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Can You Sue a Drunk Driver for an Accident in Pittsburgh?

If you have been injured by a driver who is legally intoxicated under Pennsylvania law, you can pursue a personal injury claim to recover monetary damages. In addition to potential criminal charges, a drunk driver is also subject to civil liability under the doctrine of negligence per se. This means that when parties engage in unlawful behavior, it is assumed that they have violated the duty to use reasonable care in situations where others can be injured.

Not every incident of illegal conduct results in an actionable finding of negligence per se. Plaintiffs seeking to use this doctrine must show:

  • Violation of the law — Conduct that violates a criminal statute can be presumed to constitute negligent behavior in a civil matter. In a drunk driving case, this means that as long as the defendant driver’s blood alcohol concentration exceeded the legal .08 percent limit, the plaintiff would not have to introduce more evidence to show the driver violated his duty of care.
  • Statutory intent — The criminal law must have been created to prevent the type of harm alleged in the civil claim. Again, this exists in a DUI case because both the criminal statute and the personal injury action are designed to punish intoxicated drivers who injure others.
  • Law was designed to protect victim — Under negligence law, liability only exists if the defendant has a responsibility to protect the person who was injured. Like most criminal laws, prohibitions against driving under the influence of alcohol are meant to safeguard anyone who might be near the intoxicated motorist.

If you’ve been hurt in a collision involving a drunk driver, an experienced Pennsylvania attorney can advise you whether you should file a claim for compensation with your insurance company or the other driver’s carrier, or if litigation against the motorist is allowed under state law.

The McClelland Law Group, P.C. has recovered millions of dollars for clients throughout Pennsylvania area in litigation against drunk drivers and other personal injury actions. Please call 412.391.7343 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation at our downtown office, located two blocks from the Pittsburgh City-County Building.

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