This wrongful death action arises out of an automobile accident due to drunk driving that occurred sometime between the hours of 9 and 10 p.m. when a man went to a bar to celebrate the end of tax day. The celebration was for the employees and spouses of the man’s accounting firm. Ten to fourteen peopled attended the celebration. The owner of the bar and a waitress, who served drinks to the party, were also present. The record reveals that the celebrants ate appetizers and drank alcohol throughout the night. Prior to arriving at the bar, the man drank a beer at his office. After arriving at the party, the man continued to drink alcohol. Specifically, the waitress indicates that the man was served approximately six vodka and cocktails. Also, a complimentary bottle of Aguardiente Antioqueno, was served to the party. Typically, a bottle of Aguardiente Antioqueno has an alcohol content of 29%.
At trial, two testified that the man took at least one shot of the Aguardiente on the night in question. Another testified that around 1:00 a.m., the criminal man appeared to be intoxicated. The wife of the man also attended the celebration to be her husband’s designated driver. However, she took shots of Aguardiente, drank vodka and cocktails. The woman subsequently appeared intoxicated. Based upon the time of the accident, it appears that the two left around 1:00 a.m.
The driver of the dump truck testified that he was transporting asphalt. Prior to starting the task, he performed a 20 to 25 minute inspection of the truck. Specifically, he examined the interior and exterior of the vehicle. He determined that the lights on the vehicle were in satisfactory condition, the tires did not have physical damage and had a satisfactory tread depth and pressure, the wheels and rims of the vehicle were in satisfactory condition, the steering was in satisfactory condition and there was no overdue preventive maintenance required on the vehicle. He completed three trips prior to the accident.
At 2:19 a.m., the dump truck driver left the yard again with a load. He was traveling at approximately 35 to 40 miles per hour in the middle lane when he heard a very loud pop that sounded to him like his rear tire had blown out. Suddenly, the vehicle began to pull to the left with a good amount of force. At that instant, he concluded that if he tried to fight the pull of the truck, it might tip over, spilling its contents onto the roadway. Therefore, he lightly applied the brakes and veered into the left lane. He testified that seconds after the tire blew; he called his dispatcher via a blue tooth device to let him know about the blown tire and his location. He testified that the call lasted only a few seconds. He was in the left lane when the man’s vehicle drove into the rear of the truck. He testified that he was driving approximately 10 to 15 mph when he was struck by the man’s SUV. He testified that he was unsure of how much time elapsed between the time the tire blew out and the time the man’s vehicle struck the rear of the truck. He testified that he had on his headlights, four way flashers, flickering lights and warning lights at the time of impact.
Another witnessed testified that the man’s vehicle drive into the rear of the truck at approximately 2:30 a.m. The witness was driving his car on the night of the accident. He recalled that the weather conditions were regular and that it was not snowing or raining. He did not notice any defects or objects on the road and estimated he was traveling at about 50 mph. On the expressway, he saw only two vehicles, an SUV and a truck. He observed that the SUV was over 500 feet from the truck at the time he observed it. Subsequently, he saw the SUV in the left lane traveling at 55-60 mph that was approximately 600 feet from the truck. He estimated that approximately 10 seconds elapsed from the time he saw the SUV to the time of the accident. After seeing both vehicles, he slowed down to 20 mph to allow the SUV to pass him and move over to the middle lane. However, the man’s SUV continued to travel in the left lane towards the truck at 55-60 mph. The SUV passed the witness’ car approximately 400 feet from the truck and he testified that he did not observe the SUV attempt to slow down, brake or stop prior to the accident. He also did not saw the SUV attempt to swerve to avoid the collision. Incidentally, the accident investigation squad also did not found any skid marks from the man’s vehicle at the site of the accident. He was 200 feet in front of the accident when it occurred and drove by the incident site at approximately 5 mph. He further testified that the lighting in the area enabled him to see the truck when he was about 500 feet from the vehicle. The truck was observable from the street lights on the expressway, the headlights from the witness’ car and the headlights from the man’s SUV. Finally, the witness testified that there were no objects or vehicles in the left lane that could have blocked the man’s view of the truck.
A medical examiner performed an autopsy on the man and discovered that the man had a blood alcohol level of .26%, which is over three times the legal driving limit and DWI.
Subsequently, the motion of the opponent for decision without trial in its favor is granted. Based on records, the operator of a motor vehicle approaching another motor vehicle from the rear is obligated to maintain a reasonably safe rate of speed and control over his or her vehicle, and to exercise reasonable care to avoid colliding with the other vehicle. Further, a rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a case of negligence against the operator of the rear vehicle, thereby requiring that operator to deny the conclusion of negligence by providing a non-negligent explanation for the collision. DUI was involved.
In opposition, the complainant contends that the truck was illegally stopped in the left lane without any warning lights. The court notes that the operator of the truck was faced with an emergency when he stopped or was stopping in the left lane on the highway, namely, that his tire blew out.
Lastly, while the complainant is correct that there is a lower standard of proof in wrongful death actions, and the complainant is entitled to every inference that can reasonably be drawn from the evidence in determining whether the case is made, the complainant is still obligated to provide some proof from which negligence can reasonably be reliant.
Furthermore, the motion of the bar company for decision without trial in its favor is denied. The bar company failed to satisfy its initial burden of negating the possibility that it served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. In addition, proof of visible intoxication can be shown by circumstantial evidence, including expert and eyewitness testimony. Therefore, the branch of the motion which seeks to dismiss the conscious pain and suffering claims is granted.
It is important to keep in mind that driving is a responsibility and everyone must follow the rules that goes with it. Whenever you get involved in an accident and you know that the person liable for it is intoxicated, seek legal assistance from the Queens County Criminal Lawyer at Stephen Bilkis and Associates. On the other hand, if you get arrested with the crime of DWI, you can have the Queens County Drunk Driving Attorney or Queens County DWI Lawyer for legal representation.