Central Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Accidents
ATTORNEYS REPRESENTING CLIENTS IN LANCASTER & YORK
Alcohol and vehicles do not mix. It’s a combination that can destroy property, relationships, and lives. Unfortunately, drunk driving is a common occurrence in the United States. Last year, in Pennsylvania alone, there were 11,041 alcohol related car accidents, and the 368 deaths that occurred in these incidents make up 30.5% of all total traffic related deaths in our state that year*.
A responsible driver would have a plan for a night out. They’d either arrange for a ride, call a taxi, or have a designated driver in tow to make sure everyone gets home safely. The problem is, you can’t predict other people’s actions and you can’t count on them being responsible. You can’t know that when you’re driving home late one night, you won’t come across a driver under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances.
It only takes a moment, a fraction of a second, for a drunk driver to loose control of their vehicle and swerve into your lane, either causing a collision or forcing you off of the road. If you or a loved one has suffered severe injuries or wrongful death at the hands of a drunk driver, discussing your situation with a drunk driving accident lawyer may help you to receive compensation for your pain and suffering.
Pennsylvania DUI Law
In Pennsylvania, law enforcement takes drunk driving extremely seriously and enforce harsh penalties on those convicted. The state has established a three-pronged definition of DUI’s, based on the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver at the time of the accident:
- General Impairment: Defined as a BAC between .08% and .099%
- High BAC: Between .10% and .159%
- Highest BAC: Includes .16% and higher, as well as any influence from a controlled substance
Depending on the level of the driver’s BAC, a DUI can come included with a variety of consequences. First offenses classified as General Impairment often result in a fine of up to $300, 6 months of probation, and some kind of alcohol safety training. Offenders that blow a .16% or higher can face even larger fines, license suspension, misdemeanor charges, and potentially up to 5 years of jail time.
Civil Suit vs. Criminal Conviction
It is important to know that filing a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver is a separate and unrelated process to that driver being convicted of the crime. Criminal proceedings will ensue against the drunk driver, regardless of whether or not you file a civil suit against them. They are in place to deter the driver from committing the crime again in the future, with the goal of protecting the general public from such acts of negligence.
A civil suit is what is required for you to combat the drunk driver on a personal level. This is how you must proceed if you are to recover any damages that resulted from the incident. Even if the drunk driver is convicted of a DUI and receives a sentence, you will not receive any compensation until you file a civil suit. The Pennsylvania drunk driving attorneys at Hagelgans & Vernois are experienced with gathering evidence required to bring a civil DUI suit in front of the court.
PA No-Fault Laws
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, which can make pursuing a civil suit against a drunk driver a little tricky at times. The law is even further complicated by the fact that, when selecting an insurance plan, PA drivers can choose between no-fault insurance or traditional full coverage. Depending on what kind of coverage you carry, you’ll have different options when it comes to civil suits against drunk drivers.
Choosing no-fault insurance means that, if involved in an accident, you’d typically turn to your own insurance company to award you compensation instead of bringing a suit against the other driver. You have the potential to be paid up to the full personal injury protection (PIP) limit, but that may not cover the full cost of your accident. There are situations where you can bring a civil suit against the other driver, but only if the accident involved “serious injury.” This excludes soft-tissue injuries, requiring you to prove a “serious impairment of bodily function” to be eligible to move forward with a civil suit.
Choosing traditional insurance allows you to bring a law suit against the other driver no matter how little damage was caused. The caveat is that someone could also sue you if you are found to be at fault for an accident.
I’ve Been Hit: Taking the First Steps
As with any accident, your first step after a collision with or caused by a drunk driver is to call the police. If the driver is uninjured, they may be inclined to flee the scene, so be sure to write down their license plate number ASAP. Also, consider the following steps in the aftermath of a drunk driving accident:
- Giving your account: The police are going to ask you what happened from your point of view. Tell them the truth and provide them with the facts regarding the accident. Be careful about placing blame though, as speculating could complicate the case.
- Go to the doctor: Regardless of whether or not you think you’ve been injured, it’s a good idea to go to the emergency room or see your doctor. It is possible to sustain a number of injuries, even neck and back injuries, without knowing. If you are injured, a medical professional will be able to accurately document your injuries, which could serve as evidence if you decide to file a civil suit.
- Try to find witnesses: If another vehicle saw your accident and stopped, or if there were pedestrians nearby, ask them for their contact information. They’ll be able to offer an unbiased account of exactly what happened and that may come in handy in court.
- Get a copy of the police report: An official police report will be some of the most significant evidence you can bring to a case. If you weren’t given a copy at the accident scene, you can usually obtain one from the officer’s station.
- Talk to a lawyer: The fact of the matter is, filing a civil suit against a drunk driver is not simple. The attorneys at Haglegans & Veronis offer an experienced approach, compassion regarding your situation, and the tenacity needed to stand up to injustice.
Don’t Wait, Schedule a Free Consultation
You may not have a case with the potential for a huge settlement, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek what you’re entitled to by law. The Haglegans & Veronis drunk driving accident lawyers have represented victims in a variety of drunk driving cases, with many successful verdicts and settlements to show for it. We will find the evidence, work with the police, and even hire a toxicologist, if need be, to assist in strengthening your case.
If you, a family member, or a friend have been hurt by a drunk driver, contact us now. You don’t owe us anything, until and unless we reach a successful settlement of your suit. Call us at 1-877-454-8529 to set up an appointment and get your life back on track.
*Statistics courtesy of Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD)