What Rights Do You Have if a Drunk Driver Hits You?

On average, two out of three people in the United States will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lives. That's a scary statistic. What if you become part of that statistic and are involved in a drunk driving accident? It can happen to anyone, and usually when you least expect it. What rights do you have if a drunk driver hits you?

In Pennsylvania, drunk drivers can be prosecuted in both civil and criminal courts. Civil lawsuits can include damages for punitive and compensatory damages. Pennsylvania is also considered to be a No-Fault state. This means that regardless of who caused the accident, the victim's insurance company pays for their medical bills first. The payments will be made based on the victim's insurance coverage amount.

In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 10,511 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities. There were 1,190 in Pennsylvania alone. Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers that had BACs of .08 g/dL or higher.

Compensatory Damages

The drunk driver's insurance company is responsible for paying compensatory damages. Some of these damages can include:

  • Lost income
  • "Pain and suffering"
  • Unpaid medical bills
  • The loss of the victim's quality of life
  • The death of a loved one

In every state, it's illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, yet one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 48 minutes in the United States in 2017.

Approximately 800 people in the United States are injured in a drunk driving accident every day.

Punitive Damages

In order to punish the driver for driving drunk, punitive damages can be filed sometimes. These damages must be paid by the drunk driver directly if they have sufficient assets. The drunk driver's insurance company does not pay for punitive damages.

Full Tort or Limited Tort

Drivers in Pennsylvania are required to choose either Limited Tort or Full Tort when they purchase insurance coverage.

Drivers have to purchase Full Tort insurance if they want to be able to sue the driver responsible for any injuries they may suffer due to that driver's negligence or carelessness. Limited Tort insurance is not as expensive as Full Tort, but it does limit the insured driver's rights to sue in some cases.

With Limited Tort, the victim or the victim's family can only sue for non-economic damages for "pain and suffering" only if they suffer from the following:

  • Death
  • Permanent serious disfigurement
  • Serious impairment of a bodily function

Limited Tort does have one exception. If the drunk driver who caused the accident pleads guilty to or is convicted of drunk driving, they can be sued.

Hiring a Lawyer after a Drunk Driving Accident

Due to the Statutes of Limitations, there is a strict time limit for filing lawsuits. For personal injury cases and wrongful death suits, the victim, or the victim's family, must file suit within two years of the death or injury suffered. In which case, they will need to contact the best accident attorneys they can find to discuss their rights and the case.

So, what can a drunk driving accident lawyer do for you? First of all, a lawyer will fully investigate the situation just like an insurance company will. The difference is that a lawyer works for you personally and is available to you at all times during the investigation to answer your questions. If your lawyer determines that you are within your rights to sue for injuries sustained in the accident, know that you will be in good hands throughout that process.

Of course, it is understandable if any of this information is confusing to laypeople. Drunk driving accidents come out of nowhere, and usually, at that time, the last thing victims want to do is deal with insurance companies and laws. However, it is important to act fast so you can recover damages for what you have suffered and not have to wonder what will happen.

Accident attorneys are there to help in situations like these. They will sort through the facts and make sure you get what you deserve if you were the victim of a drunk driving accident.

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