Queens Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

Speed limit sign on the side of a highway.

According to State Police data, drunk drivers in New York account for more than 17,000 deaths annually. Countless others are severely and sometimes permanently injured. Motorists, pedestrians, and others who use our streets and sidewalks have the right to do so without fear that they will be struck or killed by a drunk driver. But when this happens, the victim can take steps to hold the driver (and sometimes other parties) accountable. That’s where it becomes important to retain serious and experienced legal counsel. You can count on the personal injury team at Miller, Montiel, & Strano, P.C.

What It Takes to Hold Drunk Drivers Liable

Personal injury cases in general require proof of the at-fault party’s negligent acts or omissions. This means showing that the driver’s irresponsible consumption of alcohol breached the duty of care that he or she owed to others, that it caused an accident, and that the victim suffered damages as a result.

When it comes to drunk driving in particular, your attorney may have the option of pursuing compensation by using the negligence per se doctrine. Under this rule, a rebuttable presumption of negligence exists where the at-fault party violated a law that is intended to prevent the type of harm that resulted. What this means is that if the driver in your case is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, it may be easier to seek damages.

To use the negligence per se doctrine, the accident victim would need to prove:

  • The at-fault driver violated a safety law (here, the law against drunk driving)
  • By violating the law, the driver caused the sort of harm that the law tries to prevent from occurring (namely, the accident)
  • You are among the individuals who are intended to be protected by the safety law (as a motorist, pedestrian, or other individual hit by the drunk driver)

A rebuttable presumption means the burden shifts to the driver to prove he or she was not negligent. The driver will get the chance to argue that he or she either wasn’t drunk driving or didn’t violate the law.

Other Parties Who Could Be Held Liable

When drivers are sued for negligent behavior, including causing accidents due to drunk driving, their insurance companies are usually forced to compensate the victim. But there are potential issues with relying only on the insurer to pay for the victim’s injuries. For one, the driver may not even be insured, leaving the victim (if it’s a motorist) to rely on his or her own uninsured motorist coverage.

Second, whether the at-fault driver’s policy or the victim’s uninsured policy must pay, the injuries could exceed the coverage limits. Drunk driving accidents are serious and can leave victims with:

  • Brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Permanent disability
  • Nerve damage
  • Burn injuries
  • Internal organ damage
  • Lacerations

All of these could require weeks or months of hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, and numerous other costs and losses that exceed what the insurer would be obligated to pay. The at-fault driver will not probably have sufficient personal assets that could be seized to pay these expenses.

Depending on the circumstances, however, there may be other parties who could be compelled to pay for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Here are three examples:

Bars and restaurants. If the drunk driver was over-served alcohol immediately preceding the accident, the bar, restaurant, or other establishments responsible for dispensing the drinks could be liable under New York’s dram shop law. The business can be held liable if it sells or gives alcohol to someone who is:

  • Under the age of 21
  • Visibly intoxicated

An attorney can help you establish the causal link between the bar or restaurant’s negligence and the accident that caused you injury.

Social host. Liability may exist where a private host (e.g. residence) serves alcohol to an underage drinker who then gets behind the wheel and causes a drunk driving accident. Unlike dram shop laws, social host liability is only present if the at-fault driver is a minor (under age 21). It does not apply where adults serve other adults.

Employer. The drunk driver’s employer could be held liable if the accident happened while the driver was on the job. Generally, the employer is only responsible for events that take place within the scope of employment. That means, for example, that an employer won’t be held responsible for an employee who isn’t working on Saturday night, gets intoxicated, and causes a wreck. But “scope of employment” can mean more than simply causing an accident while driving a company vehicle. An attorney can review your situation and advise whether the driver’s employer can be made to pay for your injuries.

Contact Our Queens Drunk Driving Accident Attorney

At Miller, Montiel, & Strano, P.C., we work hard to secure for our clients the maximum amount of compensation available under the law. That often means seeking to hold multiple parties liable, from the driver and the driver’s insurance company to businesses, hosts, employers, and others. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a drunk driving accident, you deserve justice. Our dedicated and compassionate attorneys will represent you from start to finish and make sure your concerns and questions are answered. Give us a call today to get started.