While every motorist in the state of Florida already knows that driving under the influence is against the law, you may not know that if you are injured by an impaired driver and sue for damages, the compensation you receive as a victim will depend on a variety of factors. This is a general discussion of victim compensation, but every case is different, so victims injured by impaired drivers in Central Florida will need to seek specific legal advice for their own situations by consulting an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.
Here are five of the elements that may be considered in a personal injury claim against an intoxicated driver:
1. “DEGREES” OF FAULT
If you are injured by an intoxicated driver, and that driver is convicted of DUI, most civil courts will accept the criminal conviction as proof that the driver was negligent. In such a circumstance, your lawsuit would prevail. However, in states that allow personal injury defendants to offer “comparative negligence” defenses, a victim’s compensation may be reduced if the victim was also partially responsible for the accident. The following example should make this clear.
Let’s say that you ran a red light, and as you moved through the intersection, a driver who was both drunk and speeding crashed into you, causing serious personal injuries. A civil court may determine that the other driver’s speeding and intoxication were two of the reasons for the crash, but your own red light violation was a third reason. Your compensation could be reduced by one-third in this instance. There is no established method for arriving precisely at the percentage of someone’s comparative negligence in a traffic collision. Those percentages are determined in out-of-court negotiations, or if the case goes to trial, by a jury.
Unlike some states where the formula is more complicated, Florida law regarding traffic accidents is based on a “pure” comparative negligence principle. This means that when a victim is partially responsible for an accident with injuries, the recovery of damages will be limited by that portion of the responsibility. If you are suing an intoxicated motorist, but your own actions were also negligent, you will only recover the percentage of damages that are deemed to be the intoxicated driver’s responsibility.
2. INABILITY TO WORK
Any traffic collision can be the cause of physical and mental injuries that may temporarily or permanently reduce or end a victim’s ability to work and earn a living. When an intoxicated driver is liable for another person’s long-term or permanent disability, medical care will be quite costly, victims may be reimbursed for whatever income is lost if they are unable to work for any length of time and for lost earning capacity if they are permanently disabled.
3. LONG-TERM OR PERMANENT CARE
The victims of intoxicated drivers may also be entitled to complete compensation for all past, present, and future medical care, therapy, and rehabilitation required as the result of their injuries.
For victims with long-term or permanent disabilities, medical bills may be quite costly. Medical care, surgeries, therapy, and rehabilitation may be needed for years, and in some cases, for life.
4. DRAM SHOP LAWSUITS
Most states have “dram shop” laws which hold establishments that sell or serve alcohol accountable for “overserving” drivers who then cause a collision. In many states, if a business serves someone who is obviously drunk, and that person causes injuries, the business can also be sued for its share of the damages caused by the impaired driver. Florida’s dram shop laws, however, are some of the nation’s most limited, and if you are injured by a drunk driver, the state’s dram shop laws probably will not help you.
Under Florida law, persons or establishments that sell alcohol typically cannot be held liable for injuries caused by their customers – with two exceptions. The first exception involves minors. Bars and retailers are held strictly liable for injuries caused by selling or serving alcohol to a person under the age of 21, even if the person who made the sale had no knowledge that the customer was a minor.
The second exception involves the sale of alcohol to anyone known to be “habitually addicted” to it. Businesses may be held liable if they serve alcohol to anyone known to have a history of addiction to alcohol and that person causes a traffic collision with injuries.
5. WRONGFUL DEATHS
Traffic accidents caused by driving under the influence are often fatal accidents. In 2014, more than 800 people died on Florida’s streets and highways in alcohol-related traffic collisions, according to our wrongful death lawyers. The amount of compensation owed to a victim’s family can be quite substantial when the lawsuit against an intoxicated driver charges that the driver is responsible for a wrongful death. When a death in a traffic crash is caused by an intoxicated driver, a wrongful death lawsuit may provide surviving family members with the resources they’ll need to move ahead with their lives.
Surviving family members can expect a larger award if the deceased individual was the family’s primary wage earner. Although it will be difficult, it is imperative to file a wrongful death lawsuit as soon as possible after the accident and fatality. Of course, money can never be sufficient compensation for a human life, but a wrongful death claim can ease a family’s financial apprehensions and hold the party responsible for the death legally accountable.
A motorist in Florida is legally too impaired to drive if his or her blood-alcohol content (BAC) level is at or above 0.08 percent. Whenever you drive in Florida or ride as a passenger, there’s a probability that a drunk driver may be on the road near you. Anyone who is injured in an accident with an intoxicated motorist in central Florida should ask an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney to explain your legal rights and options, which may include a personal injury lawsuit.
There’s never an excuse for driving under the influence. If you plan to drink with friends or at an event or gathering, a hotel room in walking distance is a fine option. Central Florida has abundant public transportation – buses, taxicabs, and limos as well as car services and ride-sharing services. Most of these ride-for-hire services are available 24 hours a day every day of the year. In addition to criminal charges, a drunk driver who injures someone will probably face a civil personal injury trial as well. The two best pieces of advice for Florida motorists are: Don’t drink and drive, and know your rights if you are injured by someone who did drink and drive. For more information, seek representation from a wrongful death lawyer.