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What are my Rights if I’m Injured by a Drunk Driver?

Posted August 29, 2015 | Car,Dram Shop,Vehicle Accidents

The size of the drunk driving problem in the United States is alarming. Alcohol related car accidents caused an estimated $37 billion in damages each year and are a leading cause of motor vehicle accident deaths.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there were over 10,000 people killed by drunk or impaired drivers in 2013 which is nearly a third of all traffic related deaths.

If you were injured or a family member was killed by a drunk driver its critical that you contact an experienced attorney immediately to protect your rights.  Brent Wieand is an aggressive car accident lawyer in Philadelphia who has significant experience representing victims of drunk driving car accidents. He will fight hard to hold drunk drivers accountable for their actions.

Are Drunk Drivers Liable for the Damages that they Cause?

Drunk driving accident victims are usually entitled to be compensated for damages caused by the accident. This includes monetary compensation for pain, suffering and loss of life’s pleasures due to their injuries, as well as non-economic damages such as lost wages, lost earnings capacity, and past present and future medical bills. In most cases, a driver’s automobile insurance company will be liable for damages caused by their insured, even if driving while intoxicated.

In addition, to these “compensatory damages,” a victim of a drunk driving accident may also seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are allowed when a defendant’s conduct is outrageous or done with reckless indifference to the rights of others.  These type of damages are used to punish a defendant in a civil lawsuit and deter similar conduct in the future.  In Pennsylvania, courts have found that evidence of drunk driving may be sufficient ground for a jury to award punitive damages due to its great potential to cause harm and serious injury. However, Pennsylvania Courts have recently found that it is against Pennsylvania public policy for insurance insurance companies to cover punitive damages.  See Wolfe v. Allstate, No. 12-4450 (3d Cir. 2015)

Is there a Viable Dram Shop Case?

A “dram shop” is a term which used to describe businesses such as bars and restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages. Pennsylvania law imposes liability on bars and restaurants that sell or serve “visibly intoxicated” persons alcohol who go on to cause damage to others. The law also imposes liability on establishments that sell alcoholic beverages to minors regardless of whether they were visibly intoxicated.Booze

In personal injury or wrongful death cases involving a drunk driver, it is important to investigate whether a dram shop defendant shares liability. This is especially critical when an intoxicated driver seriously injures or kills another person and there is insufficient automobile insurance coverage to fully compensate the victim. Dram shop defendants usually have commercial liability insurance policies with large coverage limits.  Thus, filing a dram shop claim against a bar that served an intoxicated person can mean the difference between the victim making a partial or full recovery for losses caused by the drunk driver.

Dram shop cases are complex and can be difficult to prove in court. One reason for this is because, in Pennsylvania, simply providing proof of consumption or service of alcohol is insufficient. Instead, in order to prevail in a dram shop claim, the plaintiff will need to present evidence that the defendant was served while visibly intoxicated. However, finding evidence to support a person was served while intoxicated can be very difficult. Bartenders are unlikely to admit to serving a drunk person, and eyewitnesses can be hard to find.

Usually, proving a dram shop case often hinges on a prompt and thorough investigation. Sale of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person can be proved through both direct and circumstantial evidence. This may include eyewitness testimony, blood alcohol tests performed after the accident, expert witness testimony, bar receipts, credit card statements, surveillance video, social medial postings and other proof of service or sale to a visibly intoxicated person.

Philadelphia Dram Shop Attorney Brent Wieand

If you are hurt by a drunk driver who was over-served, attorney Brent Wieand can help you understand and protect your legal rights. He will take your injury seriously and work hard to collect evidence in support of your dram shop claim. Attorney Wieand is dedicated to understanding and responding to your needs. His goal is to ensure you are fully compensated for your injuries, and feel comfortable with and understand the legal process through each step of the way.

Call attorney, Brent Wieand, at (800) 481-5206 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about your rights or injury.

Disclaimer: This information is for information purposes only and should not be substituted for the legal advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer.