Gary P. Heslin
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Experienced Pennsylvania Personal Injury and Car Accident Attorney serving Northeast Philadelphia


Drunk driving, commonly known as driving under the influence (DUI), is a serious criminal offense. The legal consequences of a DUI conviction can be severe and focus primarily on punishing the offender and maintaining public safety. If you were an accident victim of a negligent drunk driver, you have the right to pursue a civil DUI case and a criminal case.

Philadelphia Civil DUI CasesA skilled Philadelphia car accident lawyer can help you understand why a civil case may be necessary and how to seek the compensation and justice you deserve. 

The Distinction Between Civil and Criminal Cases 

In Pennsylvania, motorists may face criminal and civil penalties for intoxicated driving. As you discuss options with your attorney, it's important to understand the clear distinctions between civil cases and criminal cases.


The state initiates criminal cases and aims to hold individuals accountable for breaking the law by driving under the influence. A criminal case determines guilt or innocence and imposes penalties such as fines, jail time, license suspension, probation, or alcohol treatment. Even if a drunk driver doesn't cause an accident, they may face criminal charges for the offense.


Since damages aren't typically awarded in a criminal case, a person found liable for causing a DUI accident can be held accountable for damages through a civil lawsuit. There isn't a fine or punishment like in a criminal case—instead, the negligent party compensates the injured party.

Recovering Damages in a Philadelphia DUI Civil Case

While criminal cases focus on punishing the offender, civil cases aim to compensate injured victims for their injuries and losses. These damages reflect economic and non-economic losses you suffered due to the drunk driving incident. In a civil case, you can seek damages such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress 

Interestingly, a DUI criminal conviction of the intoxicated driver significantly strengthens your civil drunk driving case. The sentence demonstrates the motorist's legal responsibility for the accident, which makes proving negligence or recklessness in the civil case easier. The findings and evidence from the criminal case can be used to support your claim for damages in the civil lawsuit.

Why You Need a Lawyer

Navigating the complexities of both criminal and civil DUI cases requires the expertise of a skilled lawyer. Legal counsel well-versed in DUI-related civil lawsuits understands the nuances of such cases and will do the following: 

  • Investigate the case by gathering evidence such as police reports, witness statements, expert testimony, and more.
  • Negotiate with insurance companies to secure a fair settlement.
  • Present a compelling case in court, if necessary.
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