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Can I Sue a Drunk Driver After a Car Accident Injury?

drunk driver being arrestedIf you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you should schedule a free, no obligation legal consultation with an experienced Harrisburg car accident lawyer. An attorney can explain your rights, including whether you have the right to file a lawsuit against the driver.

The auto accident attorneys at our firm have a detailed understanding of the factors that determine whether you can sue a drunk driver after a crash.

How Your Insurance Policy Affects Your Right to Sue

Even though the majority of car accident cases are resolved through insurance claims, most states give accident victims the right to sue drunk drivers when they are at fault for a crash.

However, Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states with no-fault laws that restrict an accident victim’s right to sue. Pennsylvania’s laws are unique because they require drivers to choose between two types of car insurance policies. One preserves your right to sue while the other places certain restrictions on this right.

The two types of insurance are:

Full Tort Insurance

Full tort insurance is about 15 percent more expensive than limited tort insurance, but the extra expense gives you the right to sue the driver who caused the accident. Your attorney can pursue compensation for all the damages you suffered, including non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

However, Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence law prohibits you from recovering any compensation if the court finds you are more than 50 percent responsible for the accident. This law also states that any compensation you are awarded be reduced by your percentage of fault for the crash. This means that if you are found to be 50 percent at fault, your total compensation award will be reduced by 50 percent. This means that an award of $200,000 becomes $100,000 if you are found to 50 percent at fault.  

Limited Tort Insurance

This type of insurance still allows you to file a lawsuit against a drunk driver. However, by purchasing limited tort insurance, you are waiving your right to sue for pain and suffering unless you suffered a serious injury.

The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law defines a serious injury as a personal injury that results in permanent and serious disfigurement, serious impairment of bodily functions or death. However, there is no specific list of serious injuries. The court determines whether the victim’s injury qualifies as serious on a case-by-case basis. If a court determines that you suffered a serious injury, you can sue to collect compensation for pain, suffering, medical costs and lost income.

There are a few exceptions to the restriction on suing for pain and suffering if you have limited tort insurance. For example, you can sue for these damages if a drunk driver pleads guilty to drunk driving or is eventually convicted of drunk driving.

You might also be able to file a lawsuit if you were not compensated by an insurance provider or if your insurance coverage does not cover the full cost of your expenses.

How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

Time is of the essence following your auto accident. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations sets a strict timetable to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for expenses and suffering related to such an accident. Once the deadline passes, you lose the right to file a claim and could miss your chance to obtain compensation.  

In personal injury and wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations says that lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the injury or death.

Contact Our Car Accident Lawyers Today

We understand you are stressed out, nervous and uneasy following your auto accident. Our attorneys are here to help relieve the pressure and obtain the justice and compensation you deserve.

We are prepared to analyze the facts of your case, craft the best possible legal strategy and fiercely advocate on your behalf. We will amass evidence, find and interview witnesses as we work to try to establish a causal relationship between the accident and your injuries.

Your initial consultation with our attorneys is completely free and you will not be charged legal fees unless we obtain the compensation you deserve. 

Call us at (717) 888-8888 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form.