Drunk driving accidents and the Pennsylvania dram shop law

When a family loses a loved one in an auto accident, the grief can be devastating. When the accident was caused by a drunk driver, the family may feel a need for justice to be done. A drunk driver who causes a fatal car accident will generally be prosecuted under Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. A conviction of vehicular homicide can result in a lengthy prison sentence.

But the grieving family members have rights under the civil law as well. They have the right to sue the drunk driver for wrongful death and recover damages for loss of support, loss of companionship, and medical and funeral expenses. If the drunk driver had insurance, their insurer will be obligated to pay any damages up to the liability limits of the policy.

In some cases there may also be a claim against a bar, restaurant or private party that served alcohol to the drunk driver. This is known as a dram shop claim, and is authorized by Pennsylvania statute. In a dram shop lawsuit, the surviving family members must prove the individual or the liquor establishment served alcohol to the defendant while the defendant was visibly intoxicated. The individual or the establishment can also be held liable if they served alcohol to an underage person who then caused an accident.

The information in this post is general information only and should not be considered specific legal advice. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one in a drunk driving accident, an experienced Philadelphia personal injury law firm can help answer your questions.

Source: 47 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 4-493(1), accessed Dec. 27, 2014

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