Who Can You Sue After Being Hit By A Drunk Driver?

It’s almost impossible to read or watch the news on any given day and not hear about a car accident involving a drunk driver and many people know someone who was involved in a drunk driving accident. In fact, these accidents are so common that nearly every 90 seconds someone is injured in one and on average, 28 people die.

The law allows the victims injured in one of these accidents, or the loved ones of someone who died, to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver responsible so that monetary compensation may be obtained, however, what isn’t often realized is that the bar or restaurant which served them the drinks may also be held legally liable.

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

bar that is subject to dram laws

Under New York General Obligations Law sections 11-100 and 11-101, there are several situations in which a vendor may be sued by the victim of a drunk driving accident:

  1. If the vendor knowingly caused intoxication by unlawfully providing alcohol to someone.
  2. If the vendor knowingly caused intoxication by unlawfully providing alcohol to someone who is under the age of 21.

Basically, if someone serves alcohol to another person who is already visibly intoxicated or if they are underage, they may be held liable for any injuries that others sustained due to the intoxicated person’s actions.

So for example, if a 19-year-old goes to a bar, the bartender fails to check for their ID, serves them, and then the intoxicated teenager gets behind the wheel of a car and rear-ends another driver, anyone injured by the teenager may file a personal injury lawsuit against the bar.

Should I File A Drunk Driving Lawsuit?

It’s not unusual for the victim of a drunk driving accident to be unsure of whether or not they are able to pursue legal action or to question if filing a lawsuit would be worth their time. Many of our clients have told us that at first, they simply had faith that their insurance companies would handle any medical expenses and losses they may have, only to find that this isn’t always the case.

New York Car Insurance Facts

Car insurance in New York, which every single car owner is required to have, is considered “no-fault”, meaning that it doesn’t matter who caused the accident, the insurance covering the car will cover whoever is inside and the damage done to the car.

The problem is that it’s very easy for anyone who has been seriously injured to reach the insurance policy limit. In New York, the minimum coverage is $25,000 for bodily injury to one person and $50,000 for all persons, which may seem like quite a bit, however, in the grand scheme of medical care, it’s not.

The Costs Of Care For Common Injuries

Just how easy is it for one person to require more than $25,000 in medical care? Let’s take a look at the typical costs of some of the more common auto accident injuries.

Broken Bones

While a broken bone many not seem like that big of a deal, the reality is that x-rays, CT scans, MRI’s, anesthesia, surgery, pain medications, casts, and physical therapy may all be needed to treat just one broken bone. A broken ankle alone can cost as much as $10,000 and a broken patella may require $15,000 worth of treatments. It’s obvious what happens if more than one bone is broken or if complications occur – those costs quickly rise.

Burns

Anytime that a force strikes a vehicle with a gas tank, there is a chance that a fire may break out and due to the fact that gasoline is an accelerant, the flames and heat will quickly spread or an car damaged in a drunk driving accidentexplosion may occur. Burn victims frequently suffer from complications such as infections and it may take months of skin grafts and care to heal. Even then, extensive scarring is likely. Given the treatments required, the average cost of care for an adult burn victim is just over $73,000.

Traumatic Brain Injury

The brain is still very much a medical mystery and when damage is done, any number of things may happen to the patient, including personality changes, loss of speech, loss of memory, and even paralysis. Around the clock care is often needed. The lifetime cost of care for victims with a TBI can reach as much as $3 million.

Spinal Damage

If damage is done to the nerves, spinal cord, or bones in the spine, partial or total paralysis may occur, limiting the victim’s movement. Just like with a brain injury, the treatments needed for a spinal injury can reach millions of dollars.

These are just a few injuries which can leave a victim suffering both physically and financially, which frequently results in their decision to contact an attorney to see how they can help.

How Can A Lawyer Help?

A car accident lawyer can not only help with the actual filing of the lawsuit, they can also speak with the insurance companies, collect evidence and documents, identify if any other party’s negligence contributed to the accident, consult with specialists, negotiate settlements, and represent a client in court.

The entire purpose of filing a lawsuit is to obtain compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost earnings
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma

The amount obtained is different in every case, however, studies have shown that plaintiffs working with an attorney are much more likely to obtain compensation and to recover a higher amount.

Drunk Driving Lawsuit Settlements

The majority if all civil lawsuits end with a settlement. This means that the defendant made an offer to settle, providing the victim with a specific amount of compensation. In return, the case won’t go to court and further legal action won’t be taken. Clients don’t need to accept an offer that is made and it frequently takes tough negotiation to obtain an appropriate amount. There are benefits, however, as there is no way to determine how many a jury may award a plaintiff. In addition to this, most settlement payments are received within 30 days. If the case goes to court, appeals may result in the plaintiff waiting for years.

Additional Resources For Car Accident Victims