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Even if you are a careful driver on the road, you could still fall victim to an accident with a drunk driver. Wearing your seat belt, following the laws of the road, and being a cautious driver could still put you at risk when a drunk driver decides to get behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, drunk driver accidents are common and could cause you or your family serious injuries.
How Alcohol Affects Driving Ability
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), blood alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called blood alcohol concentration or BAC. A BAC of .08% or higher is considered illegal in Florida and every other state. However, even small amounts of alcohol can impair driving ability.
Some of the effects of any BAC percentage include loss of judgment, loss of small muscle control such as your eyes, lowered alertness, and reduced inhibition. At higher BAC percentages, these effects are increased and may be associate with more serious impairments. These may include loss of muscle coordination such as balance and reaction time, deterioration of control, delayed thinking, vomiting, or loss of consciousness.
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Consequences of Driving Drunk
Drunk driving is extremely dangerous. It puts not only the driver at risk of serious bodily injuries or death, but also other drivers and pedestrians. Drunk driving is a crime that can range from a misdemeanor charge or a felony offense. Penalties may include suspension or revocation of a driver’s license, fines, or jail time. Driving under the influence may cost the offender thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Drunk Driving Statistics and Laws in Florida
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that between 2003 and 2012, there were 8,476 people killed by drunk drivers in Florida. The age ranges for the majority of the deaths were between 21 and 34 years old. Males were more likely to be involved in and die from drunk driving accidents. The national percentage of adults who reported driving after drinking too much is 1.9%, while the percentage in Florida is 2.1%.
Florida allows for sobriety checkpoints in an effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road. There is a zero-tolerance policy for those under 21 years of age to have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.
An ignition interlock device may be installed in some drivers’ cars in the event of a drunk driving violation. This device is used to measure a person’s BAC before the vehicle’s ignition will start the car. The device will not allow the car to start unless the person’s BAC is low enough. In Florida, this device is not required for first-time offenders unless the BAC was at or above 0.15%. The device is only required for repeat offenders.
Can I Sue a Drunk Driver Who Hit Me?
Yes. A person who is responsible for your injuries may be liable to you for damages. Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol may be both a criminal and a civil offense. When a person is charged with a DUI, this is a criminal charge. However, an individual may be able to bring a lawsuit against the drunk driver for a civil claim for personal injury.
Even if a driver is found not guilty of DUI criminal charges, they may still be held liable to you in a civil court. The burden of proof in Florida civil courts is the “preponderance of the evidence,” which is an easier standard to prove than “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases.
How Can I File a Claim Against a Drunk Driver?
A Miami drunk driver accident injury attorney should be your first step in filing a claim against a drunk driver. In many cases, the victim will sue the drunk driver on a theory of negligence. To prove negligence, you must be able to show that the drunk driver owed you a duty, that duty was breached, the breach caused your injuries, and that you suffered damages as a result.
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that even if the court found that you were partially at fault in the car accident, you will still be able to recover damages for your injuries caused by the drunk driver. The amount of damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault, however.
There is a time limit when it comes to filing cases known as the statute of limitations. In Florida, the time limit for filing a claim for a car crash injury is four years from the date of the accident. However, if someone died as a result of the drunk driving accident, then the family has two years to bring a wrongful death claim against the driver. If these time limits are exceeded, then you will no longer be able to bring a claim.
A Miami drunk driver accident injury attorney with experience in these types of cases may be able to help you by reviewing your damages and determining the best course of action.
What Steps Should I Take Following an Accident with a Drunk Driver?
Car accidents may be frightening. In the event that you are involved in an accident, remember to contact the police immediately. Especially in a drunk driving accident, there may be criminal activity involved. Do not leave the scene and gather as much information from the other driver or witnesses as possible. Take pictures of the scene of the accident. Seek medical treatment even if you do not feel injured. Lastly, contact a Miami drunk driver accident injury lawyer.
What Damages Might be Available to Me if a Drunk Driver Hits Me?
Drunk driving accidents may cause catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. You may be able to recover for any medical bills associated with treatment. This includes future treatment, rehabilitation, in-home care, and prescriptions. Mental health counseling in dealing with the emotional trauma of the accident may also be recoverable. If your injuries prevent you from working, your lost wages may be recovered.
You may also be able to receive compensation for property damage to your vehicle. This includes repairs. You may still be able to recover compensation even if you have insurance or if your insurance does not cover everything.
In rare cases, you may be able to recover punitive damages for a DUI accident in Florida. Punitive damages are meant to punish and deter the action from occurring in the future. Driving drunk is extremely reckless and may give rise to this rare form of damages.
In the event that you are approached by an insurance claims adjuster attempting to settle your case, do not sign any settlements or waivers until you have evaluated all of your damages. It may be hard to assess damages early on, especially if your injuries become long-lasting or permanent. Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney may help you understand what damages you can seek.
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What is the Dram Shop Law in Florida?
In some states, restaurants and bars that serve alcohol have a responsibility to do so safely. Dram shop laws are statutes put in place to impose liability on the sellers of alcohol when the person served acts negligently. These laws would allow the person injured by a drunk driver to take legal action against the establishment that served the drunk driver.
However, Florida does not hold these establishments responsible for serving alcohol to a person who already appears intoxicated and only allows liability if the person served is “habitually addicted” or is a minor. A victim would not otherwise be able to sue or hold liable any restaurant or bar that overserved a patron who later caused a drunk driving accident.
How to Practice Responsible Driving
Never drink and drive. Plan your rides home before you intend to drink or designate a sober driver. If you know someone has been drinking, do not allow them to drive or call 911 if they do and you cannot stop them. If you are hosting an event where alcohol is being served, be responsible by making everyone leave with a sober driver. Always wear your seat belt as it can prevent damages from car accidents with drunk drivers.
Get Help from Miami Drunk Driver Accident Injury Attorneys
At Zinda Law Group, our Miami attorneys are experienced and have handled many cases involving drunk driver accidents. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next and to help recover the best possible outcome for your case.