Can You Sue Someone for Drunk Driving if They Are Under the Legal Limit?
Suing someone for car accident injuries is often simpler if the at-fault driver has done something that clearly places the blame on them. When people drive drunk, text and drive, or otherwise commit seriously dangerous driving acts on the road, courts and insurance companies are willing to place the blame squarely upon them. If you were injured by a drunk driver, Pennsylvania law may support you, even if the driver was below the “legal limit” when they caused the accident. The Philadelphia drunk driving victim lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm explain:
Can Drunk Driving Victims Sue Drivers Under .08% BAC?
As most Pennsylvanians know, PA’s drunk driving laws use .08% as the “legal limit.” This means that if you are pulled over for drunk driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, you are considered driving under the influence (DUI), and could be charged with a crime for it. What many people may not understand is that PA’s drunk driving law still affects many drivers who are under the limit of .08%, or have no alcohol in their body.
Pennsylvania’s DUI statute is broken into multiple levels of DUI. 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802 is the drunk driving statute, and has different subsections of the statute for:
- General impairment for alcohol;
- General impairment for drugs;
- General impairment for a mix of drugs or a mix of drugs and alcohol;
- Drunk driving with a BAC over .08%;
- Drunk driving with a BAC over .10%; and
- Drunk driving with a BAC over .16%
This means that people can be arrested, charged with, and convicted for a DUI even if they are under the “legal limit” of .08%. This statute is usually used to charge people who refused a breath or blood test, or those whose BACs were barely under the limit. DUIs can also be charged for drugged driving, where the driver has no alcohol whatsoever in their system.
Suing for Drunk Driving Injuries
When you sue a drunk driver for injuries you sustained while driving another car, riding a bike, or even for a pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to substantial compensation for your injuries. However, you must first prove that the other driver was “negligent.” This means proving that they failed to use the proper care and skill the average driver would use on the road. Clearly, driving drunk falls below this standard.
If the at-fault driver committed a crime or broke a traffic law, courts are more likely to immediately deem them negligent. If you happened to also broke traffic laws (e.g. you were speeding when the accident happened), you may share partial fault for the accident. However, when the at-fault driver commits a crime like DUI, courts are more likely to place all the blame on the drunk driver.
If the at-fault driver was convicted of the crime, and there is a record of the conviction, this is often excellent evidence of their fault. This conviction can be brought to court to demonstrate the driver’s fault. Additionally, any evidence the police seize, such as breath or blood test results, can help you prove they were drunk. Police can also testify to the at-fault driver’s slurred speech, poor balance, the odor of alcohol on them, and bloodshot eyes, as well as poor performance on “field sobriety tests” as evidence that the driver was drunk.
Even if the charges against the other driver were dropped because their BAC was below .08%, you could still recover compensation from a drunk driver. Criminal courts have a very high standard in their cases. To be convicted of a crime, the government must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. In civil cases, the standard is much lower. Known as “a preponderance of the evidence,” the civil court standard means you must prove the driver was “more likely than not” to have been drunk and negligent. This means the jury needs to be only just over 50% sure that the other driver was drunk and responsible for the accident to award you compensation.
In addition to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages, you may be entitled to more compensation from a drunk driver. Judges may be willing to award you extra damages to punish a drunk driver, known as “punitive” damages.
Philadelphia Drunk Driving Victims’ Attorney
The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm may be able to take your case and fight to get you compensation if you were injured or a loved one was killed by a drunk driver. In addition to suing the drunk driver, PA’s dram shop act may allow you to sue the bar or restaurant that overserved a drunk driver. Call our lawyers today at (215) 246-9000 for a free consultation on your drunk driving injury case.