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Can I Sue the Drunk Driver That Hit Me?

A driver holds his heads in his hands after being hit by a drunk driver

If you or a loved one was in an accident involving a distracted or drunk driver, you may feel overwhelmed and angry. Distracted drivers are one of the most significant dangers on the road, and the negligence and recklessness of a drunk driver can have lifelong effects on victims. In addition to the criminal charges that may be brought against the driver, you may also have the right to pursue a claim against  the drunk driver for monetary damages.  

Facts About Accidents Involving Drunk Drivers

In Pennsylvania, drunk drivers are a major cause of car accidents each year. In 2018, alcohol-related crashes totaled over 9,000.

Of the many injuries that can occur from a car accident involving a drunk driver, spine (usually neck and/or low back)/spinal cord injury is one of the most common.

When an accident caused by a distracted or drunk driver causes injuries, it may be necessary to bring a claim against the at-fault driver, and, ultimately, file a lawsuit. 

Suing a Drunk Driver

If you or a loved one was the victim of a car accident injury caused by a drunk driver, it’s important to know that you do have a right to compensation. Drunk driving is not only negligent, it is reckless and illegal, meaning a drunk driver can be prosecuted criminally and civilly. 

If the driver is convicted of breaking the law and found to have driven under influence of alcohol or drugs, the chances of prevailing in your civil claim will improve drmamtically. If you elected the “limited tort” option on your automobile insurance policy (as a reminder, Georgelis Injury Law Firm recommends that you always select “full tort”), a drunk driver convicted of this offense or entering the ARD program will allow you to breach the threshold into full tort status, allowing you to recover for non-economic losses and damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, etc. Of course, you will not receive compensation from the criminal case (except, potentially, some form(s) of resitution), but it can help to establish fault. 

You can sue for compensation from the drunk driver for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Car damage
  • Pain and suffering (again, if you are deemed to have full-tort coverage)
  • Fatal injuries/death

Pennsylvania Drunk Driver Laws

Act 24, which lowered Pennsylvania’s legal limit of alcohol from .10 to .08, was signed into law in 2003. Now, there is a three-tiered DUI system for enforcement that carries different penalties. The three tiers are based on a combination of  Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level and prior offenses. .

In addition to the criminal penalties that can be levied against a drunk driver, there are other potential issues to consider in the civil context, such as punitive damages and a claim against the establishment supplying the alcohol.

Punitive damages are meant to “punish” a defendant in civil court to deter future similar behavior. These damages can be awarded on top of other damages for pain and suffering, medical bills, etc., and they are paid directly from the defendant’s assets, not by the insurance company. 

Pennsylvania also has laws aimed at bars and restaurants that supply alcohol. In some cases, the state can hold establishments responsible for selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who then goes out and causes an accident that leads to injury or death. These claims are called, “dram shop” actions.

Where do I start if I want to sue a drunk driver for causing an accident?

If you are considering filing a civil case against a drunk driver, you need to consult with an experienced injury and accident attorney who knows how to handle these unique cases. There are important steps that you need to take and the attorneys at Georgelis Injury Law Firm will handle your case with compassion and hard work, making sure you receive all of the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-HURT-NOW for a free consultation and evaluation of your claim, any time. 

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