Every year, drunk driving crashes kill thousands of people on our nation’s roads. Despite these alarming numbers, laws against drunk driving and the severe penalties for this reckless behavior, the crashes continue to happen.
When we hear about these accidents, we often focus on what the punishment will be for the drunk driver. However, the injuries from these crashes are often severe and expensive to treat and punishing the drunk driver will not provide compensation to help victims and their families.
The only way to recover compensation for damages is through a civil claim, either an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. Even though you may think it should be easier to prove a case when the other driver was drunk, it can be difficult to determine the full value of a claim and secure a favorable settlement on your own. Below, learn more about the benefits of hiring a Harrisburg car accident attorney to help you.
Difference Between Personal Injury and Criminal Claims
Driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher is a crime in Pennsylvania as in other states, and those who are charged face a variety of penalties. For example, if you have had no prior driving under the influence (DUI) offenses, you could receive up to six months of probation and be ordered to go to alcohol highway safety school.
However, the penalties increase if you had a blood alcohol level between .10 and .159. For example, if you had no prior offenses you could be sentenced to between 48 hours and six months in prison, a $5,000 fine and one-year driver license suspension.
While DUI laws in Pennsylvania outline how offenders may be punished, they do not award compensation to victims. The only way you would receive compensation as the victim of a crime is if the judge orders the drunk driver to pay restitution. If the judge decides to order restitution at sentencing, you may receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages and property damage. The judge cannot order restitution for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or lost enjoyment of life.
This highlights one of the most significant differences between a personal injury and criminal claim. The purpose of a criminal claim is to prove someone is guilty or not guilty of a crime. If someone is found guilty, he or she can be sentenced to face some sort of punishment.
However, the goal of a personal injury claim is to prove someone is at fault for someone else’s injuries and recover compensation to help put the victim back in the position he or she was in before the accident.
If the Drunk Driver Pleads Guilty, Will That Make It Easier to Recover Compensation?
In many states, a guilty plea or conviction for a traffic offense can be admitted into a civil proceeding to prove a drunk driver’s liability. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pennsylvania. The reasoning for this is as follows: a conviction for drunk driving does not necessarily mean the driver was negligent.
That said, your lawyer can present evidence the driver was drunk at the time of the accident and this is what caused the crash. Your lawyer must prove the connection between drunk driving and the crash.
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney
Proving a connection between negligent behavior and an accident and resulting injuries can be complicated. This is one of the reasons you should strongly consider hiring an attorney to help you.
Another reason to hire an experienced attorney is that he or she should be ready to take your case to court if necessary. It may not be necessary, as most car accident claims are resolved through insurance settlements. However, if your lawyer is not prepared to go to trial, the insurance company probably knows it. They may be less likely to negotiate in good faith as they are not concerned about your lawyer filing a lawsuit.
At Schmidt Kramer, we know the effects of an accident go way beyond medical bills. Victims often need long-term treatment and compensation to help with the emotional/psychological effects of their injuries. We have the resources to conduct a comprehensive investigation of your accident and injuries to determine the full value of your past and future damages.
While drunk drivers may be held accountable in the criminal justice system, our attorneys also want them to be held accountable in the civil justice system.
Were You a Victim of a Drunk Driving Crash? We are Here to Help
Our experienced attorneys know how devastating injuries from drunk driving crashes can be for victims and their loved ones. We know how important compensation can be as victims look to move forward.
If you or a loved one were injured in a drunk driving crash, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss potential legal options. If we validate your claim and you hire our firm, there will be no upfront fees for our services. There are no fees unless you receive compensation.
Give us a call today to discuss legal options. We are here to help. (717) 888-8888