Getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs is one of the most dangerous decisions a person can make, and all too often, this careless decision has catastrophic results. If you were hurt in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you may be suffering from serious injuries, associated financial losses, and potentially psychological trauma as well.
Filing civil suit after drunk driver car accidents in Western PA could be difficult if you are not familiar with how civil litigation works and what you may be able to recover for in your specific situation. Guidance from a knowledgeable car accident attorney may be critical to ensuring not only that you cover all your economic damages, but also that you seek fair restitution for your non-economic losses as well, such as pain and suffering.
Establishing Liability for an Intoxicated Driving Wreck
An intoxicated person who causes a car accident in Western Pennsylvania may be found civilly at fault for that accident, and subsequently liable for any injuries stemming from that accident. One way for a civil plaintiff to prove another party was intoxicated is through the police officer who responded to the incident in question, which should show that he or she observed signs of intoxication and cited and/or arrested the other party for a DUI offense.
However, a drunk driver is not necessarily the only party who could be liable for a vehicle collision. Under Pennsylvania’s “dram shop” laws, a restaurant, bar, or other establishment that serves alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons can be liable for car accidents caused by patrons they knowingly overserved.
The following criteria must be met for an establishment to bear liability for an accident caused by drunk driving under dram shop laws:
- The drunk driver was either “visibly intoxicated” while he or she was at the establishment in question, or he or she was not old enough to legally drink;
- The establishment continued to serve alcohol to the drunk driver, who then actually consumed that alcohol at the establishment
- After leaving the establishment, the drunk driver’s intoxication was the direct cause of an accident that led to an injury, fatality, or significant property damage
A qualified attorney could provide further detail about whether these laws might apply in a particular situation.
What Potential Damages Could Be Recoverable?
If a person is catastrophically injured in a car wreck can demonstrate that another party involved was under the influence, the intoxicated driver would be liable for both economic and non-economic damages suffered by the injured individual. Economic damages have an objective dollar value and typically include medical expenses, lost work wages, and the costs of repairing or replacing a damaged vehicle. On the other hand, non-economic damages like physical pain and emotional anguish may have different estimated values depending on the qualitative experience of the person who suffered them.
Furthermore, a court may elect to levy punitive damages against a drunk driver as well, based upon the extreme recklessness in making the decision to drive while drunk. These damages are not meant to compensate specific losses an injured person suffered, but rather to punish the defendant and discourage other people in the future from repeating the offense.
Discuss a Possible Drunk Driver Car Accident Case with a Western PA Attorney
While a DUI charge can serve as a straightforward cause of action for civil litigation, that does not mean that successfully recovering compensation after drunk driver car accidents in Western PA is a simple matter. Filing a lawsuit after a car wreck is a lengthy and complex process, and accident victims who are unfamiliar with civil law may find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to pursuing fair compensation for all their damages.
A seasoned car accident lawyer could work tirelessly to streamline your case, prioritize your best interests, and pursue the best possible outcome in or out of court. Call today to learn more about the help that dedicated legal counsel at Marcus & Mack could provide.