Drunk Driving Accident
DRUNK DRIVING IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF CAR CRASHES THAT KILL AND MAIM PEOPLE THROUGHOUT PENNSYLVANIA.
The Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reported 127,127 vehicular accidents in 2015, resulting in 1,200 deaths; 345 of these deaths were from crashes involving alcohol. That means alcohol was a contributing factor in 28.75% of the accident fatalities that year.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is taken seriously in Pennsylvania, and if you or a loved one is injured or if someone has died in a crash involving drunk driving, you may have a claim for compensation for your losses. This includes medical bills that are not covered by PIP, lost wages and other economic expenses, and possibly claims for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering as well.
Because insurance companies will try tactics such as trying to shift responsibility or getting you to accept the lowest settlement, it makes sense to get legal representation before you talk to an insurance company in order to protect your rights and maximize the compensation you receive.
What Pennsylvania Law Says
Pennsylvania has a no-fault insurance system, which means anyone injured in a car accident must first go to their own car insurance company for compensation, no matter who is to blame for the crash. Purchasers of a car insurance policy have the option of choosing between “full tort” and “limited tort” coverage. Drivers who have chosen “limited tort” cannot sue for damages unless the accident resulted in “serious injury,” which means serious impairment of a body function or permanent and serious disfigurement.
Full Tort insurance allows you to sue a responsible driver for any injuries suffered through that driver’s carelessness or negligence. You are allowed to seek compensation for non-economic damages that include pain and suffering, as well as lost income, unpaid medical bills and the loss of quality of life.
Additional relevant state laws that may affect your case include:
- The Pennsylvania statute of limitations – You must file a lawsuit promptly, as there are time limits of two years after the accident for filing a personal injury or property damage lawsuit.
- Whether the driver received a DUI — Drunk driving is illegal and may be prosecuted in both criminal and civil courts. Drivers who are involved in a crash and test positive for alcohol face criminal charges, jail time, mandatory alcohol education programs, loss of driving privileges, and having their driver’s license revoked. It is an exception to limited tort if the person who caused the accident is convicted of drunk driving or pleads guilty to it. If the at-fault driver receives a citation, it can positively affect your civil lawsuit, including allowing you to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are not covered by insurance, but are paid by the driver.
- Comparative negligence rules — Pennsylvania law states that a person can sue for personal injury only if he is not more than 50% at fault for an accident. A person suing for damages will have the jury verdict or settlement reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to them.
- Dram shop laws — These determine whether parties besides the drunk driver may be held liable. If there is evidence to show that the driver was continuously served alcohol by a bar or home owner despite appearing to be heavily intoxicated, the server may be liable for negligence. In this case, you might be able to make a claim against both the drunk driver and the home or bar or restaurant owner.
What to Do in an Accident
If you are in an accident and you suspect the driver is impaired, it benefits you if you can help the police prove this. Take steps such as:
- Noting whether the driver’s speech is slurred or incoherent
- Asking the police to conduct a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test
- Telling the police if you saw the driver use eye drops, switch seats with passengers, or throw away cans, bottles, drug paraphernalia, or alcohol containers
- Getting a copy of the police report stating alcohol contributed to the accident.
Achieving Results When it Counts
The skilled and experienced drunk driving accident attorneys at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters have spent decades honing their skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to someone else’s negligence. We offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, aggressively fighting for their right to compensation. Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, we are thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome. With our sizeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.
If you or your loved one has suffered harm from someone else’s negligence in a drunk driving crash, your next step should be to consult Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters by calling (570) 323-8711, or by using our online contact form. Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.