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Any driver who is charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania faces criminal charges. However, if that motorist causes an accident which results in injuries or death of another person, he or she can also be civilly liable for monetary damages in addition to facing other criminal charges.
Personal injury cases involving a drunk driver can be much more complicated depending on the age of the driver, the type of vehicle that was driven, and who provided the alcohol to the drunk driver. Depending on the circumstances, it may not be just the driver who is liable for damages. In some cases, the person who provided the drugs or alcohol to the driver, a passenger, or the owner of the vehicle can be held liable.
If you were injured in a DUI accident in West Chester, Pennsylvania, or anywhere in the State of Pennsylvania, then contact an attorney experienced in personal injury cases involving a drunk or impaired driver.
Did you suffer serious injuries or was your loved one killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver in Pennsylvania? If so, you need the help of a personal injury attorney experienced in resolving car accident cases involving drunk or impaired driving.
Ciccarelli Law Offices represents clients from communities in Chester County, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, Lancaster County, and Delaware County. We will fully investigate your case to determine all parties that may be negligent in addition to the intoxicated driver, and then our firm will work tirelessly to get you and your family the compensation you need and deserve.
With offices in West Chester, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Springfield, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, and Radnor, PA, we are ready to meet with you today. You will be kept fully informed during every stage of your case, and we will answer any and all questions that you might have. Call (610) 719-3190 to let us review your case during a free, no obligation consultation.
Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 75 § 3802, individuals are prohibited from driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle. With regards to alcohol, a driver can be charged with DUI if he or she has a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 75 § 3802(d) also prohibits driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle if there is any amount of a controlled substance in the individual’s blood, he or she is under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs the individual's ability to safely drive, or the individual is under the combined influence of alcohol and a drug or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs the individual's ability to safely drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
Some of the additional factors in drunk driving accidents may include:
In Pennsylvania, many different types of people who could be hurt by a drunk driver. These parties include:
Any of the people can sustain catastrophic injuries that could include, but are not limited to:
When a person suffers injuries because of a crash caused by an intoxicated driver, the victim may be entitled to such compensatory damages as:
If the responsible party is convicted, pleads guilty to or is placed on Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then you meet one of the exceptions to limited tort coverage under Pennsylvania law. Limited tort coverage would normally mean you would not be able to pursue a claim for pain and suffering unless you suffered a "serious injury." However, if the responsible party is found to be guilty in a criminal court, you may pursue these damages, regardless.
In addition to compensatory damages that have no limits, drunk driving accident victims can also be eligible to receive punitive damages which are capped at 200 percent of the compensatory damages. Certain family members may also be able to obtain compensation through a wrongful death or survival action for such damages as:
What is the responsibility of a passenger in accidents involving the consumption of alcohol by the driver? In Welc v. Porter, 675 A.2d 334 (Pa.Super. 1996), the Pennsylvania Superior Court considered whether a minor passenger owed a duty of care to a third person injured as a result of the negligent conduct committed by the driver of the vehicle in which the passenger was riding.
Finding that the minor passenger did not have such a duty, the court noted the absence of a joint enterprise, special relationship, or right to control the vehicle. The court also considered the “concert of action theory,” as explained in Restatement (Second) of Torts, sections 876 and 877.
Section 876 provides:
§ 876 Persons Acting in Concert For harm resulting to a third person from the tortious conduct of another, one is subject to liability if he:
(a) does a tortious act in concert with the other or pursuant to a common design with him, or
(b) knows that the other's conduct constitutes a breach of duty and gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other so to conduct himself….
§ 877 Directing or Permitting Conduct of Another
For harm resulting to a third person from the tortious conduct of another, one is subject to liability if he:
(a) orders or induces the conduct, if he knows or should know of circumstances that would make the conduct tortious if it were his own[.]
Although neither of these sections had been adopted as the law in Pennsylvania, the Court rejected a cause of action under section 876(a) because a showing that the driver and passenger acted in concert required that they acted in accordance with an agreement to cooperate in a particular line of conduct or to accomplish a particular result.
The court also rejected a claim under section 876(b) because liability could only be imposed where a plaintiff avers sufficient facts indicating that the passenger substantially assisted or encouraged the driver's tortious conduct. Third, the court rejected a claim under section 877(a) because there was no evidence to show that the passenger ordered or induced the driver to drink beer and drive while in an intoxicated state.
In Brandjord v. Hopper, 688 A.2d 721, 723 (Pa.Super. 1997), the court rejected an expansion of social host liability to include passengers in a vehicle with an intoxicated driver by holding:
“A passenger does not owe a duty to a third-person where the driver of the vehicle is intoxicated, particularly when passengers and the driver merely participate in the joint procurement and ingestion of alcohol, absent the existence of a special relationship, joint enterprise, joint venture or a right to control the vehicle.”
The Crime Victims' Center of Chester County, Inc. — This private, community-based nonprofit agency supports adult and child victims of drunk driving accidents and several other types of crime. The website contains a press room, list of upcoming events, and a “Survivors’ Space” with information and referrals sources.
135-137 West Market Street
West Chester, PA 19382
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Pennsylvania State Office — This nationwide nonprofit organization seeks to stop drunk driving and supports people affected by drunk driving. You can find ways to volunteer, information on victim impact panels, and other victim services on this website.
408 East 4th Street #310
Bridgeport, PA 19405
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation — Historical crash facts and statistics as well as other drinking and driving information can be found on this website. There is also information about vehicle services, driver services, and general services can be found on this website.
If you sustained catastrophic injuries or your loved one died in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you should seek the legal guidance of Ciccarelli Law Offices. Our a dedicated DUI accident attorneys work as a team and represent clients on a contingency fee basis so the people we help do not pay anything unless we get them compensation.
Our firm severs numerous areas in and around Chester County, including West Chester, Lancaster, Kennett Square, Radnor, Plymouth Square, Malvern, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia. We can evaluate your case and discuss your legal options when you call (610) 719-3190 to schedule a free consultation.
This article was last updated on Friday, December 16, 2016.