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When liability extends beyond the driver in a DWI

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2021 | DUI/Dram Shop Laws

Drivers who get behind the wheel after a little too much to drink are usually not intending to get into an accident, or even thinking about what may happen if they drive. Whether they believe that they can handle a few drinks or don’t realize just how much they’ve had, once the situation on the road gets out of control, alcohol impairment inhibits their ability to respond effectively.

The damage that results from a DWI crash can range from the driver’s own self-inflicted injuries to the tragic injury or death of those who happened to be on the road at the wrong time. As the hurt of the victims and their families turns to anger at what has caused it, some may not realize that there may be more than one way to pursue a claim.

Pursuing a DWI claim

A DWI is a criminal offense that carries stiff penalties in all states, which become more severe if the accident results in serious injury or death to the victim. While the evidence needed to build a case is just surfacing, especially after law enforcement has arrested the drunk driver and filed a police report, insurance companies are already trying to settle.

It is to the advantage of the victim of a DWI accident to wait until after the driver has either pled guilty or received a conviction before considering settlement options, because once the injured party settles, they may not seek further compensation. A DWI conviction will also guarantee that a judge and jury will view the victim’s case in a sympathetic light, which usually pressures insurance companies to offer more.

There are limits, however, to what they can pay. If the victim’s injuries exceed those limits, it may be best to file a civil suit, not only against the driver but also any other third parties that may share responsibility.

Dram shop laws

Many states have laws that hold establishments serving alcohol responsible for damages when they serve to minors or customers who were clearly intoxicated before they left. Called dram shop laws, a successful civil claim will hold both the DWI driver and the alcohol vendor jointly responsible.

Under New Jersey law, a plaintiff may file a claim as an exclusive civil remedy for personal injury or property damage that resulted from the negligent service of alcohol by a licensed beverage server. The vender can be held negligent if the vender either served the patron who later caused the accident when the individual was visibly intoxicated, or if the vender intentionally served a minor knowing that the customer was underage.

When it comes to recovering damages from the negligent actions of another, it is important to know your rights as well as your options when seeking compensation for your injuries.