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My daughter was injured in an accident after a drunk driver hit her. We found out that the driver was underage and coming from a house party. What are her rights?

 

A:

In your daughter’s car accident caused by a drunk driver, there may be more than one responsible party for your daughter’s injuries:

  • the drunk driver who is a minor, and
  • the home owner or the host of the party.

See Parties Responsible For Pennsylvania DUI/DWI Accidents Other Than The Drunk Drivers

Drunk Driver Responsible For The Car Accident

The drunk driver who caused the accident will be liable for the injuries and damages your daughter suffered as a result of the car accident.  However, in Pennsylvania, the injured driver’s right to sue for non-economic damages, i.e., pain and suffering, is limited by the injured driver’s tort status on her car insurance policy.

In general, if an injured driver has limited tort on her car insurance policy, she cannot sue the driver who caused the car accident unless the accident falls under one of the exceptions to the rule.  One of the exceptions is if the driver is convicted of driving under the influence or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in the accident pursuant to section 1705(d)(1) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL).  For all other exceptions, see Pennsylvania's Limited Tort - When You Can Sue For Pain And Suffering (Part A)

Therefore, even if your daughter has limited tort on her car insurance policy, she will deemed to have full tort if the driver is convicted of driving under the influence or accepts ARD.  She will be able to sue for pain and suffering in that situation.

Social/Party Host Responsible For The Car Accident

If the minor driver was coming from a party where he was served alcohol, then the host of the party may be responsible for your daughter’s injuries and damages as well. 

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for a host of a house party to serve alcohol to underage kids.  The Pennsylvania Liquor Code, Section 4.493(1) states it is unlawful to "permit any liquor or malt or brewed beverages to be sold, furnished or given, to any person visibly intoxicated, or to any minor.'' 

In addition, if the host knowingly served alcohol to a minor and the minor injures someone else as a result of being intoxicated, the host will be liable for any injuries caused by the minor to another person. 

For instance, if the drunk driver in your daughter’s car accident was coming from an 18th  birthday party celebration hosted by the teen’s parents, then the parents may be liable for your daughter’s injuries.  If the parents knowingly provided and served alcohol to the minor guests, they would be held responsible. 

Not only will the parents be responsible for your daughter’s injuries, they may also be responsible for the injuries sustained by the underage drunk driver who caused the accident. 

If you would like to discuss your daughter's car accident further, feel free to call me at 877.944.8396.


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