Criminal laws discourage people from driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. We represent clients who have been injured in such a situation. If you or a loved one has been injured in this kind of accident, you may have some options to seek compensation for your injuries.
If the driver is found and arrested, or if there is sufficient evidence the person is responsible, a civil suit can be filed against the driver. Once served with the complaint, if that person has auto insurance, he/she should contact his/her auto insurance carrier. That policy may cover injuries and property damage.
If the driver has no auto insurance, or insufficient coverage, but has enough assets to cover the damages, it may be worthwhile to pursue a legal action against that person.
If there is no insurance, or insufficient coverage to compensate you for your injuries and property damage, and the drunk driver has no assets to speak of, you may be able to collect under Uninsured Motorist coverage and Underinsured Motorist coverage (or UM/UIM coverage) on your own policy (see prior blog on the topic). If there is such coverage, you may be able to collect from you own insurance carrier injuries and damages caused by this driver.
If the driver has no insurance, no assets and you don’t have UM/UIM coverage, you may be left holding the proverbial bag. This one reason why you should have this coverage in a sufficient amount.
You could apply to Pennsylvania’s Victims Compensation Program, which helps crime victims with some expenses, but it’s not nearly the same recovery compared to a successful personal injury lawsuit.
In the course of litigating the case, or as a result of a criminal investigation, it may be discovered the driver was negligently served alcohol before the accident, and that negligence was a contributing factor. If that’s the case, there may be grounds to sue who served the driver. If that was a bar, restaurant or other entity licensed to serve alcohol, a “dram shop” action could be filed against whomever served the driver. Such an entity should have insurance to cover this kind of claim.
If the driver was under the legal drinking age of 21, a guest at someone’s home and that host served the driver alcohol and it was a factor in the accident, that host could be sued as well. Pennsylvania courts have not held hosts liable for serving alcohol to those of legal drinking age who get behind the wheel and cause accidents.
If the driver cannot be found, and there are no other parties who may be held responsible (Were other cars involved? Was the road negligently maintained? Were you struck because you had to pull over because of negligently performed car repairs?) your options are limited.
You may be able to collect under UM/UIM coverage in this circumstance as well, assuming you have it and it’s at a sufficient level of coverage. If not, you will have to rely on your own resources after the accident.
If you have questions about insurance coverage or automobile accidents, contact our office. We’ll be happy to help.