Last month on the Buttafuoco & Associates blog, we discussed the sharp increase in car wrecks that our Northern New Jersey car crash lawyers have observed in recent years. Research indicates that even though fewer cars were on the road in early 2020 due to COVID lockdowns, traffic accidents—and therefore deaths—increased. Researchers found that two of the main reasons for this counter-intuitive trend were increased anxiety and increased alcohol and drug abuse. In light of the research, we’ll now look at laws surrounding reckless driving and drunk driving in New Jersey, as well as the differences between a wrongful death case and a reckless vehicular homicide case. If you find yourself the victim of a crash, remember that speaking with a personal injury lawyer can never hurt: they can advise you on whether you have a case, explain what types of compensation you may be entitled to, and more.
New Jersey law describes Reckless Driving as “driv[ing] a vehicle heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property.” This is a broad definition, but there are some common examples we see at Buttafuoco & Associates:
- Excessive speeding
- Weaving through traffic
- Disregarding traffic lights, signs, or police barriers
- Driving outside the lanes
- Disregarding pedestrians
Reckless driving is a major cause of serious accidents that result in death. If you are in a high-speed accident, a car crash attorney serving Northern New Jersey can often help. (You can read more about how they can do so in our blog on the topic.)
Driving While Intoxicated
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol goes by different names from state to state, such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Impaired Driving, etc. A Northern New Jersey car crash attorney will know it as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). According to New Jersey Law, a driver over 21 is considered intoxicated if their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is above 0.08%. Commercial drivers and drivers under 21 have even lower BAC limits and different penalties. Additionally, an individual may be charged for DWI if they allow an intoxicated individual to operate their vehicle.
We see some of the worst crashes occurring at the hands of drunk drivers: vehicles swerving across the highway into oncoming traffic, going off the road, and slamming into other cars at intersections. Many times, the result is serious injuries or, at worst, a wrongful death situation.
Wrongful Death vs Reckless Vehicular Homicide
It’s important to note the difference between a wrongful death case and a reckless vehicular homicide case. New Jersey Law regarding Death by Auto states that a criminal homicide case becomes a “reckless vehicular homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly.” This is strikingly similar to what constitutes a wrongful death case; the key difference, however, is that vehicular homicide is a criminal case and wrongful death is a civil case.
These are a few key differences between the two:
- Criminal Cases are brought by the State after a law enforcement investigation
- Civil Cases are brought by a plaintiff seeking to recover financial damages from the defendant. A wrongful death case is similar to a personal injury case, except a plaintiff brings the case on behalf of the deceased.
- Criminal cases typically have a higher burden of proof, asking to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of a particular criminal offense
- Civil cases in New Jersey require a “clear and convincing standard of proof,” a less intensive burden than in criminal trials.
A key fact to remember is that even if there is a criminal case regarding a traffic death, the family of the deceased can still sue for wrongful death, even if the defendant is found innocent of criminal charges. Also, if there isn’t a criminal case, you can still sue in civil court for wrongful death. These cases can be complicated, and understanding their unique challenges is important to winning the compensation you deserve.
If you think you are entitled to recover damages in a wrongful death case, get in touch with Buttafuoco & Associates.
Serious Traffic Accident? We Can Help
If you or a loved one has sustained serious injuries or died because of a major traffic crash that was beyond your control, get in touch with our Northern New Jersey traffic attorneys today. We can help you understand your rights and fight for the compensation you are entitled to.
Don’t wait. Get in touch today at 1-800-NOW-HURT.