19-year-old Eric M. West was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and homicide by vehicle while driving drunk following an accident that left a female construction worker dead on Interstate 90 in Harborcreek Township on August 21. West fled the scene of the accident and was tracked down by police along Route 89 in Erie County later that morning.
The accident occurred at around 7:30 a.m. near Exit 35 and authorities received reports of a pedestrian struck. An alert with the vehicle description of a tan Buick LeSabre was issued about 30 minutes later. Emergency crews arrived on the scene and discovered the worker, 26-year-old Jacqueline Ohly of Wisconsin. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:23 a.m.
Attorney Brian Kent would like to provide The Legal Herald with some thoughts on civil liability in drunk driving accidents:
In Pennsylvania, the victims of drunk driving accidents often have grounds for a personal injury claim against the driver. Additionally, state dram shop laws also allow victims to file lawsuits against alcohol vendors or social hosts who provided alcohol to the driver under certain conditions.
Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws allow alcohol vendors to be held liable for serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person if that person injures someone else in an accident caused by their intoxication. The state also considers any violation of the liquor code a form of negligence. For example, selling alcohol to someone under 21 could also result in liability for the alcohol vendor.
Social hosts can also be held liable for giving alcohol to underage guests if one of those guests causes an accident and injures someone else.
If you or someone you love has been hit by a drunk driver and you’re wondering about your legal options, we recommend discussing your case with an experienced DUI victim lawyer.