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Blood On The Highway

A Staten Island teenager is dead after a drunk driver slammed into a barrier and ejected her from the car.
19-year-old Joseph Auteri apparently lost control of his 2005 Acura on the Belt Parkway as he tried to take the 65th Street exit. When he hit the guardrail, the vehicle flipped and launched 19-year-old Wiktoria Filc into the air. First responders rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was subsequently declared dead. Three back seat passengers were also injured in the crash.
Mr. Auteri was arrested at the scene and now faces various charges, including driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment, vehicular manslaughter, and vehicular assault.

Proving Alcohol Impairment in Civil Court

Roughly half of all car crashes involve alcohol. Generally speaking, juries intensely dislike drunk drivers. The risks of drinking and driving are very well-known, and engaging in such behavior almost constitutes a recklessness that many jurors are eager to punish.
One obvious way to establish alcohol as a factor in a car crash is a DUI arrest. A DUI conviction or any other action, like a drivers’ license suspension, is even better. Sometimes, even if the police do not make a DUI arrest, they will list “alcohol” as a contributing factor. For example, the driver might be impaired but not legally intoxicated or there is no witness that puts the drunk driver behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
Even if there is no official mention, an attorney can still establish alcohol impairment by retracing the defendant’s steps prior to the crash. The investigator can ask witnesses about physical signs, like:

  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Unsteady balance,
  • Odor of alcohol, or
  • Weaving in and out of traffic.

Individually, these signs are not even close to proof of impairment in criminal court. But in civil court, the evidentiary standard is much lower. The plaintiff must only prove the defendant was intoxicated by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means more likely than not.
Alcohol impairment is one of the best ways to establish breach of duty in a negligence case. For a free consultation with attorneys who know how the law works, contact our office. An attorney can arrange for you to see a doctor, even if you have no money and no insurance.

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