If you or a family member has been in a car accident, you may be dealing with all kinds of serious injuries or even the death of your loved one. Dealing with the expenses related to an accident can be frustrating, especially when you’re also trying to heal both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, you may be able to get compensation for your, or your loved one’s, injuries.
First, however, you need to find out who is liable for the accident. In situations involving drunk drivers, a number of different parties may be liable, including the following.
1. The Driver
When you are in an accident, the at-fault driver is usually liable for your damages, regardless of whether they are intoxicated or not. Generally, you make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. Note that in no-fault states, such as Massachusetts, your damages need to be over a certain threshold, or you must sustain serious injuries to make a claim against the other driver’s policy.
If the driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may be able to hold them civilly liable for your damages and make a claim against their personal assets. Your own coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists may also apply in these situations.
2. The Driver’s Employer
If the driver was working when they caused the accident, their employer may be liable for the damages. For example, ridesharing services may also be liable if one of their drivers causes an accident while intoxicated. Often, businesses have more insurance and assets than individual drivers, and for that reason, holding employers liable can be advantageous in many situations.
3. Liquor Stores, Bars, and Caterers
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and many other states have dram shop laws which apply to liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and any other entity with a liquor license. Dram shop laws allow businesses that sell or serve alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated to be held responsible for any damages or injuries caused by that individual.
4. Party Hosts
Social host laws are similar to dram shop laws, but rather than holding businesses liable, they hold party hosts liable for their guests’ behavior. States have a variety of different social host laws, and sometimes precedents from lawsuits can affect the scope of these laws.
For instance, Massachusetts has criminal laws against serving alcohol to anyone under 21 years old at a party, but the state does not have social host laws on the books. However, in one case, although the court decided not to hold a host liable for injuries caused by a drunken guest leaving the party, it specified in its decision that it wasn’t holding the host responsible because they didn’t provide the alcohol. However, the court asserted that if a host provides alcohol to a clearly inebriated guest, then the host could potentially bear liability.
For that reason, it’s important not to assume that one party is or isn’t liable for your injuries based on the laws you can find. Instead, you should consult with a personal injury attorney. They understand the nuances of personal injury law as well as the potential for different outcomes based on previous similar cases and the specifics of your situation.
5. Parts Manufacturers or Installers
When faulty parts cause, contribute to, or worsen the injuries from an accident, the parts manufacturer may be liable. Similarly, mechanic shops or dealerships can also be liable if their employees installed the part incorrectly. For instance, if the intoxicated driver hit you due to faulty brakes and an investigation reveals that the brakes were installed incorrectly, you may also be able to hold the mechanic or their employer liable for your injuries.
In these situations, the liable party can be held civilly responsible for all costs incurred as a result of the accident, which can range from car repairs and chiropractor appointments to wheelchairs and lost wages. The liable party may also be required to compensate you for damages such as pain and suffering that aren’t pegged to a set dollar amount. These amounts can vary drastically from several thousand to millions of dollars depending on the severity of your injuries. To ensure you get the fairest settlement possible, you should work with an attorney who understands the ins and outs of making personal injury claims after drunk driving accidents.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we work with many clients who have been injured in automobile accidents. If you have been hurt by a drunk driver, we can help you get justice and compensation from liable parties. Contact us today and set up a no cost case evaluation.