June 7, 2022
Can I Sue a Drunk Driver?
Pennsylvania law states that anyone who drives with a blood alcohol content over 0.08 percent is legally impaired. Violating the drunk driving law and causing an accident is a crime that punishable by law. Driving drunk makes the offending driver liable for any harm caused to others while driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.
If you are injured by a drunk driver who also damages your vehicle, you could sue that person in a state court. You might also be eligible to pursue punitive damages.
Pennsylvania’s No-Fault Auto Insurance Law Guarantees Coverage
Whenever damages or injuries occur due to an auto accident, auto insurance should cover initial costs. So should health insurance for those who need medical care.
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state for auto insurance. That means that your auto insurer should automatically pay your claims no matter who is at fault in an accident.
The no-fault coverage is supposed to limit the number of potential lawsuits arising from car accidents. It also is supposed to help accident survivors to obtain insurance claims settlements much more quickly than when fault must be determined.
Drivers must carry at least $5,000 in personal injury protection coverage to help pay for the initial medical treatment for themselves or others they may injure on the road. An accident might force you to take an ambulance to the local emergency room. Personal injury protection coverage could pay for the ambulance ride and at least some of the emergency room costs.
Options for No-Fault Insurance Coverage
Pennsylvania is not an absolute no-fault auto insurance state. The state offers drivers two other options for car insurance coverage. Those options are full-tort and limited-tort auto insurance.
A full-tort policy enables you to sue the at-fault driver for the injuries and property damage that you might suffer during an accident. The damages for a full-tort claim could include punitive damages for extreme negligence. The damages also could include pain and suffering.
A limited-tort no-fault policy also is available and greatly reduces the potential claims for which you might sue another motorist. With a limited-tort insurance policy, you only could sue if you suffer permanent disfigurement or a serious impairment of bodily functions.
A full-tort insurance policy costs more than a limited-tort or a no-fault policy. That is because you could sue for just about any damages or injuries that occur – including those caused by a drunk driver.
Potential Full-Tort Claims Against a Drunk Driver
Whether a driver is drunk or sober, that person is liable for damages when causing an accident. The primary damages that you could seek with full-tort claims are compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages are the cost to treat your injuries and any related damages, including lost income. The compensatory damages also would include property damage to your vehicle or other property that might have been damaged in the accident.
A full-tort claim also might enable you to obtain punitive damages for your injuries and damages. When someone breaks the law and causes an accident while drinking and driving, punitive damages are possible to obtain.
Punitive damages are additional to compensatory damages: they could multiply the amount initially awarded for compensatory damages. Punitive damages often are three times the amount of compensatory damages.
Evidence Needed for Compensatory or Punitive Damages
The evidence for compensatory damages should be relatively easy to obtain. You can obtain copies of all of your medical bills and vehicle damage costs. If you missed work, any time that you spent away from work is another type of damage for lost income.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you to determine the full extent of damages that you suffered and could claim in court. That includes pain and suffering and other claims that are more difficult to quantify.
You also could obtain evidence to support a claim for punitive damages. If the offending driver was arrested and prosecuted for drunk driving, that could help to support a legal claim for punitive damages.
Potential Third-Party Claims Against Bars or Party Hosts
Pennsylvania’s “dram shop law” enables you to sue a bar that over-served the drunk driver who caused you harm. A car accident and any resulting injuries qualify as harm done.
The drunk driver might have attended a private party that served alcohol. The people who hosted the party might be liable for serving too much alcohol.
The dram shop law states that a bar or another establishment could be liable for damages when it continues to serve someone who is visibly intoxicated. The same goes for the hosts of private parties.
A judge could rule the servers knew or should have known the individual had too much to drink. That could make the services liable for harm caused by a drunk driver.
Proving Limited-Tort Claims
You might have suffered a permanent disfigurement or a significant impairment of bodily functions due to an accident caused by a drunk driver. A limited-tort policy would enable you to sue the drunk driver for damages.
An impairment of bodily functions might include a partial or full paralysis. One or more organs might have suffered extensive damage that impairs other bodily functions.
You will need to provide evidence that ties the injury or impairment to the accident. A medical diagnosis could confirm the injuries that you suffered as a result of the accident, as could testimony from family, friends, and coworkers who could confirm that you were fine prior to the accident.
King of Prussia Car Accident Lawyer at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C., Help to Hold Bad Drivers Accountable
If you survived an accident caused by a drunk driver, our experienced King of Prussia car accident lawyer at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C., can help. Please call 267-861-7100 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at one of our law offices in Philadelphia and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. We represent clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Chester County, Norristown, and across the state.