By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.
If an individual sustains injury as a result of a car accident in New Jersey in which he or she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and he or she is convicted of or pleads guilty to such an offense, there are strict limitations on the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit. Specifically, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b),
Any person who is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, operating a motor vehicle in violation of [N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, 39:4-50.4a], or a similar statute from any other jurisdiction, in connection with an accident, shall have no cause of action for recovery of economic or noneconomic loss sustained as a result of the accident.
The ban set forth in the statute exists irrespective of whether the impaired driver is at fault in the accident. Pursuant to case law, the statutory ban also applies to restrict an heir of the impaired driver from recovering under the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act if the impaired driver would have similarly been restricted under the statute. However, pursuant to a 2011 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, where an impaired driver has no cause of action under the statute, he or she may be able to pursue a “dram shop” claim and seek recovery against a liquor licensee that served him or her during a time of visible intoxication – this is because the purpose of the statute set forth above was to reduce automobile insurance premiums, not to immunize liquor licensees or bar (no pun intended) claims under the Dram Shop Act. Additionally, the statute only applies to third-party claims and claims for UM/UIM benefits where the first-party insurer takes the place of the tortfeasor – an impaired driver injured as the result of a car accident will not be prohibited under the statute from pursuing Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits.
It is worth noting that New Jersey has a Statute of Limitations that prevents the filing of a personal injury complaint or claim petition for workers’ compensation benefits after two (2) years from the date of the accident in most instances. Furthermore, if you wish to pursue a claim against a public entity or governmental agency, or any employee of a public entity, you must give timely notice of the intent to file a claim, which is ordinarily within ninety (90) days from the date you knew or should have known of the cause of action. Failure to bring a claim within an applicable time period may cause any claim you may have had to be barred forever. Therefore, if you have been injured and wish to seek compensation, it is imperative that you do so immediately upon sustaining injury.
If you have been injured or have any questions in regards to personal injury law, you may wish to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.
Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq. / Timothy J. Little, P.C. / 2017 / All Rights Reserved
Timothy J. Little, P.C. is a full-service law firm with offices in Woodbridge and Chesterfield, New Jersey. Timothy J. Little, P.C. represents individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey including Middlesex County (Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, East Brunswick, Spotswood, Perth Amboy, Dunellen, Colonia, Sewaren, Iselin, Avenel, Fords, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Port Reading, South Amboy, Monroe, Edison, Carteret, Cranbury, Helmetta, South River, Milltown, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Laurence Harbor), Monmouth County, Union County, Ocean County, Somerset County, and Burlington County. If you have any questions or concerns regarding personal injury law, please contact the attorneys at Timothy J. Little, P.C.