Nearly 25 percent of Florida car accidents have alcohol-related causes. Florida's drunk driving fatality and injury rates are higher than the national average, and driving under the influence of alcohol in Florida costs the public close to $8 billion each year. If a Bradenton drunk driver injured you or a loved one, you are not alone. Driving while intoxicated is a crime in Florida, but it is also grounds for victims to claim compensation (money damages) in civil courts with a Bradenton Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer.
Florida prosecutors are not equipped to ensure victims of drunk driving are fully compensated for their physical and emotional injuries. However, evidence that a driver was intoxicated may prove driver recklessness during Bradenton personal injury litigation. Seeking compensation for your injuries after a drunk driver injured you is often more difficult than it should be. Drunk drivers may refuse to give insurance statements or provide evidence because they fear criminal repercussions. This can leave injured Bradenton victims struggling to recover deserved compensation from a drunk driver or a car insurer.
Call a Compassionate Bradenton Drunk Driving Accident Attorney for a Free Personal Injury Case Review
At the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our legal team is dedicated to recovering compensation for victims of Bradenton drunk driving accidents. We understand the legal difficulties that victims of drunk driving face, and the financial strain that serious injuries place on families. Contact us for a free, no-obligation drunk driving accident evaluation by calling our Bradenton office.
The Dangers of Drunk Driving in Florida
Most Floridians have witnessed alcohol's ability to reduce brain function and impair the decision-making process, but these deficiencies don't just affect social behavior.
Driving under the influence of alcohol, even under the legal limit, reportedly:
- Inhibits brain signals
- Slows reaction times
- Reduces muscle coordination
- Causes fatigue
- Lessens fear and anxiety
- Obstructs central nervous system functions
- Impedes decision-making and quick thinking
Drunk drivers often cause Bradenton car accidents directly, or by failing to avoid road hazards or otherwise respond to another driver's behavior. Further, alcohol is a depressant that can mitigate a driver's sense of danger, causing him or her to drive recklessly while at the same time reducing the ability to control a speeding vehicle.
Drunk drivers threaten lives in Bradenton, which is why it's a serious crime and not just a ticketable offense. Florida law prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance (illegal drugs) or with a breath/blood-alcohol level above 0.08. Drivers with more than a certain percentage of alcohol in their bloodstream may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida.
Intoxicated drivers who cause vehicle damage may be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor, while intoxicated drivers who cause serious injuries to another may be guilty of a felony. Drivers who cause the death of another person or an unborn child can be charged with DUI manslaughter in Florida, which may be a first-degree felony.
Criminal DUI convictions, while advantageous during civil personal injury proceedings, don't automatically entitle victims to full compensation. Civil lawsuits and insurance negotiations are often necessary to recover money for victims of drunk driving, and a DUI conviction isn't necessary to bring a civil lawsuit if a Bradenton drunk driver injured you.
Common Types of Florida Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk driving can cause nearly every type of car crash, but certain serious accidents are more commonly associated with driver intoxication.
A drunk driver may have injured victims involved in one of the following Bradenton vehicle accidents, especially if the accident occurred at night:
- Head-on collision: Drunk drivers are often responsible for accidents caused by driving on the wrong side of the road or driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
- Off-road accident: Drunk drivers who fall asleep at the wheel or overcompensate due to slowed reaction times may drive onto sidewalks or even through houses and businesses in Bradenton.
- Rear-end accident: Drunk drivers' slowed reaction times often result in rear-end collisions.
- T-bone collision/intersection accident: Reduced critical-thinking and slowed reaction times can cause serious intersection accidents due to running red lights and stop signs.
- Sideswipe/runoff accident: Drunk drivers are known for swerving between lanes and engaging in erratic merging behaviors, causing sideswipe accidents or forcing another vehicle off the road.
Less common drunk driving accidents occur when sober drivers are injured while navigating their vehicles off-road or taking evasive actions to avoid reckless drunk drivers. Even if the drunk driver did not cause a car accident directly, injured victims may sometimes recover compensation with the help of an experienced Bradenton auto accident lawyer.
Injuries Often Suffered by Victims of Drunk Driving
The faster a vehicle is moving, the greater the likelihood of serious injuries. The more speed at which an innocent victim's vehicle is struck, the more force travels through his or her body during the collision. Drunk drivers' erratic driving behaviors often make it difficult to predict vehicle movement, leading to serious car accidents.
The following life-changing injuries could result from a Bradenton drunk driving accident:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) - Damage to different areas of the brain due to sudden trauma, such as the force of a vehicle impact, cause the brain to hit the skull and swell. Traumatic brain injuries may result in permanent disabilities or even death.
- Fractures - Head-on and high-speed collisions may trap innocent drivers by crushing the front or sides of their vehicles. This often causes serious fractures and bone-crushing injuries that require emergency extraction from the car.
- Spinal cord/spine trauma - Back and neck injuries are common after a car accident, but high-speed impacts can cause permanent spinal injuries. These injuries often affect both the bones in the spine (vertebrae) and the delicate nerve fibers contained in the spinal cord. Such injuries may result in paralysis, numbness, or severe pain.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - This is a psychological trauma that is often experienced by victims and witnesses of serious drunk driving accidents.
- Wrongful death: Drunk driving often leads to the death of innocent drivers and passengers in Bradenton. It's estimated that someone dies from a drunk driving accident every hour in the United States.
Florida is a no-fault state, which means victims' injuries must be serious to sue a drunk driver in court.
Those injured in Bradenton drunk driving accidents often pass this threshold test, which requires claimants to show one of the following:
- The victim was killed in the accident or died as a result of his or her injuries.
- A significant or permanent disability in an important part of the body, such as the brain, back, legs, or hands.
- Serious and irreversible scarring and/or disfigurement from burns suffered in a car fire, or permanent facial scarring due to shattered glass.
- Any other type of injury that is permanent, as testified to by a doctor.
This seriousness threshold reduces personal injury litigation, but it does not prohibit recovery for less serious injuries. Non-threshold injuries should be covered by a combination of no-fault payments, the drunk driver's insurance policy, and/or the innocent driver's underinsured motorist policy. If a victim's medical expenses exceed these policy limits, this may be considered a significant loss in Florida. Don't let an insurance company deny you coverage by citing threshold without you speaking with an experienced Florida no-fault lawyer.
The Parties Potentially Liable for DUI Accidents
Drunk drivers often cause chain reaction accidents, and victims may wonder why these inebriated drivers were allowed to operate a vehicle in the first place. Drunk drivers aren't always the only party liable for causing a Bradenton car crash.
The following individuals and/or organizations may also be liable for injuries suffered in a drunk driving accident:
- The owner of an establishment and/or server who served alcohol to someone who is a minor or is a known alcoholic (dram shop liability), thereby causing a drunk driving accident
- The owner of the vehicle the drunk driver was operating.
- A rental car company, if applicable
- The driver of the vehicle in which an injured passenger was riding in, if the driver was also negligent
- Parents of an inebriated minor
- Another driver involved in the accident
- An inebriated passenger if he or she willfully and negligently distracted the driver
- A ride-sharing company that didn't properly vet a contractor's driving record
Insurance companies typically take the lead in gathering the facts and apportioning liability between drivers. However, this liability determination is not binding in the courts and doesn't often factor in all potentially liable parties. Victims injured by a Bradenton drunk driver may disagree with how to resolve liability or who should bear responsibility for their injuries.
Experienced drunk driving accident lawyers in Bradenton are familiar with liability determinations, and can fight to have them altered or petition the courts for relief. While lawsuits aren't always necessary, serious injuries involving multiple liable parties may require a personal injury attorney to litigate liability before a settlement is offered.
Types of Direct Financial Compensation Available to Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents
Car crashes, especially drunk driving accidents, are terrifying. Florida drunk driving accidents often leave victims suffering from physical injuries, emotional trauma, and significant financial losses. As a result, victims may wish to see drunk drivers financially punished for their reckless actions. Florida personal injury law takes all injuries, including unseen emotional injuries, pain, and suffering, into consideration. Victims of drunk driving may be able to recover economic, non-economic, and punitive damages after a Bradenton DUI accident.
Victims injured by Bradenton drunk drivers may recover multiple types of compensation. This compensation can include direct damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and the cost of vehicle repairs, but also indirect damages that are harder to quantify. Indirect damages, such as those for pain and suffering, may be included in your compensation package with the help of an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer.
Indirect damages can include:
- Loss of the ability to engage in hobbies the victim used to enjoy, such as playing soccer, dancing, or going to the gym
- Loss of spousal companionship, including emotional and physical relationships
- Compensation for actual pain and suffering, such as continuous nerve pain and headaches
- Damages for accident-related personality changes, including depression and anger
Pain and suffering damages frequently outweigh a victim's actual economic losses. Victims of drunk driving accidents may have medical and disability insurance that mitigates these direct expenses but can't compensate them for pain or loss of life. This is where Florida personal injury attorneys can step in to ensure drunk drivers compensate victims for the full impact of their recklessness.
Seeking Punitive Damages from a Bradenton Drunk Driver
Punitive damages may be available to victims of drunk driving accidents in Florida. These damages don't correlate to a victim's injuries, but exist to punish offenders for intentional or significantly reckless behavior that injures another. Punitive damages are seldom available in car accident cases, but drunk driving is different due to the inherent danger associated with operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Victims of drunk driving accidents might claim punitive damages if they can show that the drunk driver:
- Knew that driving while intoxicated would be dangerous and likely to cause someone injury or death.
- Displayed indifference to human life, safety, or the rights of other drivers on the road by engaging in intoxicated driving
Showing that the driver had a high BAC or previous drunk driving convictions can help victims claim these damages in Florida. Bradenton drunk drivers are often liable to injured victims for punitive damages in serious personal injury cases, as well as direct and indirect losses.
Bradenton Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
When is a driver considered “drunk” in Florida?
Anyone who has frequented a pub in Bradenton can tell when someone has had one too many, but this does not mean that person is legally drunk. In Florida, a person is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol if he or she is operating a motor vehicle with a blood or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or above. This means the driver has more than a certain percentage of alcohol in the blood immediately before a Bradenton car crash.
Because a driver's blood alcohol level (BAC) is percent based, building up a tolerance to alcohol is not a defense to drunk driving in Florida. A driver with a BAC over 0.08 is considered to be driving drunk, regardless of his or her actual ability to operate a vehicle. Age, gender, weight, and overall health all play a role in how long it takes to get legally drunk. It's estimated that 2 drinks can cause a 100-pound woman to hit 0.08 BAC, but it can take up to 5 drinks for a 250-pound man to reach the same level.
What laws make drunk driving illegal in Bradenton?
Section 316.193 of the Florida Code makes it a crime to drive under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (illegal drugs) in Bradenton. The criminal penalties for drunk driving in Florida depend on the driver's actual BAC, as well as whether or not the driver has previous drunk driving convictions. Convicted Bradenton drunk drivers may be subject to harsh fines and prison time.
Who is liable for a Bradenton drunk driving accident?
When a driver violates Florida drunk driving laws, and that violation causes a car accident, he or she may be liable for the victim's injuries under a legal doctrine called strict liability. This means a driver is considered negligent because he or she violated the law.
In addition to the drunk driver, the following individuals may be liable to an injured person after a Bradenton drunk driving accident:
- The legal owner of the vehicle that the drunk driver was operating
- The parents or legal guardians of a drunk driver under the age of 18
- The owner and/or bartender who knowingly served a minor or served alcoholic drinks to a patron who was clearly already inebriated
- The negligent driver and/or owner of the vehicle in which any passenger was injured
- Any other drivers who contributed to the car crash
- Passengers who deliberately distracted the driver
Car insurance companies typically pay for damages caused by drunk driving accidents because of their contracts with the vehicle owners, not because they are directly liable to victims of Florida drunk driving crashes.
How can I get my bills paid if a Bradenton drunk driver injured me?
Everyone suffers after a drunk driving accident. Victims and their families are often faced with unexpected emergency room bills, car repair expenses, and lost wages. For this reason, Florida no-fault insurance laws require every Bradenton car owner to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury insurance. This is included with most Florida car insurance policies and provides primary coverage for car accident victims. The coverage activates regardless of fault and covers anyone, drivers or passengers, injured in the insured vehicle.
Car accident victims must provide their car insurance policy information to hospitals and medical providers, just as they would their medical insurance information. No-fault insurance may cover most or all of the following immediate expenses if a drunk driver injured you in Bradenton:
- Emergency room and hospital bills
- Follow-up doctors visits
- Chiropractic, massage, and physical therapy
- Prescription medication and medical devices
- Emergency dental work
- Lost wages
- Medical transportation costs
Provide every medical facility with your no-fault car insurance information and confirm that it accepts no-fault insurance. You must apply for no-fault benefits within a few months of your accident. Employers must also submit the proper paperwork to assist you in recovering lost wages. Most Bradenton personal injury attorneys will help clients apply for no-fault benefits and gather the necessary paperwork to get clients' medical bills paid through no-fault.
While no-fault insurance may cover immediate medical expenses and lost wages, it only does so up to the policy limit. In addition, bills such as rent or mortgage, food, utilities, phone, tuition, loan payments, and gym memberships aren't covered by no-fault insurance.
Those seriously injured by a Bradenton drunk driver should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss alternative forms of recovery, including:
- Making a liability claim with the drunk driver's car insurance company
- Making a claim with your underinsured or uninsured motorist policy
- Applying for short or long-term disability benefits or SSDI
- Suing the liable parties in Florida court
- Using your medical insurance benefits
- Claiming worker's compensation (for those injured while working)
No-fault insurance is helpful and may sufficiently cover treatment for minor injuries. Those suffering from more serious injuries after a drunk driving accident should speak with a personal injury attorney or disability advocate before they exhaust their no-fault benefits.
Do I have to sue to recover for my injuries if a Bradenton drunk driver hit me?
No, not always. Lawsuits are often time-consuming, stressful, and expensive. Not everyone injured in a car accident is eager to file a personal injury case in Bradenton. The drunk driver may have been killed or suffered serious injuries as well, and suing may not feel right even after a serious accident. Lawsuits are seldom the most efficient way to recover deserved compensation after a Bradenton car crash, and legal expenses eat into a victim's overall financial recovery. Many victims of drunk driving accidents can recover needed compensation without filing a personal injury lawsuit.
An efficient way of seeking recovery is to work with a car accident lawyer to file a claim with the liable insurance company. This typically requires submitting medical bills, medical records, wage records, and statements about your pain and losses. The liable insurer may settle the case without you having to sue. Lawsuits are often only necessary if the liable insurance company refuses to settle the case, or the policy limits aren't sufficient to cover a victim's losses.
How do I file an insurance claim after I was hurt in a Florida drunk driving accident?
We can walk you through the initial claims process. Typically, after notifying your car insurer, it will file the claim with the drunk driver's insurance company for you. It may follow up with the drunk driver's insurer to discuss liability and potential compensation. For minor car accidents or vehicle damage-only claims, contacting your insurance company may be all you need to do.
If you suffered a serious injury, someone died, or you were in a multi-vehicle drunk driving crash, speak with our Bradenton personal injury attorneys. Using your no-fault benefits and making multiple insurance claims is complicated, especially after a serious accident, and the information and statements you submit to your insurance company are discoverable during personal injury litigation.
What type of damages can I recover in Florida court if a drunk driver hurt me?
Victims of Bradenton drunk driving accidents may be able to recover both economic (direct) damages and non-economic (indirect) damages.
Economic damages refer to any direct financial losses resulting from the drunk driver's negligence, including:
- Medical bills
- Vehicle damage
- Prescription medications
- Medical devices, such as wheelchairs, and necessary housing modifications
- Lost wages
- Lost career opportunities
- Payments for help with cooking and house cleaning
- Medical transportation costs
- Companionship care
- Physical therapy
Non-economic damages are sometimes referred to as pain and suffering damages. They are difficult to quantify but are no less real than direct damages.
These include compensation for:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Psychological trauma
- Loss of spousal companionship
- Everyday difficulties and hardships
Expert testimony is often required to establish non-economic damages. Keep records of every out-of-pocket expenditure made as a result of a drunk driving accident, including medical co-pays, pharmacy receipts, records of house cleaning services, and any other evidence of loss, such as cancellation of gym memberships and the inability to do the activities you enjoyed before the accident.
Can I recover extra compensation (punitive damages) if a Bradenton drunk driver injured me?
Punitive damages are sometimes used to punish defendants for particularly egregious actions. Victims of willfully caused injuries, such as assault or rape, are often entitled to punitive damages. In most car accident cases, punitive damages aren't available because there was no specific intent to harm someone.
Drunk driving cases are often the exception because driving while intoxicated is considered a particularly dangerous act the government wants to deter. Drunk drivers often engage in behavior that qualifies plaintiffs to seek punitive damages in Florida's civil courts. Intoxicated drivers with high blood alcohol levels or multiple previous drunk driving convictions likely showed a conscious disregard for human life and health. Bradenton residents injured by a drunk driver's reckless actions might recover punitive damages with the help of a personal injury attorney experienced in seeking this extra compensation.
Can I still recover money from a drunk driver if the driver wasn't convicted of a crime?
This happens more often than you'd think in drunk driving and car accident cases. Sometimes the police never arrive on scene or a defense lawyer manages to get criminal drunk driving charges dismissed. Just because a drunk driver was not convicted of driving under the influence does not mean victims cannot seek damages in civil court. It takes a lot of evidence (evidence beyond a reasonable doubt) to convict defendants of the crime of driving while intoxicated.
However, it only takes evidence showing it was more likely than not a driver was drunk to recover civil damages.
More evidence is often admissible in civil cases than criminal cases, and victims are generally entitled to prove the defendant was drunk in personal injury cases. Having a drunk driving conviction is often helpful in civil cases because it can officially establish the driver was drunk and thus driving negligently, but it is not necessary to recover compensation for personal injuries in Bradenton.
What if the drunk driver who hurt me blames me for the accident?
This happens after most car crashes, not just drunk driving accidents. A drunk driver may claim you stopped short or otherwise contributed to your own injuries. Insurance companies should look closely at the evidence presented by both sides to apportion liability appropriately. Drunk drivers often place some blame on the victim, and their insurance companies commonly support these claims to reduce their overall liability.
An insurance company's liability determination is not binding on Florida courts, but merely used as a negotiation tactic between car insurers. Do not be surprised if the defendant tries to blame you for a drunk driving accident. Even if you were slightly negligent, i.e., driving over the speed limit or following too closely, most victims can still recover damages for injuries caused by drunk driving.
How much does it cost to retain a lawyer if a drunk driver injured me?
Florida personal injury attorneys typically accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney takes a percentage of a victim's overall financial recovery. The exact terms depend on the attorney's policies and retainer agreement. If the attorney accepts your case but doesn't obtain compensation, car accident victims normally owe their lawyers nothing.
Most personal injury litigation is undertaken with no up-front or out-of-pocket costs to a client, as personal injury attorneys are allowed to front litigation costs and expenses to clients, such as filing fees, expert witness charges, or travel costs. The nature of the recovery also encourages plaintiffs' lawyers to get the best results possible for their clients.
Be leery of personal injury lawyers who charge initial consultation fees or ask for a retainer if a drunk driver has injured you in Bradenton.
Fighting for Compensation After Drunk Driver Recklessness in Bradenton
The compassionate Bradenton car accident lawyers at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA often work with expert economists to calculate a drunk driving victim's overall damages and recommend appropriate punitive compensation. These calculations may result in lump sum settlements from drunk drivers' insurance companies without expensive and time-consuming litigation. Most personal injury clients don't pay our lawyers anything unless our experienced Bradenton drunk driving accident attorneys recover compensation for them. Take advantage of a free, no-obligation Bradenton drunk driving accident consultation today by calling the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA now.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.
6703 14th Street West Suite 207
Bradenton, FL 34207
Phone: (941) 961-8841
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