Alcohol, Holiday Gatherings, and Personal Injuries
December 22, 2021 | Personal Injury
The effects of alcohol make it a pleasant addition, to holiday parties. These same effects also make alcohol very dangerous. Alcohol dulls the senses, relaxes muscles, and gives people an artificial sense of euphoria. So, when these individuals drive, they are less able to control their vehicles and more likely to take reckless risks.
If you or a loved one was a victim of an alcohol-related accident, in December or any other month of the year, a New York personal injury attorney can obtain substantial compensation in court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
No matter how hard or how long authorities crack down on drunk drivers, they are still out there. Alcohol is a factor in about a third of the fatal car wrecks in New York. Legally, these crashes could involve the negligence per se rule or the ordinary negligence doctrine.
Basically, negligence per se is a violation of a safety law, like the DUI law. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be responsible for the aforementioned damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, and
- That violation causes injury.
A New York personal injury attorney doesn’t need additional evidence to establish liability. However, such proof is important in terms of damages. Recently, a Texas jury ordered a bar to pay $300 billion in damages after a DUI wreck. According to the evidence, the bar served eleven drinks to a man who then blew through a red light at over 90mph, killing two people.
Some motorists are impaired but not intoxicated. There’s a difference between these two I-words. Most people are intoxicated after three or four drinks. But alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. Evidence of impairment includes:
- Erratic pre-wreck driving.
- Physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes, and
- Tortfeasor’s recent schedule (i.e. did s/he visit a place that served alcohol).
This same evidence could establish third party liability, as mentioned above. Commercial alcohol providers could be financially responsible for car wreck damages if they knowingly sell alcohol to intoxicated individuals.
Noncommercial providers, like holiday party hosts, could also be vicariously liable for alcohol-related crash damages, under a theory like negligent undertaking.
These victims have no protection against oncoming cars or oncoming sleighs laden with goodies. As a result, they often sustain serious or fatal injuries, such as:
- Head Injuries: Pedestrian victims don’t wear seat belts or crash helmets. So, their heads often bear the brunt of any impact. Even if the visible head injury is not serious, a brain injury could be catastrophic. Any fall causes the brain to slam against the insides of the skull.
- Spine Injuries: A person’s spine is a long, delicate chain of vertebrae (small bones), nerves, and cartilage. Any impact could knock the spine out of alignment, causing chronic pain and partial paralysis. The lifelong medical costs related to these injuries usually exceed $5 million.
- Soft Tissue Injuries: These wounds include bruises, lacerations, sprains, dislocations, and tears. Frequently, rest is the only effective treatment for these injuries. This rest is far from resting, as these injuries are quite painful. Additionally, they often leave permanent scars.
- Internal Bleeding: Exsanguination (excessive blood loss) is usually the official cause of death in these cases. Many victims lose about a fifth of their blood before they reach hospitals. That’s especially true if the accident happened on a snowy Christmas Eve.
Speed is usually the key overall factor in these situations. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was travelling over 50 mph, the pedestrian death rate is over 90 percent. According to the geeks at MIT, Santa’s sleigh moves at 2.3 million mph (650 miles per second).
“Stumbling drunk” falls are complex legal matters. Technically, the property owner is financially responsible for such injuries. However, voluntary intoxication usually gives rise to the comparative fault defense.
Most people are invited guests at holiday parties. The guests aren’t the only beneficiaries at these gatherings. Hosts benefit as well when faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.
So, these owners usually have a duty of reasonable care. This legal responsibility includes a duty to ensure the property is reasonably safe. Common fall hazards include spills on floors and obstacles in hallways.
Additionally, a victim/plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that the owner knew, or should have known, about the hazard.
Normally, these claims don’t end there. The comparative fault defense basically shifts blame for the fall from the owner who failed to ensure safety to the victim who didn’t watch where s/he was going. Assume Frank was alcohol-impaired when he tripped and fell over a wayward Christmas ornament. The jury must listen to the evidence and then divide responsibility between Frank and the owner.
New York is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the victim is 99 percent responsible for the injury, the owner is still liable for a proportionate share of damages.
In addition to the aforementioned effects, alcohol also lowers inhibitions. Petty or longstanding arguments could become violent, and someone could get hurt.
Individuals are legally and morally responsible for such injuries. But the party host could be financially responsible for them. The duty of reasonable care, which was mentioned above, includes a responsibility to prevent foreseeable assaults.
Assume our troubled, inebriated friend Frank gets into a shoving match with his estranged brother Jesse. Usually, the party host has a duty to step in and separate the James boys before someone gets hurt.
Foreseeable is Legalese for possible. In this situation, the party host should’ve thought twice before inviting Frank and Jesse to the same party. That’s especially true since there’s a good chance at least one of the James boys would have too much to drink.
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters and only recover a fee when we win your case.
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