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December 4th, 2013

NJ Alcohol Accident Law Update – Auto Insurance Policy Held to Apply to a House Party Alcohol/DUI Accident

Vrskovy v. Curcio is a recent Ocean County, NJ case which was decided on October 9, 2013. It is an interesting and unique alcohol accident/DUI case because in most situations when a house party leads to a DUI accident, the injured party is usually limited to recovering from the homeowner’s insurance policy. In other words, the homeowner’s insurance policy is usually the only source of financial recovery for the injured DUI victim. However, the Vrskovy case allows for the possibility that the homeowner’s auto/car insurance policy can also apply.

In the Vrskovy case, the court ruled that an auto insurance carrier was obligated to pay over $1,000,000 after a house party resulted in a teenager’s DUI accident and nearly killed him. The auto insurance policy belonged to the homeowner, i.e., the host of the party.

The plaintiff was 18 years old and attended a party at his friend’s house. While en route to help another party goer who had gotten into a car accident, he had a serious accident which resulted in paralysis. His blood-alcohol level after the crash was well over the .08 legal limit.

He brought suit against the homeowner and her boyfriend for supplying alcohol at the party. The homeowners’ insurance policy applied and provided coverage for the teen’s injuries. Then, there was issue of whether the homeowner’s car insurance policy also applied.  The car insurance company argued that the policy only applied to accidents involving the policy holder’s cars. However, the court disagreed.

The car insurance policy at issue contained a special provision, a general liability endorsement. This endorsement did not specify that the policy applied only to car accident situations. In other words, the general liability policy turned the car insurance policy into a basic negligence insurance policy, and therefore the car insurance company was ordered to pay.

The reality is that most car insurance companies are wise and protect themselves from having to pay in situations like this. Most car insurance policies do not contain the type of general liability endorsement at issue in the Vrskovy case.

Liability in House Party DUI & Alcohol Accident Cases in New Jersey

Under New Jersey negligence law, hosts can be held liable when guests, especially minors, get into DUI car accidents and injure themselves or others. Homeowners’ insurance policies will typically apply in these kinds of cases, and therefore offer a source of financial recovery for the injured victim.

The Vrskovy case is unusual because not only did the home insurance policy apply, but the homeowner’s car insurance policy applied as well. It is certainly a rare situation, but underscores the importance of a thorough and complete investigation when it comes to serious DUI/alcohol accident cases.


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