Philadelphia Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, DUI and DWI accident attorneys at The Levin Firm know the consequences and risks associated with vehicle collisions when people drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Most people take steps to ensure that they can safely consume alcohol, such as by recruiting sober designated drivers or using cabs or public transportation. Nonetheless, intoxicated individuals still sometimes end up behind wheels of cars, and all too often, they cause fatal accidents or accidents that leave others with serious life-threatening injuries.
No one should sustain life-changing injuries because a driver broke the law and drove while intoxicated. The law allows victims who are injured in motor vehicle accidents to recover compensation—and at The Levin Firm, we believe in holding drunk drivers fully accountable for any injuries and losses they cause. If you believe you have a claim against a drunk driver, please pick up the phone or contact us online today to discuss what happened.
Drunk Driving Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 17,500 people are killed each year, and thousands more injured, in DUI related motor vehicle accidents. More often than not, the inebriated driver does not suffer the most serious injuries—rather, the passengers, the occupants of other vehicles, or pedestrians get hurt the worst.
About 1.8 percent of adults surveyed in Pennsylvania reported getting behind the wheel of a car after having too much to drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The risks of having drunk drivers on the road in Philadelphia increase significantly during holidays and on days when the city is hosting major sports games, concerts, or similar events. On such days, take extreme care and watch for any erratic driving behaviors.
Signs Of A Driver’s Impairment
While a driver may sway, slow down, swerve, or otherwise drive erratically for many reasons (such as texting), these can always signal that a driver drank too much alcohol. If you notice these signs, immediately give the driver room and even call the police.
Drunk driving is dangerous because alcohol can cause:
- Decreased reaction times
- Lack of focus
- Blurred vision
- Impaired judgment
These impairments often lead to the following dangers, among many others:
- A driver fails to stop in time to avoid hitting the back of another car.
- A driver does not notice the traffic around the car and changes lanes improperly.
- A driver cannot maintain a steady speed and slows down or speeds up unexpectedly.
- A driver is not using good judgment and speeds excessively or drag races.
- A driver unknowingly turns down the wrong side of the highway.
- A driver departs from a lane, either side-swiping a car to the right or crashing head-on into oncoming cars to the left.
- A driver cannot maintain control, crashes, and then causes a chain-reaction crash.
The most careful and vigilant drivers cannot always prevent drunk driving accidents. You can be aware of the risks and statistics and still become a statistic yourself after you are injured in a crash caused by an impaired driver. Know where to turn for help if you are in an accident—call The Levin Firm to discuss your rights.
Criminal DUI Cases Vs. Civil Drunk Driving Lawsuits
Drivers who operate motor vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, regardless of whether they cause accidents, are subject to arrest for criminal charges as well as sanctions from the state department of transportation. If you were injured in an accident with an intoxicated driver, you also have the right to bring a private lawsuit against that driver to recover compensation. The criminal side of a drunk driving case is a separate matter from a civil lawsuit—in fact, the cases will be held in different courts altogether.
After an accident in which one driver is suspected of intoxication, call the police immediately. Police officers can make observations, talk to the drivers, and perform field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests to determine whether a driver was impaired or over the legal limit. If officers have probable cause to believe the driver was drunk, they will arrest the driver, and prosecutors may issue charges of driving under the influence (DUI).
A driver who is convicted will face penalties that depend on blood alcohol content (BAC) and any history of drunk driving. Consequences can include fines, license suspensions, and even time in jail. Compensating any injured accident victims for their extensive losses, however, is not a consequence of a criminal DUI conviction. Therefore, many accident victims are left wondering what they can do.
In this situation, you must seek compensation in civil court by filing a lawsuit. While these proceedings are separate from criminal proceedings, you may use some evidence from the criminal case to your advantage.
In a personal injury case, you must prove the driver’s negligence—and driving drunk is certainly considered negligent. If a driver was never arrested, you would have to present witness statements, video evidence, and other types of evidence of the driver’s intoxication. However, you can use a driver’s conviction of DUI in criminal court as proof of negligence without needing any additional evidence. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer will know how to use any criminal convictions or evidence to help your civil case.
Injuries And Losses In Drunk Driving Crashes
As with any type of traffic accident, those involved in drunk driving crashes can sustain many different types of injuries—ranging from minor bruises to permanently disabling conditions. The following examples of injuries may result from serious crashes:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back injuries
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue tears, sprains, and strains
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Skull fractures
Immediately treat all of these conditions in an emergency room or similar facility. Once your doctor diagnoses an injury, your doctor should set out a treatment plan that may require time in the hospital, surgical procedures, visits with specialists, rehabilitative therapies, medications and medical equipment, and more.
The costs of treatments can add up quickly and can add stress to your already disrupted life. In some cases, you may not see the end of your treatments, and your bills will continue to mount for years to come.
To make matters worse, injuries can keep you out of work for days, weeks, or even long-term. Losing any amount of income can have a serious effect on your household’s finances. If you must change careers because of the limitations caused by a permanent injury, you may lose out on significant income during the course of your working years. Fortunately, such lost income is a recoverable loss in a drunk driving accident case.
Our drunk driving accident lawyer knows how to determine all of your past and future losses to make sure you receive full compensation after a crash.
Philadelphia Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Motor vehicle accidents happen every day, leaving victims with catastrophic injuries and significant medical bills and expenses. Victims suffer particular pain knowing that a drunk driver made a senseless, avoidable decision to drive that resulted in the crash that hurt them.
Victims of these drunk driving accidents often have lots of questions about the legal remedies for their physical, emotional, and financial suffering. Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked of those questions. For answers to questions about your specific rights after suffering harm in a Philadelphia drunk driving accident, contact the skilled drunk driving accident injury lawyers at the Levin Firm today.
1. Do I need medical attention even if I do not think my injuries are serious?
Yes. Always seek medical attention after falling victim to a drunk driving accident, even if you think you sustained only minor injuries, or if you do not see any visible trauma. Some severe accident injuries can take up to a few days to show symptoms, but a doctor can diagnose them immediately and begin treating you before they threaten your life and long-term health. In addition, seeking prompt medical attention protects your legal rights by putting your injuries on the record as having resulted from a drunk driving crash.
2. What should I do after a drunk driving accident harms me?
- First, call 911 and tell them the accident has happened (including any observations you made that lead you to suspect a drunk driver’s involvement). When first responders arrive, as we mentioned above, seek medical attention. If an EMT recommends you take an ambulance ride to the hospital, then follow that advice. If not, then still follow up with your regular doctor or at an urgent care clinic within 24 hours.
- Second, if you do not require emergency medical attention at a hospital, then you can also take steps to gather some important information at the accident scene that could help protect your legal rights. Only if safe to do so and without getting in the way of first responders, get names, contact information, and insurance information from all drivers involved in the crash. (Exercise caution, however, around any suspected drunk driver.) Take pictures or video with your cell phone of the accident scene. Footage of a driver acting drunk could prove especially useful, but try at least to capture images of the condition of the vehicles, their positions on the roadway, and of the surrounding area (including lighting, signage, and road conditions).
- Third, when first responders arrive, tell them about anything you observed that leads you to think someone involved drove drunk. Stick to the facts, and do not say anything that directly or indirectly takes any of the blame for the crash. Even a statement like “I should have seen him coming” could get misinterpreted or deliberately taken out of context as an admission of guilt. Just tell the police what happened, nothing more.
- Fourth and finally, call our experienced drunk driving accident injury attorneys right away. Seeking compensation for injuries you suffered in a drunk driving accident can involve some legal complexity. The sooner you have an attorney on your side protecting your rights, the better your chances of seeing justice done and recovering the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
3. What should I NOT do after a drunk driving accident?
We suggested a few of the don’ts above, but in general:
- Do not risk your safety by engaging in any sort of verbal exchange with a drunk driver. If need be, stay locked in your car and on the phone with the 911 dispatcher until first responders.
- If a drunk driver tries to leave the scene of the accident, do not give chase or try to stop him. If possible, instead, snap a picture of his license plate to help the police locate him.
- Do not take any of the blame for an accident. Do not apologize to anyone. State only the facts.
- Do not post about the accident on social media. You could hurt your legal rights by doing so.
- Do not agree to any direct offer someone makes to settle with you without getting lawyers involved. Any such offer aims to cheat you out of the full amount of money you deserve for your accident injuries.
- Do not confuse the likely criminal prosecution of a drunk driver with your right to obtain compensation by filing a civil lawsuit. Speak with a lawyer right away.
4. How does Pennsylvania’s limited or full tort insurance affect my rights?
Pennsylvania requires drivers to carry no-fault insurance which covers medical and disability costs related to the driver’s own injuries in a car accident, regardless of fault. In addition, drunk driving accident victims likely have the right to seek additional compensation from the drunk driver. Under Pennsylvania’s somewhat unique auto insurance system, drivers must select either Limited Tort or Full Tort insurance coverage when they purchase their auto policy.
The choice affects the types of damages they may seek through a lawsuit against an at-fault party in a car accident.
- Choosing Full Tort Insurance Coverage gives the insured driver the option to sue an at-fault driver for any car accident injuries, including pain and suffering.
- Choosing Limited Tort Insurance Coverage limits the driver’s ability to sue an at-fault party for so-called non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, only if the crash causes the driver to suffer death, permanent serious disfigurement, or serious impairment of a bodily function. However, an exception to the Limited Tort Insurance Coverage option states that if the person who caused the accident pleads guilty to drunk driving or is convicted of drunk driving, then the injured driver who had Limited Tort Insurance Coverage is automatically deemed to have Full Tort Insurance Coverage for the purposes of a lawsuit against the intoxicated driver defendant.
So, that is a long way of saying that if a drunk driver causes your crash injuries, and the drunk driver ultimately pleads guilty to or gets convicted of the crime of drunk driving, then you will likely have the right to sue that driver for full damages.
5. Does it prove my case for damages, if the driver that caused the accident is charged with drunk driving?
Even though it seems this answer should be pretty cut and dried, the answer is, in fact, “No, at least not automatically.” Pennsylvania, like most other states, outlaws driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent. The criminal consequences that result from intoxicated driving usually include hefty fines, driver license suspension, and even possible jail time.
It takes more to prove the drunk driver’s liability than to establish the fact of his intoxication. Your attorney still must connect-the-dots and also prove that the driver’s drunkenness actually caused the accident. Usually, that does not require too much extra work. Still, you cannot merely assume that a drunk driver’s conviction automatically means you can recover damages. Speak with an experienced drunk driving accident injury attorney to learn more.
6. What kind of damages can I recover?
Every drunk driving accident injury case has its own unique facts. A crash victim’s ability to recover compensation, and the amount of compensation, can vary widely from one case to the next. In general, however, victims of Philadelphia drunk drivers can usually hope to recover compensation for:
Compensatory damages. Compensatory damages aim to make a drunk driving accident victim whole. They typically include compensation for:
- Medical Expenses and Bills, including current and future medical treatments, prescription drugs, and hospital stay.
- Property Damage, including the cost of replacement or repair to personal property and a motor vehicle.
- Cost of Living with a Disability, including physical therapy, medical devices such as a wheelchair, and other rehab services.
- Lost Wages, including the loss of current wages, as well as the loss of future income.
- Funeral and Burial Expenses;
- Pain and Suffering, such as physical discomfort, anxiety, insomnia, anger, or even depression.
- Loss of companionship/ consortium of a loved one.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages. Punitive damages aim to punish the at-fault party for wanton, malicious, or willful behavior that society as a whole wants to deter. Under Pennsylvania law, in certain drunk driving accidents, the victim can recover punitive damages against the drunk driver if the driver’s actions were so reckless and outrageous that the court decides they warrant extra financial sanctions.
7. How do Pennsylvania dram shop laws affect my rights?
A dram shop is an establishment like a bar or a restaurant that sells alcohol. Under the Pennsylvania Dram Shop law, a victim of a drunk driving accident can sometimes hold an alcohol-seller legally responsible for the harm caused by an accident, if the person or entity provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who subsequently causes a drunk driving accident.
Holding a business legally liable for a drunk driver’s actions can help victims recover full compensation for their injuries. However, proving that an establishment served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person is more complicated than it sounds, and often requires the skill and experience of a seasoned drunk driving accident injury attorney. Speak with a knowledgeable lawyer today to learn if you may have the option of seeking compensation under Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop law.
8. Is there a time limit to file a drunk driving accident lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
Yes. In Pennsylvania, drunk driving accident victims in most cases have two years from the date of the accident to take legal action for damages against an at-fault party. Victims lose their rights to seek compensation if this time limit expires before they have taken action, in most cases. Speak with an experienced Philadelphia drunk driving accident injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you do not miss a deadline for enforcing your legal rights and for getting the money you deserve.
9. How can a Philadelphia alcohol-related accident attorney help me?
Drunk driving accidents differ from many other types of auto accidents in that they frequently spawn both criminal and civil legal actions. Philadelphia victims of drunk drivers need seasoned legal guidance to navigate the aftermath of a crash to make sure they recover the compensation they need and deserve.
Every case differs, but in general an experienced alcohol-related accident injury lawyer in Philadelphia protects a crash victim’s rights and interests by:
- Investigating the facts and circumstances of an accident to determine who has legal liability for crash victims’ injuries, and how much money those victims have the legal right to receive under Pennsylvania law.
- Navigating the interplay between the Commonwealth’s criminal prosecution of a drunk driver and your civil legal rights to seek compensation from the driver and, potentially, others. This may include providing advice and guidance in how a crash victim acts as a witness in the criminal prosecution, and in monitoring the progress of that prosecution to determine its potential effects on the victim’s claims for damages.
- Negotiating with the legal representatives for any party who has legal liability for the Philadelphia drunk driving accident and the injuries it caused, in pursuit of a fair and reasonable settlement of a victim’s claims. Oftentimes, these negotiations involve defense lawyers and representatives of insurance companies that issued policies to the at-fault party.
- Fighting in court for fair and reasonable compensation when at-fault parties and their representatives refuse to offer a fair and reasonable settlement of a client’s claims, including taking a case to a trial in front of a judge and jury if that is what it takes to achieve adequate compensation.
Do not wait to seek the assistance of an experienced Philadelphia drunk driving accident injury attorney after a crash harms you or your family. The sooner you have an attorney working on your behalf, the better your chances of recovering full compensation for your injuries, and of seeing justice done.
Drunk drivers have no excuse for their reckless conduct. If a Philadelphia drunk driving accident has caused devastation in your life, then get the legal help you need right away. Contact the Levin Firm’s skilled drunk driving accident injury lawyers in Philadelphia today for a free case evaluation.
Helping Victims Of Drunk Drivers
At The Levin Firm, we understand that representing victims of DUI related accidents requires particular skills and knowledge, as well as the ability to understand your rights. We fight to recover the many types of damages and compensation to which our clients are entitled, including medical expenses, hospital bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost earnings, future wage losses, lost earning capacity, physical disabilities, scars, losses of limbs, brain and head injuries, emotional distress, depression, anxiety, grief, and pain and suffering. We understand these issues and work with our clients, their friends and family, as well as their doctors, psychologists, long-term care planners, and others, to ensure that our clients receive the finest legal representation, support, and medical care.
Representing DUI-related accident victims requires a team of aggressive investigators and lawyers all devoting their maximum efforts to their clients. At The Levin Firm, our Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys investigate every claim so that we may aggressively and zealously represent our clients and obtain the best possible results.
When you need a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey personal injury attorney to represent you, a family member, or a friend who suffered a DUI-related accident injury, call The Levin Firm today at (215) 825-5183 or fill out our contact form online.