It is well known that drinking and driving is a crime that can land you in jail for an extended period of time. However, those who drink and drive and cause injuries may also be held liable for damages in a Pennsylvania personal injury claim. When you hire an experienced Jenkintown car accident attorney, you will maximize the amount of compensation you are entitled to under Pennsylvania law.
Criminal Charges and Civil Claims: What’s the Difference?
There are significant differences between criminal charges and civil claims.
Criminal charges are brought by the state, or, in the case of federal charges, the United States.
If an individual is convicted of or pleads guilty to criminal charges, that individual generally may be sentenced to a jail term, a fine, community service, or probation (or a combination of these punishments).
There is a higher burden of proof required to convict an individual of criminal charges. In criminal cases, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime. This means that there is no doubt in the decision-maker’s mind that the accused committed the crime.
Civil claims, on the other hand, are filed by private individuals or entities.
Civil claims will not result in criminal fines or jail time. Instead, they usually seek monetary compensation. Those found liable in a civil case may be required to pay damages to the claimant.
Civil claims involve a lower burden of proof as compared to criminal charges. In a civil case, the claimant must prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable for the damages the plaintiff is seeking.
Civil Claims in Drunk Driving Accidents
If you are the victim of a Pennsylvania drunk driving accident, you likely have medical bills that are piling up. You may also have missed a significant amount of time from work, and you may be experiencing some emotional distress.
If the driver who caused your accident has been charged criminally, these expenses are not part of the criminal case. Therefore, to recover the damages you have sustained, you need to file a civil claim in a Pennsylvania courthouse.
Drunk driving claims are included in civil personal injury claims. Personal injury claims are a type of negligence claim.
In a negligence claim, the injured victim must show:
- The at-fault party owed the victim a duty;
- The at-fault party breached this duty; and
- Due to this breach, the victim suffered damages.
All Pennsylvania drivers have a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. Driving the speed limit, following traffic signals, and other such behaviors are reasonable.
In an accident claim, breaches of the duty to act reasonably under the circumstances may include speeding, texting while driving, and, of course, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The types of damages available in a Pennsylvania personal injury claim vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
Damages may include:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses, including the cost of future medical care that may be needed
- Lost wages for time taken off of work to recover from injuries and attend medical appointments
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of employment benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Other types of damages may also be available, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. An experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney will be able to identify and pursue all available damages on your behalf.
Deadlines Limit How Long You Have to File a Claim
Civil claims are subject to a filing deadline called the statute of limitations.
In general, accident victims have two years from the date of the accident to file a civil claim against a drunk driver.
A civil claim may be pursued against the drunk driver regardless of whether the driver was actually convicted of drunk driving.
If You Were Injured by a Drunk Driver, Call Solnick & Associates Today
At Solnick & Associates, our personal injury team is experienced in drunk driving claims. We aggressively pursue all routes of recovery on your behalf so that you obtain fair and just compensation for your losses. To schedule a free consultation with our firm, contact us at (215) 481-9979.