfigurement
- Displaced fracture
- Loss of a body part
- Loss of a fetus
This limited right to sue only applies to non-economic damages and does not limit your right to sue for damages such as medical bills and lost wages.
Dram Shop Liability
In addition to filing a lawsuit against a drunk driver, it may also be possible to hold the entity that served alcohol to the drunk driver liable for the accident.
New Jersey holds bars, restaurants and other commercial establishments liable for serving liquor to patrons who cause drunk driving accidents. If the establishment continued to serve alcohol to someone who was clearly intoxicated, it may be liable under the Dram Shop law.
Under NJ Rev. Stat. § 2A: 22A-4, to bring a Dram Shop claim, a victim must be able to establish one of the following scenarios:
- The establishment served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated; or
- The establishment sold alcohol to someone under the age of 21 and had reason to believe the person was underage
Social Host Liability
Even private social hosts can be held liable for drunk drivers. If a host served a drunk guest alcohol, knowing that he or she would later drive a vehicle, the injured victim may be able to bring a claim against the host.
A claim of this nature may arise only when all of the following conditions are present:
- The guest was visibly intoxicated or underage.
- The alcohol was provided in a manner that demonstrated reckless disregard of the likely consequences.
- The circumstances surrounding alcohol caused an unreasonable risk of harm to others or property.
- The guest caused injury after leaving the host’s home or venue.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer for Help with Your Drunk Driving Claim
Although no amount of financial compensation can fix the suffering of losing a loved one or suffering injury from a drunk driving accident, a personal injury lawsuit may help you obtain the resources you need to recover.
If you were injured in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, contact a personal injury lawyer at Lynch Law Firm, PC. We will review your claim to determine if your auto insurance policy will adequately cover the damages you suffered because of the crash. We will also explore the possibility of pursuing additional compensation through a lawsuit.
Our compassionate attorneys do not charge any upfront fees and only get paid if you recover compensation for your claim.
Call (800) 518-0508 to get started today.