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.
Holding a Philadelphia drunk driver responsible for your injuries often requires filing a claim or a lawsuit. An experienced Philadelphia drunk driving accident lawyer can investigate your accident and build a solid case designed to help you collect the compensation you deserve.
Drunk Driving Accidents in Philadelphia
To get a sense of the scope of the continuing danger of drunk and drugged driving, consider these statistics from the CDC:
In one recent year, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
Over a decade, 4,663 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Pennsylvania.
In 2016, more than one-million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. However, those arrests represent just 1 percent of the 111 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year!
Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes.
Dangers of Driving While Intoxicated
Most people are familiar with why drunk and drugged driving is so dangerous. Alcohol and drug impairment cause drivers to:
- Have slowed reaction times
- Drive erratically
- Suffer from reduced situational awareness
- All of these can lead to devastating accidents.
Holding Drunk Drivers & Bars Accountable
When a drunk or drugged driver causes an accident in Pennsylvania, the driver will likely have legal liability to anyone his actions injure. (This may be the case even if the driver’s level of impairment was under the legal limit.)
Although impaired driving is illegal, the driver’s insurance must cover liability to victims up to the policy limits. However, the driver is not the only party who may have liability to victims of a drunk or drugged driving incident.
Under Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Law, the owner of a bar or restaurant that serves a visibly intoxicated patron will have legal liability for injuries the patron causes behind the wheel.
What To Do After a Philadelphia Drunk Driving Accident
As with any Philadelphia car 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 File 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.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Receive After a Drunk Driving Accident in Philadelphia?
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.
Common Injuries In Drunk Driving Accidents
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.
Do Not Delay In Calling A Philadelphia Automobile Accident Attorney For Assistance Today
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 auto accident lawyer for help.