Compassionate Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers Fight for Victims Injured by Drunk Drivers
Intoxicated Drivers are Breaking the Law and Putting Innocent Victims in Harm’s Way
Despite the known dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, drunk driving is a persistent problem across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 32 people in the United States die each day in drunk driving accidents. That is one person every 45 minutes.
Even if you do everything right as a driver, you are still at risk of being involved in a drunk driving accident caused by someone else. When a person makes that choice to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, they endanger everyone around them.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Ability to Safely Drive?
Alcohol consumption reduces certain functions that are essential for safely operating a motor vehicle. Drinking alcohol in small quantities impairs reasoning, thinking, and muscle coordination. These effects increase as a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level rises.
Pennsylvania has a legal BAC limit of 0.08 percent, but that does not mean it is safe to drive after consuming less alcohol. The NHTSA warns that at a person with a BAC level of just 0.02 percent (around two drinks) begins to lose judgement, has visual function decline, and has trouble paying attention. By the time their BAC reaches 0.08 percent, muscle coordination is poor, self-control is compromised, and memory and reasoning have declined significantly.
In Pennsylvania, drunk driving penalties include fines and probation for a first offense, and jail time and license suspension for subsequent offenses. Penalties are greater for those who cause car accidents that injure others.
What Are Common Drunk Driving Accident Injuries?
A drunk driving car accident is life-changing in many ways. There might be physical injuries that require hospitalization, surgery, and/or rehabilitation therapy. Some injuries cause permanent disability and a lifetime of chronic pain.
Common drunk driving accident injuries include:
- Back injuries.
- Limb injuries and amputations.
- Lacerations and puncture wounds.
- Internal injuries and organ damage.
- Soft tissue injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
- Vision loss.
- Bone fractures.
- Chest injuries.
- Facial injuries.
- Hearing loss.
Individuals involved in drunk driving accidents also deal with intense emotional trauma. Depending on the severity of the accident, survivors can experience guilt if others passed away in the crash.
PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by a frightening event, like a serious car accident. People with PTSD can develop severe anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares that interfere with everyday life.
Drunk driving accidents also have a significant financial cost for someone who has been injured. There are bills for medical treatments, tests, and medications.
Someone with severe injuries may not be able to work. That means lost income. Even if a drunk driving accident is not your fault, you might still incur higher insurance premiums.
What Should You Do if You Believe You Have Been Hit by a Drunk Driver?
Alcohol consumption affects a person’s coordination, reaction time, and decision-making in ways that make it unsafe to drive. Pennsylvania law prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and/or controlled substances.
If the person who caused the accident that injured you was drunk at the time, police need to know. You may have noticed them swerving prior to the accident or slurring their words after the crash.
If you have reason to believe the other driver was impaired, share your suspicions with the responding police officer. They may do a sobriety test at the accident scene. Proof of impairment is evidence of negligence, which is essential for your case.
Drunk driving accidents are sudden and unexpected. The hope is motorists involved in these crashes do not experience serious injuries or property damage. For those who do, it is important to take steps to protect themselves, preserve evidence, and report the accident to the police. This is especially true for accidents caused by impaired drivers.
Stay at the Scene
After any type of motor vehicle accident, everyone should remain at the scene. Pennsylvania law requires that drivers stay to assist injured parties and exchange contact information and contact police when someone is hurt or killed. Someone who leaves before police arrive can be charged with a hit-and-run.
Be sure to record the other driver’s license number, insurance information, and vehicle description. Tell the police officer exactly what happened without accepting fault for the accident. In Pennsylvania, both parties can be partially at-fault, so what you say at the scene truly matters.
Get Medical Treatment
Medical attention should be the first priority after a drunk driving accident. Even if there are no obvious signs of injury, avoid moving someone in pain, and call 911 to request an ambulance.
If you do not need emergency care, be sure to see a doctor once you are home. Some common car accident injuries are not always immediately apparent but can still be quite serious and worsen over time.
Drunk driving accidents can and should be prevented. The evidence you collect after the crash will be used to show liability and build a compelling case for compensation.
Write down names and contact information for everyone at the scene, including passengers and witnesses. Take pictures or videos of the accident location, property damage, injuries, weather and road conditions, and any vehicles involved.
Consult a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer
Schedule a consultation with a trusted Philadelphia car accident lawyer who has experience in drunk driving accident cases. Make this call before you accept an insurance settlement. Remember, the first-off insurance payout offer may not be enough to cover your losses.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer After a Drunk Driving Accident?
It is natural to feel confused and overwhelmed after a drunk driving accident. If you have never been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, you may not know where to turn. If you were hurt in a drunk driving crash, hire an experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyer to assist you.
When you consider all of ways an accident can impact a person’s life, you will see the importance of legal representation. Your lawyer’s role is to protect your rights and help you recover compensation for your losses. They cannot turn back time, but they can provide legal support to help you move forward after a serious accident.
An experienced car accident lawyer can do the following:
- Assess the value of your settlement claim.
- Gather evidence, including the police report, camera footage, and the BAC test from the other driver.
- Hold negligent parties accountable for their actions.
- Determine if litigation is appropriate and represent you in court.
- Explain if you can expect compensation and when.
- Keep you updated on the status of your case.
What You Need to Know About Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, drivers have a choice to carry traditional tort or no-fault auto insurance policies. No-fault policies generally prohibit the carrier from suing at-fault drivers for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, however, drunk driving is typically an exception to this rule. Traditional tort policies allow a driver to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. Also, those who have a traditional tort policy can sue without restrictions.
If you are injured by a drunk driver and are entitled to compensation, an insurance company usually pays for your injuries. The exact amount of compensation depends upon several variables, including your type of auto insurance.
Here are the most common types of auto insurance payments:
- Full or limited tort coverage: Options you choose from when purchasing auto insurance.
- First-party personal injury protection (PIP): Benefits from your insurance company.
- Third-party benefits: Benefits paid by the negligent driver’s insurance company.
- Uninsured (UM) and underinsured (US) coverage: Optional coverage to protect you against at-fault drivers who do not have any or enough coverage.
Should I Accept a Settlement After a Drunk Driving Accident?
Car accidents are frustrating and stressful. It is tempting to accept the first insurance settlement offer to get the experience over with and move on. Yet, you have more to gain by taking your time and weighing all of your options.
Remember that car insurance companies are in business to make a profit. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible. An initial settlement may seem like enough money to cover your accident expenses, but when you spread it out over time, you may discover it is not enough for your pain and suffering, time off of work, and medical bills.
Never accept an insurance settlement without speaking with your car accident lawyer first.
What Happens if the Insurance Payout Is Not Enough?
In some cases, a personal injury claim for a car accident exceeds insurance limits, especially in cases of catastrophic injuries. If this is true for you, there may be legal recourse to recover additional compensation.
You can check if the at-fault driver has “umbrella” coverage or additional coverage on another vehicle. If multiple defendants are involved, you can file claims with their insurance policies, or you can file a lawsuit for any damages that exceed the insurance policy limit.
While these cases are complex, you can trust a Philadelphia car accident lawyer to pursue every legal avenue to obtain the compensation you are entitled to for an accident that was not your fault.
Modified Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania
In order for a plaintiff to obtain compensation for a car accident, they must prove the defendant’s negligent act caused or contributed to their injuries.
It is not enough to claim the other driver was impaired. There are clear guidelines for what constitutes as negligence. If the following elements apply to your accident, you likely have grounds to bring a claim for compensation:
- Duty of care: The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to be a safe and sober driver.
- Breach of duty: Because the defendant chose to consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel, they breached that duty of care.
- Causation: While impaired by alcohol consumption, the defendant drove recklessly and caused the accident involving the plaintiff.
- Damages: The accident caused quantifiable harm, or damages, to the plaintiff in the form of physical injuries, medical bills, property damage, and other losses.
Your car accident lawyer will assess your case and review the evidence to determine if negligence is a factor.
Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state. This is a legal principle that makes it possible for multiple parties to be at fault for an accident. Responsibilities for damages is split between these parties according to their respective percentages of fault.
If you contributed to the accident, you are not barred from recovery. However, your total damage award is reduced by your percentage of fault. Note that you can only recover damages if you are less than 51 percent at fault for the accident.
The evidence collected at the accident scene will help your lawyer determine how and why the accident occurred and who is responsible.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Provide Skilled Legal Counsel to Clients Injured by Drunk Drivers
If you have been injured by a drunk driver, contact one of our dedicated Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC today. We know how a serious auto accident can impact a person’s life. That is why we will use every legal tool available to help you move forward after a drunk driving accident. Call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, Media, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.