Be Careful On The Road: Memorial Day 2021
May 27, 2021 | Personal Injury
Around Memorial Day Weekend, alcohol sales usually increase over 25 percent.
The unofficial first day of summer is an even bigger drinking holiday than New Year’s Eve. The effects of alcohol, such as slower motor skills and an elevated sense of well-being, help many people relax.
But this combination is always dangerous, and often fatal, when impaired individuals get behind the wheel. Alcohol is a factor in about a third of the fatal car wrecks in New York.
Fatigue and distraction also impair many drivers. In terms of its effects on the brain and body, driving while sleepy is about like driving drunk.
The same thing is true for driving while using a hand-held or a hands-free cell phone.
If an impaired motorist hits you on Memorial Day 2021 or any other day of the year, a New York personal injury attorney can obtain fair compensation for your serious injuries.
The amount of compensation is often higher in impaired motorist claims. Arguably, these tortfeasors (negligent drivers) know they shouldn’t get behind the wheel.
But they do so anyway and knowingly put other people at risk.
Evidence in Car Wreck Claims
To obtain this compensation, victim/plaintiffs must usually prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Negligence per se claims work a bit differently, as outlined below.
Normally, some combination of medical bills, the police accident report, and witness statements is sufficient to both prove liability and obtain maximum compensation. But that’s not always the case.
The police accident report is a good example. When they arrive at accident sites, first responders must secure the scene and tend to injured victims.
Writing a report is low on the priority list. In fact, most responders don’t submit these reports until several days after the wreck.
Therefore, the report often omits important details. Furthermore, the investigation itself is often incomplete.
Emergency responders do the best they can with the evidence at hand. But even the most experienced police officer is not an accident reconstruction professional.
Frequently, attorneys turn to surveillance camera footage to fill in an evidentiary gap. At least one camera covers pretty much every surface street intersection and highway exchange in New York.
So, this evidence is usually available.
Attorneys must locate and authenticate this footage. Frequently, lawyers partner with private investigators to find such footage.
Sometimes, even a camera several blocks away from the crash site provides valuable information. As for authentication, attorneys must go beyond the minimum legal requirements and convince jurors that the footage is revealing.
First Party Liability
Evidence is particularly important in alcohol impairment cases.
There’s a difference between impairment and intoxication. Most people are intoxicated after three or four drinks. But dangerous impairment begins with the first drink. Evidence of impairment includes:
- Pre-collision erratic driving,
- Physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech,
- Driver’s statements to witnesses about alcohol consumption,
- Open alcohol containers in the passenger area, and
- Tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) previous schedule.
Recall that the burden of proof in a negligence claim is only more likely than not. If the tortfeasor was at a place which served alcohol, it’s more likely than not that s/he had at least one sip of alcohol there.
This possibility raises the specter of third-party liability, which is discussed below.
If authorities charge the tortfeasor with an alcohol-related offense, like DUI, the negligence per se doctrine could apply. Drivers could be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
Typically, a traffic violation, like running a red light, directly causes an alcohol-related crash. But intoxication substantially causes it. A sober person usually does not run red lights.
Third Party Liability
Restaurants, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers could be vicariously liable for car crash damages in New York.
The Dram Shop Act applies if a vendor illegally sells alcohol to a patron who later causes a car wreck or other injury.
It’s illegal to sell alcohol to minors. Some excuses, like the “s/he looked older” defense, usually do not hold up in court. It’s also illegal to sell alcohol at certain times of day and without a valid license.
Furthermore, it’s illegal to sell alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. The aforementioned circumstantial evidence is usually admissible on this point as well. The same standard of proof applies.
New York’s Dram Shop Act usually only applies to commercial transactions.
Party hosts and other noncommercial providers, such as adults who allow minors to access alcohol, could be vicariously liable under a separate legal theory, such as negligent undertaking.
Watch out for drunk drivers on Memorial Day 2021. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. There are no upfront legal fees and we only recover a fee if we win you case.
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