Have you ever ended up in a car accident as the result of a drunk driver? Unfortunately, many people have been in the wrong place at the wrong time when an intoxicated person decided to make the dreadful decision to drive drunk. You may be wondering, “What now?” or even “Can I sue the drunk driver for the pain and suffering they caused me when I innocently was involved in the accident due to their negligence?” We have the legal answers for you!
The laws in New Jersey have been designed to protect the innocent victims that become entangled in the poor decisions of a person who decides to drive drunk. First and foremost, YES, the drunk driver can and will be persecuted in a criminal court. Additionally, you have the option to sue the defendant in civil court after the criminal case has concluded. The criminal charges the defendant will face in New Jersey criminal courts will result in imprisonment as well as monetary reimbursement and the results for your civil case are dependent upon the specifics of your personal case.
If you decided the route of suing the defendant in a civil court, there are two main types of negligence that will be examined regarding your specific car accident case:
The first type of negligence a court willexamine in your case is referred to as Comparative Negligence. According to the State of New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, Comparative Negligence is defined as the way the court regulates the degree of responsibility both persons involved in the accident had on the date of the incident. The Comparative Negligence Act states that auto insurance companies must review the details of the accident and make the final determination of who was responsible for each individual aspect of the accident.
The specific details that auto insurance companies will be reviewing are the following:
- Primary reason the accident occurred, i.e. running a stop sign, veering into next lane, etc.
- Vaster responsibility of care, i.e. the person to the right has the right-a-way
- Clear opportunity to avoid the auto accident, i.e. measures taken to evade the collision
The second kind of negligence that will be taken into consideration is called Contributory Negligence. Contributory Negligence is the determination if a person was hurt due in part to their own negligence, in which they “contributed” to their own injury. For example, if a person is driving drunk but the person they hit was already crossing over the separating lane line, the person who was veering, in fact, contributed to the accident as well as the drunk driver. Some states have deemed this doctrine of law unfair and it is not as widely used as the Comparative Negligence doctrine.
Civil Suit Against Drunk Driver
After a drunk driver has been convicted in the criminal courts, you have the option to sue the defendant in a civil court. Criminal court is calculated to keep the public safe from a drunk driver as a means of deterrence of conducting a repeat offense. The drunk driver will serve the terms of punishment after convicted of the crime. Civil court is designed to allow the innocent victim to file an injury lawsuit against the defendant in order to recover damages from the accident. It is possible that you may be injured from the accident, which may result in a loss of wages, medical expenses, personal property damage as well as other damages. These wages are referred to as “compensatory damages”. There are other damages that may be recovered on the emotional front, also known as pain and suffering, that are referred to as “punitive damages.”
In order to get the process started, it is imperative to hire a credible and experienced attorney in the field of personal injury. Your selection of attorney(s) is your ultimate ticket to recovering any and all damages. Finding the most experienced attorney is crucial for enduring what could be a grueling process and painful regurgitation of the events that caused you injury as the innocent party. The process of a civil suit will go as follows:
File a Complaint- The injured party will file a complaint against the accused.
Provide Adequate Evidence- The plaintiff is mandated to provide enough credible evidence to prove the damages were directly caused by the actions of the defendant. The plaintiff will ask for either/or compensatory and punitive damages for loss of wage, car repair, medical bills, funeral bill, pain and suffering, etc. This evidence will need to be in the form of doctor’s notes, bills, pictures, report slips, employee certificates, etc. If the driver was killed in the accident, the heirs of the plaintiff will sue for wrongful death and ask to be awarded both compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the decedent.
Defendant is insolvent- If the defendant does not have the means to pay the awarded damages, the plaintiff has all rights to seek payment from the defendant’s employer by making a claim against them if the accident occurred within the scope of duty, or “on the clock”. The employer is then mandated to take into consideration the offense and supervise the employee. If the plaintiff proves the employer did not show proper due diligence, the plaintiff or heirs of the decedent can file suit against the employer.
Lastly, the judge will take into consideration all the details and specificities of your case. After careful and thoughtful deliberation, and with the right attorney(s), you will be awarded the adequate damages needed to heal properly, regain lost wages, fix and/or replace your car, economic recovery and psychological pain and suffering relief. Do not get left out in the cold if you become the innocent victim of a drunk driving accident.