Sometimes accidents are unavoidable. Unforeseen hazards, changing weather conditions, or vehicle malfunctions can all lead to an accident.
But when someone chooses to drink and drive, they do so knowing the possible consequences. For this reason, Florida has harsh penalties for people who choose to get behind the wheel while they are intoxicated.
Still, thousands of drunk driving accidents happen every year, injuring and killing innocent drivers on the road. If you or a loved one has experienced a tragedy due to a drunk driving accident contact a devoted auto accident injury attorney to figure out your next steps on your path to recovery.
Florida Law Regarding Drunk Driving
Florida considers drunk driving a serious offense. The law states that anyone who takes control of a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is guilty of driving under the influence. Under this law, the vehicle does not have to actually move for the driver to receive a DUI.
Further, a driver may be cited for a DUI even if they have a blood-alcohol level below 0.08 if impairment of their “normal faculties” prevents them from being able to drive safely.Upon a driver’s first DUI conviction, they will be issued a fine of $500-$2000 and can face up to six months in jail.
Possible jail time increases to nine months if there was a minor in the car or if the defendant had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or above. The driver is also required to serve 50 hours of community service time and up to one year of probation. The driver can additionally lose their license for up to one year. A DUI will stay on the driver’s record for 75 years.
This, however, doesn’t help the people whom the drunk driver injured. That’s where the Florida drunk driving accident lawyers of the Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman come in.
About Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman
Dolman Law Group believes that all victims of auto accidents deserve fair and just compensation. We believe that the best way to achieve this is through an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Sadly, insurance companies frequently prey on a victim’s desire to move beyond the accident and almost always offer unreasonably low settlements to anyone who does not have an attorney.
At the Dolman Law Group, we believe that drivers should be held responsible for their actions and the insurance company should give you a fair settlement. While we try to settle most cases out of court, if you choose to hire us we won’t hesitate to fight for your rights in front of a jury if we need to.
Given what we know about drunk driving, it’s shocking that people continue to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after they have been drinking. Statistics show that drunk driving continues to be a serious problem, affecting thousands of Americans every year. Here are a few stats that stand out:
- About two out of every three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash during their lifetime.
- Someone is injured by a drunk driver every two minutes.
- 30 people die each day as a result of drunk driving. That’s one person every 48 minutes.
- In 2017, 220 children aged 14 and under were killed by a drunk driver. 54 percent of these children were in the car with the drunk driver.
- About one-third of all drivers arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders.
- Out of the 10,874 deaths caused by drunk drivers in 2017, 61 percent of the deaths were the drunk drivers themselves, 28 percent were motor vehicle occupants, and 11 percent were non-occupants, including pedestrians and cyclists. Victims not occupying the drunk driver’s car accounted for over one-quarter of all deaths.
- Every day at least 300,000 drunk drivers are on the road, but only 2,800 of those drivers are arrested.
- In 2010, the total cost associated with drunk driving accidents was $44 billion.
Recognizing a Drunk Driver
As drivers, we all must do our part to help prevent alcohol-related crashes. If you see someone driving who you think might be intoxicated, don’t hesitate to call the police. Your fast action can help save lives. While it’s not always obvious whether someone has been drinking, some of the signs you should watch out for include:
- Swerving: Drunk drivers will often have a hard time staying in their lane. If you see someone recklessly moving in and out of their lane, they may be under the influence.
- Ignoring traffic laws: A drunk driver may not be able to see or read common traffic signs. They may also choose to ignore these signs. Common infractions include speeding, running red lights or stop signs, failing to signal, and driving the wrong way.
- Driving too slowly or too fast: Most of the time, a drunk driver is aware that they have had too much too drink. If this is the case, they may drive too slowly in an attempt to be careful. In other cases, they may drive faster to try to get to their destination more quickly. Other times, the driver may not be able to accurately gauge how fast they are driving.
- Following too closely: Alcohol affects a driver’s depth perception. This can make it harder for them to tell how close to a vehicle they actually are. Delayed response time can also cause someone who is intoxicated to take longer to slow down.
- Wide turns: Poor judgment, problems with depth perception, and diminished peripheral vision can lead to wide and/or high-speed turns.
Common Types of Drunk Driving Accidents
Alcohol greatly diminishes a driver’s ability to react appropriately on the roads. Confusion, poor judgment, and lack of awareness can all contribute to an accident. Because a drunk driver’s actions are unpredictable, you should always be alert and watch for signs of dangerous driving. Common accidents that occur as a result of driving under the influence include:
- Rear-end crash: Delayed response time can make it difficult for a driver under the influence to stop in time. This can be compounded by the driver following too closely.
- Head-on collision: When a driver swerves into the opposite lane of traffic, it can be difficult for other drivers to respond in time, resulting in a head-on collision. Head-on collisions often result in serious or life-threatening injuries.
- T-bone crash: A T-bone crash occurs when one vehicle hits another vehicle from the side. They are also referred to as side-impact crashes. These collisions are often the result of one driver failing to stop at a red light or stop sign. T-bone accidents are some of the most dangerous and deadly accidents.
- Wrong-way crash: A wrong-way crash can occur when a driver turns the wrong way on a one-way street or enters a freeway offramp. Wrong-way collisions on the freeway almost always result in death.
Common Drunk Driving Injuries
Injuries related to a car accident can range from minor cuts and bruises that mean a victim can walk away from the accident without long-term effects, to catastrophic injuries that can have a dramatic effect on the victim’s life. Depending on the degree of the injury, a drunk driving accident may require the victim to receive care for the rest of their life. Common injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries: These injuries can lead to sensory issues, headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness, or speech impairments, among other complications.
- Spinal injuries: Injuries to the spine can range from bulging and herniated discs to spinal cord injuries. In some cases, these injuries can lead to constant pain or paralysis.
- Broken bones: The impact of an accident can force a person’s bones to bend unnaturally. Broken bones can require an extensive recovery process and may result in long term or permanent pain.
- Soft tissue injuries: Soft tissue injuries are some of the most common injuries reported after accidents. Common complaints include strains, sprains, bruises, and inflammation.
- Burns: A severe accident can cause an explosion. The resulting burns can create permanent scars.
Damages for Which You Might Qualify
Recovering from an accident can seem overwhelming or even insurmountable. If you have been injured in an accident, a personal injury attorney can help you recover damages that can help make the recovery process easier. Typical damages available in a personal injury case include:
- Medical bills: If you sustained injuries from an accident, related medical bills can add up quickly. Common medical costs recovered from a personal injury case include reimbursement for doctor’s visits, surgeries, medication, and hospital stays. It may also include physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, massage, and other alternative treatments.
- Lost wages: Lost wages generally include payment for any time missed at work as a result of an accident. This can include time missed because of doctor’s visits, surgeries, or recovery. If your injuries are severe, you may have a claim to recover future wages.
- Retraining: If you are unable to return to the position you held before the accident, you may need to be retrained for a new career. A personal injury claim can help you recover costs associated with college or trade school.
- Medical equipment: This includes wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, and other necessary equipment.
- Home modifications: If you are unable to walk or need assistance at home after the accident, you may need to have a wheelchair ramp or railing installed in your home.
- Pain and suffering: Pain from an accident can extend for years beyond the initial trauma. Pain and suffering covers compensation for physical pain and emotional or mental distress.
- Loss of enjoyment: Loss of enjoyment occurs when a party is unable to participate in activities that brought them enjoyment before an accident, including sports and hobbies.
- Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium applies to the spouse or family member of someone who has been injured or died as a result of an accident. Loss of consortium can be claimed when the injured party can no longer provide the same level of love, affection, companionship, or sexual relations they were able to provide before the accident.
Other Parties May Hold Some Responsibility
While the most obvious party to blame is the drunk driver, there may be others that contributed to the drunk driver being on the road. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine whether these parties may be financially responsible for your damages. Other responsible parties may include:
- A bartender or alcohol-serving establishment: A company’s liability in a drunk driving case is covered by Florida’s dram shop law. This law states that a bar or restaurant can only be held liable if they knowingly serve alcohol to a minor or if they serve alcohol to a person whom they know has a drinking problem.
- An adult who served a minor: If drinking occurs at a private residence, each adult is responsible for ensuring that they get home safely and do not drink and drive. However, if an adult serves alcohol to a minor and that minor then injures someone in a crash, that adult can be held partially liable.
Protecting Yourself From Drunk Drivers
While not all accidents are preventable, there are steps that you can take that may reduce the chance that you will be involved in an accident with a drunk driver. First and foremost, always wear your seatbelt. Seatbelts have proven to save lives and could prevent serious injuries if you are hit by an intoxicated driver. As always, stay alert.
If you see a dangerous driver, report them. If someone is following you too closely, move over, even if this means pulling to the side of the road. Always look both ways before proceeding through an intersection, even if you have a green light. Thousands of accidents happen every year because a drunk driver failed to stop at an intersection.
Florida Drunk Driving Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
There is no excuse for drunk driving. When a person gets behind the wheel after they have had even just one drink, they could put the lives of others at risk. Drunk driving does not only cause poor judgment, it also reduces a driver’s concentration, coordination, and often, vision. Sadly, these accidents continue to happen year after year in Florida.
In a recent year, Florida saw 5,105 alcohol confirmed crashes across the state. If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, you recover financial compensation. To learn more about your rights, contact an experienced Florida drunk driving accident attorney. If you have been in an accident, the answers to the following questions may help you understand the process moving forward.
I suffered an injury in a Florida drunk driving accident. What do I do now?
Accidents are scary. It is normal to become overwhelmed. If you sustain an injury, it can be hard to focus on what to do and what comes next. However, your actions following an accident can affect your rights and personal safety. That is why it is always important to take extreme care following a drunk driving accident. This means:
- Stay at the scene: Even if you were not the one who caused the accident or if it was the other driver who was drunk, the law requires you to stay at the scene of the accident. That said, if you can, move your vehicle to the side of the road to prevent injury to you and other drivers.
- Check for injuries: The safety of you and your passengers should be a priority after an accident. Check to see if there are any serious injuries. If there are any serious or life-threatening injuries, contact 911 right away. It is also a good idea to check on the occupants of the other vehicle, however, do so with caution. If the other driver is violent, aggressive, or if you feel like approaching the other driver would put you at risk, remain in your vehicle and contact the police.
- Report the accident: If, at this point, you have not yet called the police, do so. They could assess the situation and will likely administer a drug alcohol test to the other driver. The law requires you to submit an accident report after any accident involving death or injury, or drunk driving. If the police come to the scene of the accident, their report will fulfill this requirement.
- Gather evidence: Whether you plan to file a Florida drunk driving accident suit or not, it is always a good idea to gather evidence at the scene. At a minimum, your insurance adjuster will request this information. The best way to collect evidence is to take pictures. Be sure to include both vehicles and any property damage. If there are witnesses that stopped at the scene, make sure you get their name and contact information.
- Go to the doctor: Go to the doctor, even if you think you feel fine. After an accident, shock or adrenaline may hide symptoms of an injury. A healthcare professional could rule out any serious or life-threatening injuries. If you plan to use your personal injury coverage, Florida law requires you to see a qualified healthcare professional within 14 days of the accident. However, the sooner you can go to the doctor, the better.
- Contact an experienced Florida drunk driving accident attorney: Motor vehicle accidents can cause serious injuries. A Florida drunk driving accident attorney could help you pursue costs related to your accident.
What if I was a pedestrian in a Florida drunk driving accident?
If you are hit by a drunk driver while you are walking or riding your bike, you have the same rights as if you were in a motor vehicle. This means that you have access to your own personal injury protection insurance, as well as the other driver’s liability insurance. Because pedestrians do not have the same physical protections as motorists, it is extremely important to prioritize your safety.
If you are in pain, do not attempt to move. In many cases, it is best to allow an ambulance to help you. At a minimum, have a friend or family member take you to the doctor immediately following the accident to get checked out.
What could happen to the other driver?
Florida has strict drunk driving laws. If the police find evidence the other driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, they will likely face legal penalties. This can range from a fine to jail time.
It is important to note that the outcome of any criminal case will not affect your Florida drunk driving accident case. Even if the court finds the other driver not guilty, you may still recover damages, including punitive damages.
The other driver was coming from a bar. Is the business owner liable?
Florida’s dram shop laws limit liability when it comes to business owners and social hosts. Under the law, you cannot sue a person or establishment serving alcohol unless that person served alcohol to someone who they knew had an alcohol problem or was under 21.
You cannot sue a social host even if they knew the person had a drinking problem. However, the host may face financial (and possibly criminal) consequences if they served a person under 21.
What could my Florida drunk driving accident case be worth?
It is natural to question the value of your case. Injuries from an accident could cause long-term or permanent effects. In this case, financial compensation could help you pursue treatment and focus on your recovery. Each case is different and there is no way to guess how much your case is worth.
Be cautious of attorneys who promise a certain outcome. While there is no way to predict the exact value of your case, there are certain factors that are often considered in Florida drunk driving accident cases. These include:
- Medical bills: Even minor injuries can rack up high medical bills quickly. In many cases, personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is not enough to cover these costs. A Florida drunk driving accident case may help cover the costs of your treatment, including doctor visits, hospital stays, surgery, medication, medical devices, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages: When you lose time from work, it can affect your ability to pay your bills and to provide for your family. Lost wages would cover all of the time lost from work, starting the first day you miss work and ending when you return. If you were not working at the time of the accident, you may qualify for loss of services to reimburse you for the costs of general services including cooking, cleaning, and yard work. If you can’t return to work, your attorney could fight for future lost wages.
- Residential modifications: Disabling injuries such as brain injuries and spinal cord injuries can affect your ability to move around your home. When this happens, you may require structural modifications to your primary residence. This may include wheelchair ramps, stairlifts, and handrails.
- Pain and suffering: Accidents can cause physical and emotional pain. While money cannot take away your pain, it could help you pay for services that can help reduce your pain or provide you with ways and methods to cope with pain. Pain and suffering is a blanket term that covers most non-economic damages. Examples include chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Punitive damages: While punitive damages are not common in most car accident cases, they are common in drunk driving cases. These damages are technically not an award. They punish the at-fault party for their actions. This financial penalty is added to your Florida drunk driving accident award.
- Wrongful death: Sadly, drunk drivers take the lives of thousands of innocent victims every year. When this happens, the victim’s family typically has the right to pursue financial damages. In addition to their own personal losses, they could recover any losses the victim would have had the right to recover had they survived. Wrongful death damages include outstanding medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of companionship, loss of services, and funeral and burial costs.
Is there a time limit on how long I have to file a Florida drunk driving accident case?
State law limits the amount of time you have to file a Florida drunk driving accident case with the court. The good news is, Florida has one of the most generous Florida drunk driving accident statutes of limitations.
Under the law, accident victims have four years from the time of the accident to file a Florida drunk driving accident suit. After this time, the court does not have to consider your case. There are some exceptions to this rule. This includes:
- The victim was a minor.
- You couldn’t locate the at-fault party.
While four years may seem like a long time, drunk driving accidents involve a lot of components. The more time you can allow your attorney to gather evidence and put together and present your case, the better the outcome could be. Additionally, prompt action may help prove the severity of your injuries. Remember, if you plan to use your PIP coverage, you only have a matter of days to see a qualified healthcare provider.
How long could my Florida drunk driving accident case take?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Many factors can determine how long your case may take. This may include:
- The strength of your evidence.
- The severity of your injuries.
- Pending criminal charges.
- The willingness of both parties to settle.
- The other party’s insurance limits.
The insurance company offered me a settlement. Is it a good idea to take it?
It is not a usual course of action for an insurance company to reach out to a victim to offer money. After all, these are businesses that need to make money. When you receive an unsolicited offer, this could mean that the insurance company knows your case is valuable. Their goal may be to settle the case as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
However, this initial settlement could be much less than what your case may be worth. Do not sign anything or accept an offer without talking to a Florida drunk driving accident attorney. A Florida drunk driving accident attorney could review your case and help you determine whether it makes sense to take the offer or move forward with your case.
Will I have to go to court?
The majority of Florida drunk driving accident cases settle outside of court. Both parties typically understand that once you go to court, costs go up substantially. However, if the parties cannot come to a reasonable settlement, going to court may present the only option. If this is the case, a factfinder (likely, a jury) will make the final determination of fault and damages.
Do I need a Florida drunk driving accident attorney?
The law does not require you to hire an attorney after an accident. However, it is always a good idea to at least sit down with an attorney. It is common for Florida drunk driving accident attorneys to offer a free initial consultation and work on a contingency basis. While it may seem easier or less expensive to handle the case on your own, the truth is, drunk driving cases are complicated.
When you are talking about your injuries and your future, you want to make sure you get the best possible outcome. A Florida drunk driving accident attorney can help evaluate your case, talk to the other party’s insurance, and help obtain a fair and reasonable settlement.
Get the Help You Need From Our Florida Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers
The goal of any Florida drunk driving accident case is to help you get back on your feet and allow you to return as close to pre-accident condition as possible. After an accident, you should always consider how your injuries affect you not only now, but in the future.
It is not uncommon for accident victims to suffer from pain years after the initial injury. Your rights matter. To learn more about what to do after an accident and how to pursue a Florida drunk driving accident case, contact the experienced Florida drunk driving accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman.
Contact Our Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Today
If you were in a drunk driving accident, it is almost always best if you contact a personal injury attorney. Because of the nature of the accident and the criminal implications, the responsible party may be liable for punitive damages in addition to actual damages. Punitive damages are awarded when a person’s negligence is so reckless that the court deems that it is necessary to financially punish the defendant.
If you were hurt in a drunk driving accident, call the Dolman Law Group or Sibley Dolman to see if we can help you seek fair and just compensation. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765