Posted On: October 23, 2011

The High Cost of Driving Under the Influence

It has been calculated that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can cost a driver up to $10,000 in fines, insurance surcharges and related expenses. (1) That cost can skyrocket depending on the severity of a resulting accident.

Last week, a New Jersey jury awarded $3,375,000 to Ernesto Sta Maria's estate; Mr. Sta Maria was killed in an automobile accident in Middletown, NJ, in 2007. Mr. Sta Maria died from injuries suffered after his car was struck by another car driven by Christopher M. Brozyna, an off-duty state trooper whose blood alcohol level registered more than two times the legal limit at the time. (2)

The lawsuit, heard by Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea in New Brunswick, was first filed in April, 2008, and included several bars that presumably served Mr. Brozyna. The jury found Mr. Brozyna responsible for 57% of the amount awarded and split the remaining judgment between two Red Bank businesses – the Dublin House, 33%, and Ashes Cigar Club, 10%. (2)

Fortunately not all accidents are as tragic as this one, but the cost to the driver charged with a DUI can still be significant. The aforementioned $10,000 price tag can apply even when no accident occurs.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for 2009 (the last year available), show alcohol was involved in about 32% of fatal automobile accidents – or 10,839 deaths. More than 1.4 million people were arrested on DUI charges that year. (1)

Expenses incurred from a DUI include bail, which ranges from $150 to $2,500 and towing fees, which range from $100 to $1,200. Additionally, drivers face increased insurance premiums for at least three to five years. Insurance can cost customers considered “high risk” an estimated $1,500 more a year than “preferred” customers. (2)

In New Jersey DUI cases, fines for first-time offenders can range between $250 and $500, depending on blood alcohol concentration. In addition, drivers are required to pay fees in excess of $500 to various alcohol-related funds and resource centers. Repeat offenders face fines between $500 and $1,000. All offenders are also hit with a three-year surcharge amounting to $1,000 per year. (3)

DUI charges are serious offenses that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you or someone you know is involved in or the victim of a DUI-related accident, contact the accident lawyers at The Rotolo Law Firm. The firm is located on Route 22 in Lebanon, NJ, in close proximity to Clinton and Flemington, NJ.


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Posted On: October 8, 2011

Courts Grapple with Pothole Repair Liability Questions

Severe storms, fluctuating temperatures and flooding all wreak havoc on our roadways, creating minefields of potholes for motorists and cyclists to navigate. Damages from these road hazards can range from blown tires, pricey alignment adjustments, physical injuries and, in some cases, even death. How far does the responsibility of local governments to repair these damaged roadways go? That’s a question recently addressed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Just this past week, the Supreme Court was considering the extent of local governments’ liability to repair potholes as it reviewed the case of Polzo v. County of Essex. The family of Mathi Kahn-Polzo brought suit against Essex County after she died from head injuries suffered when she hit a pothole while cycling with friends on a county road. (1)

The question the Court is struggling with is whether local governments are responsible only for repairing damages they have “constructive notice” of, which meets the Tort Claims Act requirement, or if their responsibilities extend further to include establishment of an inspection program to detect road damage. (1)

While Ms. Kahn-Polzo’s estate is arguing that had Essex County properly maintained its roadways her death may have been avoided, attorneys for the county contend that the local government cannot be held responsible for repairing damages it didn’t know about. Forcing local governments to have an inspection process in place to detect all potential road hazards would put undue burden on agencies that have limited resources they claim. (1)

New Jersey is not the only state dealing with pothole problems. Wisconsin, for example, is currently battling over a proposed Assembly bill that would change a state law which allows motorists to sue local governments for damages caused by road hazards without having to prove negligence, but requires proof of negligence in similar suits against the State. Proponents of the bill say it would even the playing field between state and local governments, but opponents say it would limit the rights of motorists to recover damages. (2)

While the courts continue to grapple with the liability question, residents can do their part by reporting potholes and other road damages to the proper agencies. Local government websites can help here. Be sure to note the exact location of the damage and provide pictures if possible. Go a step further -- ask for an expected repair date and follow up. (3)

If you are someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact the car accident attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm to protect your legal rights.




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