According to statistics, more than half of all highway motor vehicle accident fatalities involve drunk drivers and nearly two thirds of all single fatal car accidents are tied to alcohol abuse. But a motor vehicle accident is a motor vehicle accident, right? It doesn’t matter if the driver was drunk—you still need to take the same steps to recover compensation for your losses, don’t you? Not necessarily! Here are some ways in which a crash involving a drunk driver may be different.
You May Be Able to Sue the Driver Directly
If the state is a no-fault insurance state, like New York, you typically have to look first to your own insurance provider and cannot sue the driver directly unless there are extenuating circumstances. In New York, that means that your injuries must pass a threshold defining “serious injury.” The reality, though, is that the vast majority of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents result in serious injury or even death.
The Criminal Process Can Help in Your Lawsuit for Damages
Because drunk driving is also a criminal violation, law enforcement officers will fully investigate the facts and circumstances of the accident. Blood alcohol tests can help you establish negligence in a personal injury action, even though a conviction or plea for drunk driving does not automatically mean the person will be found liable for damages.
Some States Allow for Punitive Damages
If you can show that the drunk driver’s actions demonstrated a disregard for the safety of others, you may be able to obtain punitive damages in addition to compensation for actual losses. Drunk driving is typically thought to be reckless and egregious and often brings an award for punitive damages.
You May Be Able to Sue Other Parties
In New York, as in other states, there are dram shop and social host liability laws that make persons who serve alcohol responsible for injuries caused by those served. If a bar, restaurant or tavern employee served someone who was visibly intoxicated, or served them enough that a reasonable person would expect them to become intoxicated, the employee and the establishment can have some responsibility for the accident.
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