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A Recent DUI Charge And A Closer Look At Punitive Damages for DUI Victims

Timothy Wysocki, 25, of 25 Belcher Road North, Apartment J161, was taken to Hillsborough County’s Orient Road Jail after being arrested and accused of committing manslaughter while driving under the influence. No bail has been set.

At 11:37 p.m., Wysocki drove his 2007 Mercedes-Benz through a red light while heading north on Meridian. He struck a Toyota Corolla owned by Daniel Galloway. The Corolla was heading east on Twiggs Street and had a green light at Meridian Avenue. The passenger, 64 year old Bernadine Smith, was killed. Police reported she was thrown from the vehicle after the collision. Smith, of 4928 Marc Drive, was pronounced deceased at the scene. It is unknown at this time whether 58 year old Galloway, of 11937 Lark Song Loop in Riverview, received any injuries in the crash.

Police report that Wysocki showed signs of being under the influence of alcohol at the scene. He was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he was forced to give blood for analysis. He was subsequently arrested, taken to jail, and charged with DUI Manslaughter.

At Dolman Law Group, we strive to help DUI victims and their families after such a senseless tragedy. The DUI victim attorneys at Dolman Law Group do not stop at seeking reimbursement for medical bills, future medical treatment, income loss, out of pocket expenses, and damages for any permanent disability sustained as a result of a drunken driving accident. We believe that victims of drunk drivers deserve more. And the state of Florida agrees. This is why we seek out punitive damages in cases relating to DUI collisions. Punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongful defendant, as opposed to merely compensate the victims. Such damages are statutorily created. In Florida, Statute 768.72 describes in great detail the punitive damages that could be sought out in a DUI case. Additionally, there is an infinite amount of supporting case law in Florida that support the awarding of punitive damages in the circumstances of a collision caused by the negligence of a person driving under the influence.

For example, Florida recognizes the recovery of punitive damages in automobile accident cases involving voluntary intoxication. Ingram v. Pettit, 340 So. 2d 922 (Fla 1976). However, the voluntary intoxication must reach the level required by Florida Statute Section 316 to make a criminal conviction under. Ingram at 924. 316.193 provides:

  1. A person is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence and subject to punishment provided in subsection 2 if the person is driving or in physical control of a vehicle within the state and:
    • Is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in 877.111, or any substance controlled under Chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.
    • The person has a blood alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 mm of blood or
    • The person has a blood alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath

The initial Complaint filed should not include a claim for punitive damages. Instead, Plaintiffs must seek leave of court to amend the complaint to claim punitive damages. This is practiced often at Dolman Law Group. The amendment should be allowed if there is enough evidence in the record or proferred by the Plaintiff to give a reasonable basis for recovery of punitive damages. Simeon Inc. v. Cox, 671 So. 2d 158 (Fla. 1996) and F.S. 768.72 (1).

Evidence that can be presented to the civil trial judges in the motion to amend to claim punitive damages include:

  • The Defendant’s plea of guilty to the DUI charge
  • Proof of criminal court conviction for DUI
  • Results of the criminal court conviction for DUI
  • Results of the Blood Alcohol and/or Breath Alcohol Testing
  • Urine Testing Results
  • Eyewitness testimony, especially of the arresting officer, as to Defendant’s conduct and condition. For example, conduct at a drinking establishment, including he number of drinks consumed; erratic driving, bloodshot eyes, results of a field sobriety test, the odor of alcohol

If you or a loved one has suffered injury at the hands of a driver under the influence, you should be compensated and the driver should be punished. The experienced attorneys at Dolman Law Group will seek punitive damages in collisions caused by someone driving under the influence. Give us a call today to discuss any potential claims. (727)451-6900.