If a drunk driver caused your car accident, they will likely face criminal charges. In addition, you have the right to hold them responsible for the damages they caused in civil court. A drunk driving accident lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA, can help you file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit to hold them financially liable for any medical care your insurance does not cover, as well as your lost wages, emotional distress, and more.
The attorneys at Berger and Green know how quickly a drunk driving accident can change your life. We can handle your case for you, acting on your behalf to file a claim or take your case to court. Let us focus on the legal actions while you focus on healing and getting your life back to normal. Call us today at 412-661-1400 for a free case review.
Types of Damages Available After a Pittsburgh Drunk Driving Accident
Most drunk driving accident claims center on compensatory damages, but punitive damages may also be possible if your case goes to trial. Compensatory damages reimburse you or otherwise compensate you for the damages the drunk driver caused.
While the type and value of these damages depend heavily on the facts of your accident, they commonly include:
- Medical bills your insurance does not cover;
- Ongoing care costs;
- Lost wages;
- Repair or replacement of your vehicle;
- Any accident related out-of-pocket costs; and
- Pain and suffering.
If your case goes before a judge, you may also receive punitive damages. The goal of these damages is to punish the other motorist for driving drunk. They are more likely in cases when the driver is a repeat offender or was significantly over the legal limit.
Drunk Driving and Pennsylvania’s Auto Insurance Laws
In general, Pennsylvania drivers must first file a claim with their own auto insurance company after any traffic accident. If you elected to carry limited tort insurance, you can only file a claim to collect pain and suffering damages from the at-fault driver if you suffer a serious injury. State law defines a serious injury as one that results “in death, serious impairment of bodily function, or permanent serious disfigurement.”
However, the same law also lists a number of exceptions to this rule. This includes drunk driving. If the motorist who caused your crash has certain outcomes in their criminal case, your limited tort insurance coverage offers full tort benefits. This could occur if the driver:
- Pleads guilty to drunk driving;
- Receives a guilty verdict from a judge or jury; or
- Enters an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.
With the same options as someone with full tort coverage, you can file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. This allows you to collect the economic damages your own insurance does not cover as well as non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Most of these cases settle without the need for a lawsuit. This is especially true if there is strong evidence against the intoxicated driver or if criminal courts convict them. Because the burden of proof is higher in criminal court than in civil court, however, it is possible to win compensation in a civil suit without a criminal conviction. For this reason, many auto insurance companies will work hard to settle your claim before the case goes to trial.
What to Expect During the Claims Process
If we handle your accident claim for you, it is important to know what to expect along the way. The steps of a typical case include:
- Investigating the accident;
- Proving your damages;
- Filing a third-party liability insurance claim;
- Negotiating a fair settlement;
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit, if necessary; and
- Representing you in front of a judge and jury in court, if no other option is available.
Once we agree to work together, our team begins on your claim. We investigate the accident, with the goal of understanding how and why the crash occurred. This is key in proving negligence and liability. In many cases, the criminal investigation plays a major role in this. We can use evidence like the police report, blood alcohol content (BAC) readings, and dash cam video to show the driver was under the influence prior to your crash. In addition, we can work with accident reconstruction specialists and identify other evidence to build a solid case.
During this process, we will also collect documentation of your injuries and related expenses. This allows us to understand the full scope of your damages and put a price on a fair settlement. This documentation often includes:
- Your medical records;
- Medical bills;
- Information showing lost wages;
- Any estimates for car repairs; and
- Receipts for other costs.
Only once we know the full scope of your losses and have a strong case against the drunk driver will we approach their insurance company with a demand letter. This letter outlines our case and demands a fair payout to compensate you for your damages. Usually, insurance companies respond to this by offering a lowball settlement offer. This kicks off settlement negotiations. We can usually negotiate a fair settlement at this stage without going to court.
If the insurance company refuses a fair settlement, it may be appropriate to pursue a lawsuit. While this is often not necessary, we will not hesitate to litigate any case, if that is what it takes to recover the compensation you deserve.
Time Limits on Filing a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Case
The Pennsylvania statute of limitations gives you only two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. For this reason, it is important to act quickly after a crash.
This deadline does not technically apply to filing an insurance claim. However, having the option to take the drunk driver to court plays a key role in motivating their insurance company to settle the claim. Without this option, there is little incentive for the insurer to offer a fair payout.
Talk to a Pittsburgh, PA, Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today
The personal injury team from Berger and Green can help you understand your legal options after a drunk driving crash in Pittsburgh. We can explain the strength of your case, help you understand the laws that apply, and handle the entire claims process for you. Call us today at 412-661-1400 for your complimentary case evaluation and consultation.