Few things are more reckless than getting behind the wheel of a car while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Impaired driving can be disastrous for innocent victims, not just the impaired driver. This is why it is so important for drunk or drugged NY drivers to be held accountable for their actions - not only by the criminal justice system, but also in civil court. Sadly, even in cases of drunk driving, the impaired driver’s insurance company may try to limit the amount of money they owe you.
At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, our team of compassionate and dedicated New York car accident lawyers can provide the legal guidance you need to recover compensation for your injuries. We can thoroughly investigate the nature of your accident, review the other driver’s insurance policy, and advocate for full compensation in an auto accident claim.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a drunk or drugged driver, call Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP at (212) 986-7353 to tell us what happened in a free consultation. Our top NY DUI accident attorneys will discuss your options, and if we can help you get justice, we will.
More than 10,000 lives were lost in a single year due to drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tragic numbers make up 29% of all fatal accidents in the United States, and the dangers of an impaired driver are not much better in the state of New York. While recent reports by the New York Governor’s Traffic Commission have shown that fatal accidents involving alcohol are decreasing in the state, drug-related accidents have been on an upward trend, reaching an average of 256 each year over a four-year period.
Any impairment in a driver can result in a fatal car accident. Alcohol and drugs, including prescription pills and over-the-counter medication, can significantly reduce a driver’s motor skills and reaction times. When impaired, a driver is less likely to respond to dangerous road conditions, stay in their lane, maintain their speed, or follow local traffic laws. A single crash can seriously injure everyone involved, including other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Such a negligent action not only makes an impaired driver liable in a personal injury claim, but also in criminal court.
New York State has specific definitions for different forms of alcohol and drug impairment when it comes to driving. Many of these depend on the blood alcohol content (BAC) of a driver, as tested by a sobriety test, but the main laws are:
- Driving While Intoxicated: Driving a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher; or operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or higher.
- Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated: Operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.18 or higher.
- Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol: Driving a vehicle with a BAC higher than 0.05 but less than 0.07, for non-commercial drivers.
- Driving While Ability Impaired by a Single Drug: When a driver is found to be under the influence of one kind of drug, illegal or legal, which impairs behavior.
- Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol: As the name suggests, when a driver is under the effects of multiple drugs, or drugs and alcohol.
- Chemical Test Refusal: A separate criminal charge, this occurs when a driver refuses to take a sobriety test, usually a breath, blood, or urine test.
- Zero Tolerance Law: For drivers under the age of 21 years old, a BAC of 0.02 or higher.
While the driver who breaks these laws will usually face criminal charges, that does not automatically mean his or her victims will receive money to pay for their medical bills and other expenses. In order to do that, you must file a civil claim against the at-fault driver. However, if the at-fault driver is convicted of the drunk driving offense, this is strong proof for your civil claim.
First, it is important to review the police report with an attorney. The first hour after an auto accident can be chaotic, especially on a New York highway. It is possible that the officers investigating your accident failed to cite the at-fault driver for a DUI, did not perform a breathalyzer test, or did not state who was at fault. While the at-fault driver does not have to face criminal charges for you to receive compensation, the support of a police officer and criminal court can prove incredibly useful.
Alongside this report, our lawyers can review the at-fault driver’s records to determine if he had any previous DUI convictions or if he was driving with a suspended license. If the driver drove commercially, such as for a truck or bus company, we may be able to file a claim with his employer. Transportation companies are required to perform thorough background checks into job applicants and, if the applicant has a DUI conviction for drug or alcohol use, then companies should avoid hiring that driver if the conviction was recent. Putting an unsafe or unreliable driver on the road can make a transportation company liable for any injuries caused in an accident.
In addition to filing a claim against an impaired driver or their employer, accident victims can also pursue claims if a business owner, such as a bar, restaurant, or liquor store, sold alcohol to an impaired driver. Under New York’s Dram Shop Laws, business owners can be found liable for a DUI accident if an employee knowingly and willingly sold alcohol to an intoxicated adult or someone under the age of 21 years old.
While business owners should always check if a customer is 21 or older before selling them alcohol, many forego proper procedures because a customer looks “old enough.” This is never acceptable, and in addition to being fined for an illegal sale, a business owner can be found liable for compensation to the victim if they sold alcohol to an underage driver and that driver caused an accident. In addition, if a patron at a bar or a liquor store customer is clearly intoxicated, employees should refuse to serve any more alcohol.
In order to file a successful claim against a business owner under dram shop laws, an accident victim must prove that:
- A business sold alcohol to a customer who was visibly intoxicated or underage;
- The customer had a duty of care towards the accident victim; and
- The customer broke that duty of care due to intoxication and injured the accident victim.
Uncovering evidence of a dram shop violation is difficult on your own, which is why you should work with an experienced personal injury attorney. At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, we can utilize our more than 50 years of experience to thoroughly investigate your case and determine who is liable for your injuries.
In a lawsuit against an impaired driver, you may be able to get "compensatory damages" in addition to "punitive damages." Compensatory damages are the economic and non-economic costs you incurred because of the drunk driver. Compensatory damages are only available in civil claims, meaning the courts will not automatically reward you this money if an impaired driver is convicted of a DUI in criminal court. Punitive damages involve extra money that the jury awards to a victim to punish the driver for his or her behavior, if "the wrongdoer's actions amount to willful or wanton negligence."
Compensation in a DUI accident claim can include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Lost career opportunities
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium in the case of fatal accidents
- Punitive damages
Our top NY personal injury attorneys can and have made the case that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs counts as willful or wanton negligence, and we have gotten successful results for numerous clients.
While criminal charges against people who drive under the influence are helpful, they do little to compensate the people injured by these drivers. DUI accidents can involve a wide variety of costly and painful injuries, from traumatic brain damage to paralysis to burns. All of these injuries can bury someone in medical debt, which is why you should not hesitate to file a claim against an impaired driver who caused your injuries.
If you have been in an accident with an intoxicated driver, you should immediately contact a NY drunk driver car accident lawyer at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. We can review your case in a free consultation and, if we take you on as a client, represent you in a settlement negotiation or jury trial. We have secured millions of dollars in compensation for our clients and can provide you with the same expertise and skill. To speak with a knowledgeable team of lawyers today, call our office at (212) 986-7353. We will examine your case and go to work to get you the compensation you deserve.
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