New Jersey is no stranger to drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, 23 percent of car accident fatalities in New Jersey are alcohol related. This figure doesn’t account for the number of injured victims of drunk drivers, which is much higher. Drunk driving accidents are unlike many other vehicle accidents because of the potential for criminal prosecution as well as a civil personal injury claim.
Criminal Prosecution for Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is a crime in New Jersey, as it is in all states. If the driver in the accident was arrested for driving under the influence, that driver may very well be prosecuted for the criminal offense. The outcome of the criminal case can have an effect on a personal injury claim. If the driver is found guilty, this can greatly help a personal injury case. That being said, if the driver is found not guilty or pleaded to a lesser offense, you still can file a personal injury claim.
The burden of proof in a criminal case is higher than what is needed to prove a personal injury claim. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil personal injury lawsuit, you must only prove a preponderance of evidence to be successful.
It’s also important to note that criminal cases are prosecuted by a District Attorney’s office in the state. Personal injury claims are civil lawsuits filed by the injured victim(s) against the liable party.
Drunk Driving Personal Injury Lawsuits
Whether you were a passenger in the same vehicle as a drunk driver, if you were in another car, or if you were a pedestrian, you can file a lawsuit in order to obtain financial compensation for your injuries, or a wrongful death claim if you lost a family member. Your personal injury lawsuit will be targeted at recovering sufficient financial compensation to pay for all your expenses arising from the drunk driving accident.
This figure will include:
- Your bills for emergency medical treatment on the scene of the accident and at the hospital
- Follow-up visits
- Any type of rehabilitative care you may need to regain your health or abilities
It will also be necessary to obtain funds to help you through the period when you have to miss work so that you can fully recover from your injuries. Personal injury attorneys may also be able to pursue punitive damages for the pain and suffering caused to you and your family.
Social Host Liability Laws
Sometimes referred to as “dram shop liability”, social host liability refers to the criminal and civil law pertaining to people who serve alcohol to guests. New Jersey allows a person injured by a drunk person–often a drunk driver–to sue the person who served the alcohol. In order to win a claim, New Jersey’s social host liability laws require that the injured person prove certain elements of their claim. Most critically, you must prove that the person responsible for the accident and caused the injuries was “visibly intoxicated” in front of the party’s host. Further, the host must have known or reasonably presumed that the intoxicated person may operate a motor vehicle.
Get Help After an Accident
It may be difficult to assess your options for a personal injury claim after a drunk driving accident. If you or a loved one has been involved or injured in an accident, it's in your best interest to contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney to discuss your case.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that you believe was caused by another person's negligence, contact Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law to review your case with a skilled New Jersey injury lawyer. Our firm has extensive experience in successfully representing a wide range of personal injury cases, and we pride ourselves in being able to provide clients with the passionate representation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.