Labor Day is a time to celebrate the workforce. For most Americans, it’s also a time for drinking. That’s all well and good – until driving enters the mix. If you were hit by a drunk driver on Labor Day Weekend in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you’re not alone. Depending on how the accident happened, you might even be able to get compensated for your injuries.
How Many Car Accidents and DUIs Happen on Labor Day?
Labor Day was originally created in the late 1800s to recognize the achievements of American workers. For most Americans today, Labor Day represents a day or two off from work – and plenty of drinking to celebrate the occasion. While the occasional weekend of holiday excess is unlikely to harm anything other than your wallet and your liver, the picture turns darker once intoxicated drivers get behind the wheel.
If you were going to guess the most dangerous holiday for traveling, you would probably think of Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s. Yet surprisingly, only one of these holidays exceeds Labor Day – a minor event by comparison – in terms of car crash fatalities. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), Labor Day caused the second highest number of deadly car accidents in 2012 with 378 fatal crashes, surpassed only by Thanksgiving with 405 fatal crashes. Even Christmas and New Year’s Day were safer by comparison, accounting for 351 and 348 fatal automobile accidents, respectively.
Law enforcement across the country is well aware that Labor Day brings increased travel – much of it undertaken by intoxicated drivers. In fact, one AAA survey found that nearly 35 million Americans planned on traveling at least 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend. As a result, numerous police departments set up sobriety checkpoints as a precautionary measure. (For instance, the Pennsylvania State Police set up checkpoints in Lehigh, Northampton, and Bucks County, among others.)
Unfortunately, these checkpoints – while helpful – aren’t 100% effective at preventing intoxicated drivers from causing serious and fatal accidents.
As numerous statistics and police officers can attest, intoxicated driving is a major concern during Labor Day Weekend. While the III did not release data about the number of national Labor Day DUIs in 2012, it found that among the 373 fatal crashes in 2011, a total of 36% were classified as “alcohol-impaired.” These numbers mean that in 2011, approximately 134 fatal Labor Day crashes were caused by drunk driving.
Pennsylvania is not exempt from this unfortunate phenomenon. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), in 2014 there were 188 drug- and alcohol-related crashes statewide during Labor Day, collectively resulting in 19 fatalities. Three involved drugged driving, while the remaining 16 involved drunk driving.
Neighboring New Jersey did not fare much better. According to New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes, four people were killed in New Jersey Labor Day accidents during 2014. Two of the four deaths were connected to use of drugs and/or alcohol. Col. Fuentes reported that New Jersey car crash deaths were down 7.6% from the previous year, but added that the New Jersey State Police “[could] not let [its] guard down.”
Can I Sue the Other Driver After a Crash or Collision?
Aggressive enforcement of DUI laws is heartening for responsible motorists. However, it’s important to emphasize two points to injury victims:
- Prosecutors have discretion over the filing of DUI charges. As a crime victim, you have very limited say in whether to press or drop charges against the person who hit you or your vehicle. The prosecutor may take your opinion into consideration, but reserves final say over the decision.
- While a criminal conviction may include restitution, such payments are generally not sufficient to account for the tremendous medical bills and/or auto repair costs which are often incurred by a serious accident. There is also a chance that the defendant will be acquitted, or that a new trial must be scheduled, potentially far into the future.
For these reasons, accident victims should not assume that criminal charges will “take care of” compensation, and are encouraged to consult with a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will be able to:
- Obtain a copy of the police report for the accident, which often includes vital information regarding determination of fault.
- Make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities throughout the legal process.
- Obtain an in-depth, expert analysis from crash site investigators. An expert opinion can often strengthen what could otherwise be a he-said / she-said claim.
- Take care of filing briefs, motions, and other legal documents on your behalf.
Even if you aren’t sure about who was at fault or whether you have grounds for a lawsuit, it’s always worth discussing your Labor Day accident with an attorney – especially when your consultation is completely free of charge.
To set up a free, confidential case evaluation with car and truck accident attorney Brent Wieand, call (800) 481-5206 today. Brent will listen to your account of what happened, give you a straightforward assessment of your case, and help you understand some of your legal options. Brent represents clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Philadelphia and Atlantic City.