Unbeknownst to many people, Florida has many polices in place to protect the rights of injured victims due to the fault of a drunk-driver. In fact, you may be entitled to “punitive damages,” which are remedies designed to punish the at-fault drunk-driver.
Florida is home to many bars and clubs that provide patrons to unlimited amounts of alcohol. It is far too common, however, that these drunken patrons stupidly get in their car and drive home. Although, it is generally legal to freely consume alcohol if you are above the age of 21, it is far from legal to drive if you’ve become intoxicated.
Under Florida law, you are illegally impaired if you have a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or higher. For most people, that’s a few beers an hour. A violation of this law can result in criminal punishments, which may lead to imprisonment depending on the circumstances. However, despite the criminal laws designed to deter citizens from engaging in such a harmful activity, many people ignore this law and drive drunk anyway. For more information on Florida’s DUI (“Driving Under the Influence”) laws, please feel free to visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website.
Drinking and driving is a selfish decision that puts everyone on the road at risk. In 2014, there were 676 drunk driving fatalities in Florida, which is roughly 28.1% of all total traffic deaths. These statistics are devastating, especially when considering that almost a third of all traffic related deaths simply could have been avoided by smart decision making.
Aside from criminal laws designed to prosecute the individual who engages in such harmful conduct, what other remedies are available to the victims of drunk-driving?
Bars and Restaurants may or may not be Liable if a Drunk Driver Injures someone else
Florida Statute 768.125 mandates that when an establishment sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to person of legal drinking age, they are not liable for the injury or damage resulting from the intoxication of such person. Thus, bars and gas stations are not responsible for any harm that the customer causes simply because they provided them the alcohol that caused their intoxication.
However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Florida Statute 768.125 goes on to state, “except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any and all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.” Accordingly, this exception provides a cause of action for the victim of a drunk driver to seek compensation against a bar, who may have “over-served” a person who was obviously too intoxicated to drive. Additionally, this exception holds those who furnish to alcohol to a minor responsible for their careless actions. In both instances, a cause of action can be pursued by the injured party itself or families who have lost the life of a loved one.
In general negligence cases, compensatory damages are typically available to the injured party. These damages are designed to “compensate” the person or put them in the position as if the accident had not occurred. In most car accident cases, an example of compensatory damages would be recovering monies from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy to cover the medical bills you incurred as a result of the accident.
In addition to compensatory damages, in cases where the damage was caused by the at-fault driver being intoxicated, Florida law allows for punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are damages designed to “punish” the tortfeasor. This policy acts not only as a deterrence, but it allows for additional recovery for those parties injured by the egregious decisions of drivers who decide to drive drunk.
As noted above, drunk-driving accidents can be simply avoided if people made more diligent and mature decisions when drinking. Bars and gas stations should take serious the risk of over-serving their patrons or serving an under-aged person. Establishments should routinely check identifications and have policies in effect to spot patrons who exceeded their limits. Furthermore, the patrons themselves should responsibly plan their night prior to consuming alcohol. For example, you should line up a ride home, whether it’s reserving a cab or asking a sober driver. Under no circumstances should any one drive while intoxicated.
Drunk Driving Accident Victims can rely on Dolman Law Group, a Florida Civil Trial Firm
If you’ve been in an accident due to a negligent or drunk driver, you should be ready and willing to enforce every possible remedy you may have. There is no plausible excuse to drinking and driving. Those who foolishly decide to do so should be held accountable for their actions. Please feel free to contact The Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900 for a free consultation of your case. Our firm has a team of experienced and aggressive attorneys who will fight to you get the compensation you need and deserve.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765