In my previous post, I discussed the differences between the “Limited Tort” and the “Full Tort” auto insurance options in Pennsylvania along with various exceptions that allow a “Limited Tort” driver to recover as if they were “Full Tort”. In this post I will focus on the exception that allows for “Full Tort” recovery when the driver that caused the accident is DUI. I will also discuss some additional damages that may be available in such a situation.
First, it is important to note that the precise language of the exception provides that an individual otherwise bound by the limited tort option can recover as if they were full tort where the person at fault “is convicted or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in that accident.” 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1705(d)(1)(I).
The obvious implication of this language is that the exception only applies where the individual both causes the accident and is convicted of DUI or accepts ARD. If one of the drivers involved in an accident is found to be under the influence, but they didn’t cause the accident, the exception will not apply. Similarly, the exception will not apply if DUI charges are ultimately dropped.
Another issue that must be considered where an accident is caused by a DUI driver is whether additional recovery may be available in the form of punitive damages. Pennsylvania courts have consistently held that the act of driving under the influence constitutes reckless behavior such as to expose a driver to punitive damages. Generally, automobile insurance policies do not provide coverage for punitive damages and the driver will be held personally responsible for such damages. This personal exposure provides yet another reason not to get behind the wheel after drinking this holiday season!
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident and have questions regarding your tort status, please call me here in Stark & Stark’s Bucks County, Pennsylvania office to set up a free consultation to review your case.