If you are hurt in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you have the same rights to recover compensation as you would against any negligent driver, but there are a couple of special considerations. First, let’s recap the personal injury basics:
- Under New Jersey’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law, a party injured in an auto accident must first file a claim with the insurer covering the vehicle in which he or she was injured, rather than against the negligent driver.
- PIP only covers medical costs, work-loss costs and funeral expenses, not pain and suffering. PIP payments are limited by the terms of the policy. You may use your health insurance as the primary source for covering medical costs.
- The PIP coverage determines whether the victim has a limited right to sue (limited tort) or unlimited right to sue (unlimited tort). With limited right to sue, the victim can only sue the at-fault driver for medical costs, not pain and suffering, unless the victim has suffered a severe injury such as dismemberment, disfigurement, a lost fetus, or permanent injury. With unlimited tort, the victim can sue for all losses, including pain and suffering, for any injury.
The fact that the driver who caused the accident was drunk at the time does not change any of these restrictions. There are, however, a few other points to keep in mind:
- A finding that the other driver was intoxicated generally makes it easier to prove fault in a lawsuit, but is not dispositive and does not rule out comparative negligence on the part of the victim.
- A drunk driver who causes a serious accident may be driving on a suspended or revoked license and without insurance. This means any judgment for your personal injury case would have to come out of his personal resources, such as savings, a home, or a business.
- A drunk driver who causes an accident where there is property damage, physical injury, and possibly the death of another person faces an aggressive prosecution for serious crimes. If the driver is found guilty, liability in a civil lawsuit is ensured. However, the driver may have exhausted his personal resources defending the criminal charges, making it very difficult to collect on your personal injury claim.
To get the greatest recovery for your auto accident claim, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Seigel Law is ready to help in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey. Contact us online or call 201.444.4000 today for a free case evaluation.