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:
- Past medical bills and estimated future medical costs
- Past lost income and estimated future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering from your injuries
- Emotional trauma from your injuries and/or the accident
- Permanent disability
- Loss of enjoyment of your life
- Punitive damages, as are commonly awarded in serious drunk driving cases
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:
- The establishment served alcohol to a person younger than the drinking age of 21 years old and that person caused your injuries; or
- The establishment served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated and that person caused your injuries.
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.