Drunk driving is, unfortunately, a serious problem in Pennsylvania. In 2015, 345 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in our state, and thousands more were injured. If you were hurt in an accident caused by a drunk driver, then you can sue for monetary compensation to make you “whole.” Even better, you can use the drunk driver’s criminal conviction in several beneficial ways.
Pennsylvania operates a dual track system of courts. In criminal court, the focus is on punishing a defendant convicted of a crime. The state prosecutes DUI drivers, and they face a high burden of proof—proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the defendant is convicted, he will receive punishment in the form of jail time, fines, or both.
In civil court, the focus is on making sure that victims are fairly compensated for their injuries. A defendant can also be punished by being ordered to pay punitive damages, which are in addition to your compensatory damages, but the defendant cannot be put in jail. However, if you’ve been injured by an intoxicated driver, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit in civil court even before a criminal case has been made against the defendant.
When you bring a civil lawsuit, you will probably file a lawsuit based on “negligence.” To prove negligence, you’ll need to present evidence that the defendant owed you a duty of reasonable care and that they fell below it, causing your injuries in the process.
Proof of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will help you establish that the defendant did not exercise reasonable care when they were driving. In Pennsylvania, an adult with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is legally intoxicated. For drivers under 21, any amount over 0.02 qualifies as being legally intoxicated. It will be very difficult for the defendant to slide out from under the conclusion that they were negligent when they got behind the wheel of a vehicle with an elevated BAC.
You won’t automatically win your civil lawsuit because the defendant was convicted of DUI. In particular, you still need to show that the drunk driving caused your injuries. Depending on the circumstances, this could be relatively easy or quite difficult.
For example, you might have suffered a severe back injury in the accident. However, you also might have always had back problems and even have gone under the knife several years before in an attempt to alleviate the pain. In this situation, the defendant might argue that your pre-existing condition is really to blame for your injury, not getting hit by the defendant’s car.
You also might not have followed your doctor’s orders after suffering your injuries. If a doctor requires bed rest but you’re seen out shopping or partying on a boat, then you might have made things worse. Although you may still receive compensation, the amount you receive can be drastically reduced.
Pennsylvania allows you to choose between fault-based and no-fault insurance coverage. No-fault insurance means that you generally can’t sue a driver after an automobile accident. Instead, you rely on your own personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to pay for medical expenses. You’ll be reimbursed your medical bills; however, the maximum amount of benefits is often quite low due to policy limits. Once you exhaust your PIP benefits, you will need to turn to other sources if you need more compensation. For example, if the other driver carried Bodily Injury Liability, then you may be able to get more money. Or you will need to submit medical bills to your health insurance.
If you have fault-based insurance, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to cover your losses. However, losses from serious injuries can exceed their policy limits, as well, or an insurance company may not be willing to offer a settlement that is adequate. In these serious cases, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in civil court.
Because of how gruesome drunk driving accidents can be, it’s entirely possible that you might have suffered a sufficiently serious injury to make a lawsuit possible. However, only an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer can assess your situation.
Generally, your PIP benefits typically carry copays and deductibles, so you end up not being fully compensated for your medical expenses. However, crime victims are exempt from paying copays and deductibles under the state’s Crimes Compensation Act, and victims in a DUI crash qualify as crime victims. You must apply with the state’s Attorney General’s office within a year of your accident.
Once found eligible, you might also qualify for other benefits such as compensation for wage losses, funeral expenses, or permanent disability. The Victim’s Compensation Assistance Program can also reimburse mental health and grief counseling as well as property loss.
If you can sue, then you will be negotiating with a drunk driver’s insurance company to receive compensation for your injuries. You should certainly seek punitive damages, which are available when the defendant’s conduct is outrageous—and driving while intoxicated certainly qualifies.
Although car insurance companies are not required to pay punitive damages, they do have a duty to protect their insured from paying punitive damages. In practice, this means that the insurance company usually offers the full amount of their policy limit in exchange for a release of liability. All in all, a drunk driving conviction can help increase the amount of any settlement you receive.
Drunk drivers cause massive damage on Philadelphia’s roads each year, and the state will prosecute and convict the most serious offenders. At The Levin Firm, we can help you use the conviction to hold the driver legally responsible for your injuries and maximize your benefits. Call us today at 215-825-5183 or fill out our online contact form. Initial consultations are free.
Philadelphia is jam-packed with colleges and universities—which is part of what makes Philly uniquely Philly. College students and good sense, however, don’t always go hand-in-hand. When you find yourself near one of our fine city’s beautiful campuses, it is always wise to beware of drunk drivers.
It should come as no surprise that college students and drinking just seem to go together. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that nearly 60 percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 drank alcohol within a month of their studies beginning and that nearly 66 percent binge drank within that time frame. That’s a lot of drinking—and car accidents can be a serious consequence.
Everyone understands by now that getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol is a dangerous proposition. Alcohol consumption, however, inhibits impulse control, and because college students are a young population, they’re already at an impulse-control disadvantage. When you’re near a Philadelphia college campus, keep this in mind—you could very well share the road with impaired drivers.
Most college students aren’t old enough to drink legally. In Pennsylvania, the legal limit for drivers who are 21 and older is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent. Because drivers younger than 21 accounts for a disproportionately high number of DUI-related fatalities, drivers who are younger than 21 are held to a BAC limit of 0.02 percent. This amounts to Pennsylvania adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward underage drinking and driving. In fact, even one drink will set a driver who is under the legal drinking age over this limit.
Pennsylvania takes a three-tiered approach to DUI charges:
(1) DUI with General Impairment
This classification applies when non-commercial motorists of legal drinking age with a BAC between 0.08 percent and 0.099 percent are arrested for DUI. Furthermore, even if a driver’s BAC doesn’t reach the minimum BAC threshold, that driver can be charged with general impairment if there is enough evidence to demonstrate that he imbibed an amount of alcohol that kept him from safely operating a vehicle.
(2) DUI with High Impairment
This classification applies when non-commercial drivers are arrested for DUI with a BAC of between 0.10 percent and 0.159 percent. Underaged drivers arrested with a BAC between 0.02 percent and 0.159 percent will also be charged with DUI with High Impairment.
(3) DUI with Highest Impairment
This classification applies when a non-commercial driver of any age is arrested for DUI with a BAC higher than 0.16 percent. This categorization also applies to those motorists found under the influence of drugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares some sobering statistics from 2015 that relate to impaired drivers:
Many college students either have a car or have access to a car while on campus. This not only amplifies traffic congestion around campuses but also contributes to increased accidents throughout the school year. For these younger drivers, the DUI statistics are even more startling:
If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, you know how harrowing that can be. Personal injury claims involving impaired drivers are complicated—and if you’ve been injured, you need an experienced Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, personal injury attorney. The Levin Firm is here to help. We have the knowledge, experience, and dedication to fight for the best resolution of your claim. Please contact or call us at (215) 825.5183 today.
Everyone knows that drunk drivers can seriously injure and often kill innocent people. However, despite the awareness of the risks of drunk driving, 64,024 people were recently arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania in a single year.1 In addition, about 7,900 people suffered injuries in crashes that were alcohol-related in Pennsylvania. As you can see, drunk driving continues to be a problem and continues to cause serious injuries. The following are some frequently asked questions of drunk driving accident victims.
I believe a driver was drunk after an accident – what do I do?
As with any accident, you always want to call 911 right away so that law enforcement authorities will come to the scene. Calling 911 is especially important if you have been injured or if you suspect that the accident involved an intoxicated driver. Police officers will question the driver and may perform a breathalyzer test or field sobriety test to confirm suspicions of impaired driving. If officers determine the driver was over the legal limit, they will not only include that in their police report but will likely arrest the driver so they will face criminal charges. While any legal claim you bring will be separate from a criminal case, having an arrest and criminal conviction can only help your case.
If you are injured, seek medical treatment immediately so that you have an official record of your diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Your medical records will be essential in proving your damages down the road.
How do I bring a Drunk Driving Accident Claim?
In a few cases, your injuries and the damage to your vehicle may be minor enough that you can obtain compensation simply through an insurance claim. If you receive an offer for an insurance settlement, you should always review the offer with a skilled car accident lawyer before you agree to or sign anything.
If your injuries are serious, however, insurance offers will likely not be enough to cover all of your accident-related losses. In this situation, you will need to file a lawsuit for personal injury with the civil courts in your county. You will have to prove that the driver was negligent in order to prevail in your case, though a drunk driving conviction can serve of automatic proof of such negligence.
Compensation for Your Losses
While it may feel good to have a sense of justice when you prevail in a lawsuit against a drunk driver, the primary purpose of such a case is to seek compensation for your various losses. Such losses generally include:
It can be relatively simple to prove your past losses that are financial in nature. You can present your medical bills and paystubs that concretely show how much your medical treatments cost and how much income you lost during your recovery. It can be significantly more complex to prove your future losses and your intangible losses, however. In order to prove that, you deserve the amount you seek, you may need to enlist experts or use other resources that are reliable and persuasive to the court.
Can I also Sue the Bar or Restaurant that Served the Driver?
The ability to sue an establishment that served alcohol to a person who later caused a drunk driving accidents are based on “dram shop laws,” which vary from state to state.2 In Pennsylvania, you can hold a liquor-selling establishment liable for any injuries you suffered in two specific scenarios:
Discuss Your Options with an Experienced Philadelphia Drunk Driving Attorney Today
After a drunk driving accident, there are many variables that can dictate your rights and your best course of action. As soon as you can, you should call a drunk driving accident lawyer at The Levin Firm to discuss your case. Call 215-825-5183 for a free consultation today.
Every driver should be fully aware of the serious dangers of driving while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. Under Pennsylvania law,  a driver can be convicted of impaired driving if their blood alcohol content (BAC) was over 0.08 percent. If their BAC was over the legal limit, the driver will likely be arrested and charged with the criminal offense of DUI. A criminal conviction, however, often does not adequately compensate any victims who sustained injuries due to a drunk driving accident. Instead, an injured victim
Drunk driving accidents can be severe because impaired drivers often drive the wrong way on the road, stray from their correct lane, or completely lose control of their vehicle. This often leads to severe head-on collisions, which can occur while both vehicles are moving at high speeds. As you can imagine, this type of accident has the potential to cause serious and even fatal injuries, including the following:
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)  – TBI is one of the most common injuries in drunk driving accidents. TBI can range from a concussion that may heal in a few weeks to debilitating brain damage, including life-threatening swelling or bleeding of the brain. TBI can have many different types of symptoms for victims ranging from mild confusion or headaches to severe physical and cognitive difficulties. TBI victims may often not be able to return to work or school or even participate in everyday activities for some time while they recover. Other TBI victims are left with permanent disabilities.
Broken bones – A break or fracture in a bone is often considered to be a relatively minor injury. However, some broken bones resulting from drunk driving accidents can be significantly more serious. Due to an impact of a collision, a bone may be broken in several places, shattered, or even crushed. Victims of severely broken bones generally require surgery and sometimes multiple procedures to repair the damage. In other more tragic cases, it may not be possible to repair a bone and an amputation may be necessary. As you can imagine, amputation can significantly limit an individual’s ability to work or even care for themselves.
Spinal cord injuries (SCI) – Damage to the spinal cord is also common in serious auto accidents such as drunk driving accidents. Spinal cord damage can cause issues with movement, sensation, and can even cause complete paralysis below the point of the injury. The extent of the permanent damage will depend on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. However, almost everyone who sustains spinal cord damage will require hospitalization to stabilize the injury and monitor the victim for complications. Long-term prognosis can vary widely from case to case.
Burns – In some serious collisions, fires or even explosions may result that cause accident victims to suffer painful burn injuries. Burns can also be sustained if an individual is ejected from the vehicle and friction occurs with the road. Burn victims often require extensive treatment including surgeries or skin grafts. Even for victims with less severe burns, the risk for infections is high with this type of injury and they may require hospitalization until their burns have healed.
The above are only some examples of serious injuries from drunk driving accidents. A criminal case is often not enough to hold the drunk driver fully liable for your injuries and, in many situations, you will want to pursue a legal claim in civil court against the drunk driver. Anyone who has suffered any type of injury in a drunk driving accident should speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible who understands how to pursue this type of claim.
At The Levin Firm in Philadelphia, we understand how devastating the effects of a drunk driving accident can be on your life. Victims are often left with catastrophic injuries and a long road to recovery. The fact that the accident and injuries could have been completely prevented had the driver chosen an alternate form of transportation often makes it even more difficult on victims. For this reason, highly experienced DUI accident attorney Gabriel Levin is committed to helping victims of drunk drivers obtain full compensation as well as a sense of justice. Consultations are free and we do not collect any fees unless you are able to recover for your losses. Please call today at 215-825-5183 to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer for help.
Unexpectedly losing a loved one is always devastating. Losing a loved one in an accident that was completely preventable is usually even worse. If your loved one died because another person acted in a reckless or otherwise dangerous manner, that responsible person should be held accountable for their actions. Moreover, you are probably facing many unexpected medical bills and funeral expenses. In addition, if your loved one was a primary breadwinner in the household, his or her death may leave you very concerned about how to pay your bills and support your family for the foreseeable future. Luckily, there is a way to recover financially in many situations to get the compensation you and your family deserve if someone else caused the fatal accident. A dedicated attorney at The Levin Firm can help you bring a wrongful death claim against the liable party and help you receive the settlement you deserve.
Wrongful death cases commonly follow accident caused by drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Though every adult should know that drunk driving is strictly against the law, millions of drivers continue to drink too much and get behind the wheel every day in the United States. Thousands of preventable fatalities happen annually because of the poor decision making of drunk drivers.
In order to prevail on a wrongful death case following an accident, you must show that the other driver was acting negligently. If the driver was breaking the law, such as an anti-drunk driving law, at the time of the accident, the court will find them to be “negligent per se,” or automatically negligent. This means that the most important thing you will have to prove at court is that the driver was, in fact, illegally under the influence. An experienced attorney knows how to use police reports and investigation techniques to show the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit and help you recover.
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