Proving Fault and Recovering Damages
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about one in every fourteen automobile accidents involves the use of alcohol, and one in every seven traffic fatalities is alcohol-related. If the person who causes your motor vehicle accident is convicted of drunk driving, does that automatically make them liable for your personal injury or property losses? What are your options if the drunk driver has little or no automobile insurance?
Evidence of Fault
The criminal prosecution and any civil suit arising out of a drunk-driving accident are two separate and distinct legal proceedings. A guilty plea or verdict in a DUI/DWI criminal case in Pennsylvania does not automatically render the defendant responsible for your losses in a civil suit but may be introduced as evidence to establish fault. However, in a personal injury claim, it’s not enough to simply show that the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol. You also must show that the defendant’s drunk driving caused the accident.
Potential Sources of Compensation
Statistically, about one in three drunk driving convictions involves a repeat offender. Because of the dramatic premium increases after a DUI conviction, many drunk drivers have little or no insurance coverage. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that takes a no-fault approach to motor vehicle insurance. When you are injured in an auto accident, you look to your own insurer.
If your insurance coverage is insufficient to cover your losses in a drunk-driving accident, you also can seek damages from other sources:
- Under the “dram shop” laws in Pennsylvania, you can seek compensation from establishments, such as bars, taverns, restaurants, and party stores, who serve or sell alcohol to persons who are visibly intoxicated. The same rule applies to private individuals who host events where alcohol is served.
- If the accident is caused in part by roadway defects, you may have a claim against a municipality or other government entity.
- If the accident is caused in part by a dangerous or defective car or car component, you may have a product-liability claim against the designer and/or manufacturer.
Contact Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus
At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus, we have protected the rights of personal injury victims in Pennsylvania since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. We are currently communicating with clients by phone, text message, e-mail and videoconference. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or contact us online.
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